For the last few years, ‘fake it till you make it’ has been sort of my life mantra.
It’s been applying to everything I do, from working at different positions I didn’t have much experience in, to starting transition and presenting as a gender I hadn’t been raised to present as. Most significantly, I’ve applied it in the context of self-growth.
I wrote a little bit on Sunday about my issues with clinginess, and how difficult my natural intensity makes it to let go of ideas and of people. One of the most helpful strategies at improving in this has been to think of how someone independent and self-sufficient would act and think, and try to emulate it.
What that led to was me missing someone so much it hurt. Maybe I’d force myself to leave the house without my phone, or I’d set periods of time (an hour, or a couple of days) when I wasn’t “allowed” to contact that person. My reasoning was that someone happy being alone wouldn’t feel a constant need to talk to anyone. Sure, they might feel inclined to, but it wouldn’t be any more bad that wanting a slice of pizza; it could make you happier, but going without it wouldn’t be the end of the world.Of course, I wasn’t happy being alone when I started doing this, so I spent many days cursing myself for being such a frustrating bitch. To which my inner monologue would reply, “suck it up.”
So I did.
That makes it sound so simple, doesn’t it? Like all I had to do was decide and that was it, I was everything I wished I could be. But like so many things worth having, it took a lot of time and effort for things to get better. Feel free to insert a wise and world-weary sigh here.
I mean, of course it wasn’t easy. If all you needed was the desire to change, there would be a lot less pain in the world. It’s now been years, and I still have so many ways to improve. I’ve played at being kinder and more compassionate, and as the months roll on and on, I have changed to fit the role, and am now naturally more patient and considerate than I once was. But I am still capable of huge selfishness, and my arrogance can overshadow even the vast improvement I’ve made.
With letting go… well, I talked about that on Sunday. There’s still plenty of room for growth, but I’ve been successful in developing strategies with it. No, what I want to talk about today is my self-confidence.
I really couldn’t say where it comes from, but as far back as I can remember, I’ve lived inside my head. Okay, I know what you’re thinking. We all live in our heads. And yes, we do, but that’s not what I mean. As a teenager, I didn’t have my head in the clouds so much as I’d set up a colony in the clouds, and then built a villa for me to live in. In school, at home, even with friends… my inner monologue spoke louder than anyone else, and my imagination ruled over everything else. Sure, I moved in the real world, but I wasn’t really living in it; I’d withdrawn completely into a world where I got to call the shots.
Some days I wonder if it came about because of how much I read as a kid, and how it combined social isolation with an over-developed imagination. Or did it maybe come from my depression, a product of my struggles with my identity?
Whatever the cause, I spent most of my life with a curved back, head to the ground, mind anywhere but my actual environment.
I started to change some 2 years ago, when I realised I couldn’t go on floating through life. I decided to try and ground myself somewhat, and take control of my life. It was around this time I started to come out to the people closest to me, and began to plan practical details for my eventual gender transition. As transition went from being a possibility to an inevitability, I began to take more stock of who I was in the real world.
It didn’t take long for me to realise how truly lonely I was, and how pitiable my lack of self-love and self-confidence were. Sure, I’d tried working on them, but it was difficult when my mind stopped focusing on anything too painful for it.
All that changed. As long-dormant parts of my personality awoke, I took stock of who I was, and set myself determinedly into serious self-improvement. In the coming months, as I came out to more and more people and had to deal with their varying reactions to my identity, I started to learn of what I was really capable of, and looking for ways to appreciate it.
I realised the ‘fake it till you make it’ strategy could work here too, so I tried my hardest to think and behave in the way I imagined Lily would. Not the wretch I was, miserable and broken, but the woman I could be, the one who’d been beaten and insulted her whole life but had never bent the knee to her tormentors.
Again, it wasn’t something that happened from one day to the other. I still tried to be friends with people who made it clear they didn’t respect the real me, and valued their opinions over my happiness, but I took small steps. I told people I needed them to use my real name, and most importantly, I didn’t allow other people’s fears and prejudices to affect my resolve to transition.
Once I’d come out and started to live genuinely, it became a little easier. I felt more comfortable in my skin than I ever had before, and that sense of rightness at my appearance spread inward. I found myself more at peace with who I was and who I could be, and stopped feeling such conflict in trying to improve. Suddenly, caring for myself and loving everything about who I was, flawed and beautiful, became easier. Not easy, mind you, just easier. And as the days went on, it became even more easier.
In one year, I’d made more headway into becoming the mature, strong woman I’d always been inside, and I had more days in which I felt peace at the centre of my being, and knew with certainty I was doing exactly what I should be doing.
Now that a year and a half have passed since I came out, I’ve started noticing something different. This has been particularly evident in the past week or so, but it’s been a long time coming: I no longer worry about what Lily would do, how the strong confident woman that’s always been my potential would act or speak, because I realise I am her. I’m far from perfect, but I no longer have to fake self-assurance or confidence. I’ve somehow stumbled into complete security in who I am. I’ve been walking with a back straighter than ever, head held high, easy smile on my lips. My steps are strong and graceful. I’ve stopped caring what other people think or speak about me. I know who I am, and I rejoice in it. What else could matter?
I don’t know whether this will last long. I feel it might. Even if it doesn’t, something tells me as more time passes I’ll be settling into periods of confidence like this one more and more often.
This is who I always wished I could be. A beautiful woman, strong and tall, self-controlled and kind… not perfect, but always looking to improve, and working hard to be the best version of herself possible.
I finally feel I’ve started to live up to the hopes of little me. This is who I saw in my dreams every night. All I want now is to continue in this way, and properly honour the sacrifice of younger me, necessary for me to be where I am now.
As always, I wished I could hug 13-year old Lily, and give her a glimpse of who she will become. Hang in there, little one. Thinks do get better.