Who the f&%$ am I?!?
That’s what I asked myself as I was laying on the couch trying to figure out what to do with my life after my break-up with my last ex-girlfriend.
But let’s back up for a second. Because as we all know, nothing happens in a vacuum. There had to be a reason for this. People don’t just change. Nobody just breaks up with another person for no reason right?
I have to admit, that there was a lot of soul searching I had to do because I thought she was the one and when she walked out that door the last time, I know that it was over. In fact, I was 100% positive it was over because I was the one that pushed her out of that door.
You see, growing up I was a bit of an overweight, pudgy, non-athletic guy that loved to play video games. If we were to take a real deep look, I was pudgy and unathletic, because I had some serious family problems at home.
Mama was getting beat all the time and I just didn’t feel safe in my own house. Food was my control and video games were my escape. I found comfort in these two things and eventually they just became a part of who I was, or so I had thought it was who I was.
As I got older I was encouraged to participate in sports. Some of my gym teachers saw a glimmer of athleticism and practically begged me to play football. (Okay actually they were in need of another fat kid to play offensive line because no one wanted to play it) So I joined the football team and immediately I realized that it takes a completely different mindset. So I decided to dawn a competitor mask.
I was pretty acquainted with wearing that type of mask because I was all about the video games. I wasn’t very good at first, but I quickly caught on. I ended up being pretty decent and the more I played, the more weight I lost and the more people started to respect me.
I essentially was being reinforced to wear this mask because it brought me happiness in a time when I was otherwise sedating with video games and tuning out the world.
I was happy to interact with people (especially since they didn’t call me “tit boy” anymore) I had earned my way into the cool crowd and I had no plans of taking off that competitive mask anytime soon.
Fast forward again to my relationship with my ex. I had now developed a very elaborate mask. In fact, I gained a few others along the way. Some, I knew how to take on and off, others were pretty much there forever, overlapping with other masks to create the “right” personality combinations for each situation.
The most dominant mask though, my competitive one that had served me for so long, was now starting to become more of a hindrance than a help. I would always argue with people. There weren’t many situations where I was looking for a win-win solution. In fact, I was so entrenched in the spirit of competition, that I often would purposely forego a win-win solution just so I could allow for a little competition to sneak in.
If my girlfriend at the time told me she was gonna make breakfast and I could clean up afterward, I would instead make it into a competition of who could make the best breakfast. If she liked a song, even if I liked it as well, I would tell her that I’ve heard better songs.
Every discussion was an argument that I had to win and every time we had those arguments we were moving further and further away until she physically moved away and left me to pick up the pieces by myself.
No More Mask…Kinda
I did some serious soul searching and I began to realize that I was putting up a front that I couldn’t really control. I had gotten so used to competition and throughout my whole life, I was rewarded for it. I didn’t see a reason to ever take that mask off so it kinda became my personality.
Now, I’d like you to consider something broham. There might be one or two(or more) masks that you wear yourself from time to time.
I’d like you to consider it not because I think you should be 100% authentic all the time. I understand that’s tough, but what I believe to be really important is to realize when you are wearing the masks and not acting as your genuine self.
Don’t get me wrong. Masks are important. In fact, they help you deal with situations that you might find difficult. I mean if you are sitting on your couch with a dollar to your name, it might be helpful to put on that hustler mask so that you don’t go broke.
But what’s more important is taking that mask off every once in awhile when you’re by yourself or with loved ones so that you can let the real you “air out.” Get to know yourself outside of what you try to show others.
Finding a real understanding of what actually motivates you, brings you joy, or makes you sad, is truly empowering and opens the door for all your actions to be fueled by love over fear or anxiety.
Jerry “it’s me” Washington
P.S. I was fueled by anger, for most of my life. I remember there were many times that the anger that I had about my family situation, fueled me to crush others on the football field and on the track. I was a beast, but also a beast when I was trying to be loving. Please don’t let your relationships falter because you didn’t realize that what you were doing could be changed with a simple realization or by simply opening up the lines of communication with your loved ones. Talk soon…