This is an edited excerpt of “Mistaken Identity“.
Whether you like it or not, you were brought up to be an imitation. When you were little, you started imitating your parents. You spoke the way they spoke; you ate what they ate; you copied your dad shaving or your mom cooking. Whatever you observed, you learned to copy. All you wanted was to be loved and accepted, so you started to copy them to be accepted by them.
Because of the judgment and the rules imposed on you, conformity became the next thing you succumbed to. Not wanting to upset anything or anyone and not wanting to stand out, you fell in line and continued to mimic and imitate the adults. No wonder people feel fake sometimes. That feel- ing you had growing up, wondering what was feeling “off” with you, was because you were handed a mask and told to wear it.
From very early on, things didn’t feel right to you. You watched your parents argue and worry and struggle with their own mistaken identity. As you learned from them, you learned to cover things up. Don’t tell people what you’re thinking. Keep your feelings to yourself. Don’t speak unless spoken to. Be honest. Yet most people weren’t.
You’re an imitation because you learned to pretend to be someone you’re not.
Are you confused? I sure was. Your mistaken identity was created from being taught to imitate or copy others. When you were able to think for yourself, you started worrying about what others thought of you. We say we’re all individuals, yet we were told we should be the same as everyone else to be sure we don’t “stand out.” You’re an imitation because you learned to pretend to be someone you’re not so you’d be liked, get invited to parties, be included with the cool people, get picked for the team, or whatever else that made you feel like you “fit in” when you were young.
You were afraid of being judged. How could you ever be the real you when you were raised to be so concerned about what others thought? Many people say they struggle with imposter syndrome. It’s no wonder. You’re not an imposter just because you’re acting like one.
Stop faking it. It’s killing you.
I remember a time when I faked it. When I was in middle school, running was an escape for me. I was running from lots of things in my life, so cross-country running became an escape. And like anything that I set my mind to, I got good at it. Soon I was the fastest runner in my school. I won the school track meet and qualified for the county track meet.
For the first time, my dad showed up at the meet, and I was so happy he was watching in the stands. I remember turning the final corner of the 800-meter race. I was in second place, and I knew I could beat the leader. As I turned the final corner, I saw my dad in the stands, and I fell. I hit the dirt track, looked up, and saw my win turn into a loss.
I faked it. I faked the fall to get attention. In fact, I faked the cause. My coach and others ran out to see if I was okay, and I faked my explanation. I faked that I had a pain in my chest that caused me to “blackout.” I continued to carry the lie on through multiple medical appointments and tests. There was no way I was going, to tell the truth. I faked the whole thing to get attention and make myself feel better about myself. I began imitating a victim and I got really good at it. Turns out it wasn’t so good for me.
The key to freedom is to be yourself.
You may be searching for your authentic self. You’re searching for a feeling of peace and contentment within yourself. The key to freedom is to be yourself. Take off the mask and show the world who you really are. Stop faking it and worrying what others think of you.
Stop imitating others to be liked. Be yourself, that’s a heck of a lot easier.
As an international keynote speaker, mentor, and survivor of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, Doug Dane has a unique perspective on personal growth and transformation.