The Fear of Being Authentic

Ade - LagosI have often struggled with the issue of being ‘the authentic me’ when in dialogue with members of my family of origin.

The issue of ‘Is all of me welcome here?’ is always at the back of my mind. Somewhere along my life journey, I came to believe that I had to censor being myself in order to be fully accepted. And somewhere along that journey, that belief became – ‘that’s just the way it is’.

For a long time that approach was satisfactory, however over the past few years, it has been a hard struggle to maintain the facade of it all.  In most cases, I have found that I resort to a default position of putting my head in the sand, hoping that the situation goes away… but sadly, it does not…. And like Bill Murray’s character in ‘Groundhog Day’ I find myself reliving an exhausting and unfulfilling scenario.

What it all boils down to for me is ‘Fear’. And as I admit this fact, I notice a shame about the fear.  The fear is multi-layered, and spans a terrain of – fear of being hurt, fear of being judged, fear of being rejected and fear of being vulnerable. And so, rather than face the fear, I sometimes find myself playing along to this fantasy bond of ‘that’s just the way it is’, ‘it does not really matter’ or ‘they love me in their own way’.

As I ponder on this matter, I am reminded of a conversation I had with an uncle about 15 years ago. It was during the period when I had finally accepted that I was gay and had started coming out to people. I had felt that this uncle was going to reject me for being gay, so I simply stopped contacting him – thought I’d reject him first, before I was rejected! In our conversation, he asked why I had not been in contact; I used work as an excuse, telling him that I had been really busy. I subsequently resumed contact, as I was touched that he had reached out to me. A couple of months later he found out that I was gay, from other family members and broke off contact with me. He told others that he felt I might molest his young children…  And at the back of my head, I heard a small voice say ‘oh come on, you knew he would not accept you’. I was devastated by the loss, however with the grace of time, the wound healed… okay, not entirely… but it hurts less now.

I found myself having a similar conversation with another uncle a few months ago, when I was in Nigeria for my mother’s funeral. It was a nice warm chat and I found myself longing for those moments of my childhood when life was uncomplicated and I could simply be me, without this underlying fear of —–. The uncle mentioned that he had tried calling me a number of times and I had not returned his calls. I never got the calls, however deep down, I remember thinking, and here we go again…

As we reach the tail end of the year, I find myself once again contemplating the issue of family and authenticity. Family members are already crawling out of the woodwork to wish compliments of the season and I find myself wondering how I will be…. I have no idea what the answer is and that’s okay…. for I have come to embrace self-compassion, self-love and self-understanding, regardless of how I show up. I also find solace in the words of Gary Zukav who says –

“There comes a time when the pain of continuing
exceeds the pain of stopping. At that moment, a threshold is crossed.
What seemed unthinkable becomes thinkable.
Slowly, the realization emerges that
the choice to continue what you have been doing
is the choice to live in discomfort,
and the choice to stop what you have been doing
is the choice to breathe deeply and freely again.
Once that realization has emerged,
you can either honor it or ignore it, but you cannot forget it.
What has become known can not become unknown again.”

And so as we end 2012, I wish all visitors to OutTales around the Fire, the courage to continually cross the thresholds of our lives…. The courage for us to face our fears and the courage to breathe deeply and freely in 2013.

Thank you for journeying with us and we look forward to sharing and hearing more stories next year…

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. john gay
    Mar 06, 2013 @ 13:45:10

    nice one
    kudos

    Reply

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