My journey through life has been a series of roles. I fell into routines, habits of behavior that became so ingrained that I could barely think of myself in any other terms. Life reduced to drifting on the currents as I was drawn along by others’ influences, the powerful need to conform, to be accepted.
There is a dangerous attraction to this kind of submission, suppressing one’s own desires and impulses in the service of others. Fulfilling the strongest desire of all: my compulsion to seek the approval of my peers. Measuring my worth by the praise I received.
For a long time it felt like the perfect existence. I didn’t have to worry about my decisions causing change because my path had been mapped out for me in advance, other people’s suggestions crystallizing into a solid picture of the future.
And like crystal it was brittle.
The problem with trying to become other people’s versions of myself was that I lost myself in the process. I had willingly entered the cage and made my home there, and in the process my ability to identify my own aspirations and dreams atrophied.
Suppressed, reduced and weak but not dead. I slowly — very slowly — began to awaken from my state of comfortable numbness and grew to realize that I had become trapped. I had become a stranger to myself, a mindless automaton.
The realization that I was nothing more than a set of roles, a set of made-to-measure costumes in which to act out scripts penned by other people, was shattering. For a while my mind was broken, in pieces, struggling to reassemble itself into its native form.
My need to be accepted had led me to impose so much pressure on myself, driving myself so hard to meet the targets of others, that in the end my strength failed and I was overwhelmed by depression.
I’m getting better. I’ve made changes and will continue to do so. The depression is not beaten: it lurks and reminds me of its presence every now and again. But change has become a positive for me. As I evolve I put distance between myself and the shackles of those old roles.
I do have a destination in mind — a goal, a dream — and while I know I may never fully achieve it and completely become the person I feel inside, it helps that my life is now taking me in the right direction.