illusions we keep

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Today, I found myself meditating on the concept of illusions. What are the illusions, or facades, that others present to us? What are the facades we put up ourselves? We all lie to some degree, whether blatant (cheating on a spouse) or subtle (lying about feeling “good” when someone asks how we are doing).

It struck me how very few people are exempt from the illusions they see, and the illusions they keep. I recently started dating, and I saw how especially in this setting, the concept is apparent. I see all different types of men. There are the ones with a different excursion in each photo, giving off the image that they are adventurous and fulfilled. There are men who gloat about their high-power careers and positions. Then there are some who write nothing at all, appearing aloof and cool. The unspoken norm, whether in dating or any other social setting, seems to be about hiding parts of yourself, while projecting out only your perceived “best” parts.

To take it a step further, I also saw what happens when someone “threatens” our illusions. Cue Freud’s classic defense mechanisms–projection, displacement, regression, repression, rationalization, introjection, acting out, just to name a few. Like my recent ex, when the illusion is jeopardized–risking your true, vulnerable self to be revealed–many would do whatever it takes to maintain their self-fantasy… even if it means hurting others, or ultimately themselves.

But then I turned the focus onto me. What are the illusions I try to put out for others? Being brutally honest with myself, I saw that I try to give the image of being strong, confident, intelligent, logical, emotionally held together. Even with this blog, I package my personal experiences in a way that would benefit others, while not fully expressing what lies underneath. And the parts I try to hide? Well, the reality underneath is, I have moments of severe weakness, moments when I feel like I’m collapsing and breaking. Although parts of me are confident, there are other parts that feel low self-worth, who secretly believes she deserves to be treated badly, that she doesn’t deserve better. I must always endure pain. I do not deserve joy.

I almost never let anyone see those parts, for fear of judgment or the deer-in-headlight looks I may get, when others have no idea what to say–or worse, say the wrong thing, and awkwardly change the subject. People have often preferred and admired my strong parts, and shied away, or even lashed out, for my weak parts.

Perhaps that is why we all hide away parts of ourselves. And I know I am not the only one. Even those seemingly confident, “high-status” men are hiding parts, while presenting their version of their ideal self. It is interesting, because by looking at the illusions, you can see the flip side, of what people are trying to hide. For example, the man who attempts to appear aloof and cool, may very well be trying to hide his need for others and emotional connection–because to him, this is believed as being “weak.” Or for me, I attempt to appear strong and logical, because the need for emotional help and support seems subconsciously weak. It is funny yet sad how we seem to run from vulnerability like the plague, when in actuality, embracing vulnerability is the cure to our emotional ailments.

But it all starts with us–building awareness of the illusions we keep in our lives. If we stopped judging ourselves for our vulnerabilities, our weaknesses, then we can learn how to stop judging others for theirs. And the thing about vulnerability is, we all have it. It is like judging someone for having ears. So instead of focusing all of our energy denying the existence of ears on our body, we could instead learn how to accept and love our entire selves, ears and all. Maybe putting on the illusion once in a while can help us in some situations, but to super glue it onto our being only hurts, rather than helps, us.

 

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finding my sexy

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Suffering through the wreckage that was my break-up, I am slowly starting to see the light peak out through the dark clouds.

I just finished my burlesque workshop classes, and it has been, without a doubt, the best decision I’ve made for myself in the past two months. It’s difficult for your self-esteem to not go through the crapper after a bad break-up, especially one with a partner who was oftentimes emotionally abusive. But in addition to processing what happened, I’ve been trying so hard to focus on myself and re-building what was trampled upon… a new and improved self, someone who embodies empowerment and self-love more than she ever has in her life. At the end of this, those are my goals: empowerment and self-love.

I took an Uber for my last class, decked out in my burlesque gear. I wore a sweatshirt so my revealing top would not be open for all of Hollywood Boulevard to see, but my skirt and stocking were still in plain sight. My experience was different the second I got into my Uber. The driver attempted to ask me out after a full minute of picking me up. Then he proceeded to ask borderline offensive questions, which I gently yet assertively confronted. I was glad the ride was quick, and I was able to shake him off at the end.

Then as I walked the streets of Hollywood, a cat-caller attempted to hit on me. When I didn’t answer, he proceeded to touch my back. Normally, I would’ve tried to avoid any kind of conflict, but feeling my new self come out, I told him off. Of course he became defensive and angry, but I didn’t care. I was proud of myself for asserting my boundaries.

Once I got to class and got a good look at myself in the wall-to-wall mirrors, sans sweatshirt, I stood in awe. I look so sexy. I couldn’t take my eyes away. What was once a faraway goal, was now standing right in front of me, in black leather and red garters. For the first time in my life, I truly felt sexy. Self-love was at my door too. As I danced with my classmates, swaying my hips and shaking my chest, I thought, any man would be lucky to have me. I am beautiful inside AND out.

Afterward, I went out for drinks with some of my classmates. We chatted, and laughed, and talked about what brought us to the class. I was honest and told them about my story–the break-up, and the need to remind myself that I was still sexy, with or without a guy. One of the ladies told me that she felt teary after hearing my story, and two others proceeded to tell me their past break-up experiences, giving me valuable advice.

Two pieces of advice and encouragement stuck out to me the most:

First: “After one of my break-ups, I was feeling really sad and staying home all the time. But one of my girlfriends gave me good advice, which I still hold onto. She told me that I can be wallowing and sad only for so long, and that even if I felt sad, I should still put myself out there and go out dating. Just for fun. One of the guys I went on a date with, I was straight up with him and told him that I just got out of a relationship, so I wasn’t sure if I wanted a relationship yet. He thanked me for being so honest with him. We didn’t match at the end, but we became good friends. It’s okay to have times alone to feel sad, but you have to go out and allow yourself to have fun too. And trust me, you’ll definitely find someone better. I eventually ended up meeting my husband.

Second: “When I think back on the guys I dated who ended up running away from me, at the end of it, I was so thankful that they did. I was lucky that they ran. They weren’t any good. Trust me, you’ll get there eventually where you’ll see that too.

With those burlesque classes, not only did I get to discover a part of myself that I’ve long needed in my life, I was also able to encounter positive, encouraging people. I’m grateful for the universe bringing me kindness and love in so many different ways.

Although I am still recovering from the hurt and pain my ex gave me, at the same time, I am also in the process of arriving to a place where I am actually loving myself in who I am and what I have to offer. Eventually, I’ll be someone who won’t put up with hurtful behavior again, because I’ll know I deserve better than that. I’m already getting there. I know I deserve to be treated with love and respect… and I’m starting to put my foot down  with anyone who treats me otherwise.

When everything is said and done, I hope I can give to others what those ladies gave to me. My friends have all commented on how much progress I’ve made in two months… and truthfully, I’m only beginning to see it. But at least I can say now, with tears in my eyes as I type this… that I am wonderful, beautiful, and sexy. Just like how someone can claim that the sky is purple, it doesn’t change the fact that it is blue. I am always wonderful, beautiful, and sexy, regardless of what people say or how they treat me.

thoughts on bad relationships

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“If someone treats your feelings as unimportant or lets you down in large or small ways frequently, drop them fast. You are not dreaming, and they will always be that way. Three strikes is enough.” -Jeb Kinnison

There are times in life when you have to learn lessons through your own experience. Someone can tell you many times to not play too closely to the fire, but you won’t learn until you get burned.

In my case, I got burned many times before I learned better. There are many of us in our life development who are naive to relationships and love. Disney movies, TV shows, romantic comedies, media, and even our fellow naive friends tell us that love will conquer all. If you love, the relationship will last and you can put up with anything, even if it is emotional abuse or severe lack of attention or affection. My understanding nature worked against me in this way. I would explain away my ex’s behavior, It’s because of his childhood that he’s like that. He said he’s trying. Maybe he’s right, I’m not appreciating his efforts enough. Yet that is the crux of abuse–the abuser manipulates you to buy into their broken and selfish way of thinking, and you unwittingly begin to operate under his control. His actions speak louder than words. And my thinking is what led me to collude in the emotional abuse I experienced.

But regardless of someone’s background or situation, hurtful or abusive behavior is never, ever okay.

I had it right the first time, when I asked for both of our needs to be attended to during our relationship. But in his subconscious mind, his needs were the only ones that mattered, and if I argued otherwise, I was “making it hard on him”… and he would go into a rage for good measure. The sick part of the relationship was whatever issues I brought up, he would twist it and put it back on me, making the same “complaints” about me. And I almost bought into it. Almost. Now, I am happily disillusioned. His behaviors were prime examples of his primitive defense mechanisms… projection being the most frequent one (i.e., his being mad at me for not valuing him and attending to his feelings, when he was the one who struggled with both in the span of our relationship).

Yet for abusers, or narcissists, blaming things on you, or splitting their “bad parts” and projecting them onto you, are their methods of protecting and defending themselves. The reason why: they have a deep-seeded belief and fear that they are worthless or inadequate. So they will do anything–whether it is manipulating, guilt-peddling, raging, physically abusing, throwing out every defense in the book–to avoid facing the person they fear they are. It is easy for them, for that reason, to make you into the bad person, so they can be guilt- and responsibility-free… but at your expense.

In the abuser’s mind, your feelings don’t matter, and may never will. Empathy is oftentimes lost on them. So it doesn’t matter how much you love that person, to him or her, it will never be enough. They are focused on taking and taking, and you must give and give–a one-sided arrangement that will never benefit you in the long run.

But here’s the thing. A good, healthy relationship consists of mutual respect and equal balance of power. You deserve to have someone hearing your feelings and needs, just as you do the same for your partner. You have the right to take responsibility for your things only, and not your partner’s issues or hurtful behavior. You also have a right to your feelings and reactions, as well as the right to be human and make mistakes. You deserve to have emotional support, and to ask for help or for changes. These are basic needs in any relationship. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

And if anyone does violate your rights, well, I of all people know how hard it is to leave. But perhaps it is easier to start with first seeing that you deserve love and respect and to have your rights acknowledged. Every moment is a chance to change your life for the better. Sometimes it’s a process, and it takes a series of moments to get you to the next step. I know for me, my path was a windy one. But as of this moment, I can say with confidence that I will never allow anyone to abuse or treat me with disrespect again… and I will do whatever it takes to make healthier choices in my life.

Self-Empowerment

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Any woman will tell you, it’s almost expected to take a hit to your self-esteem when you break up with someone. Even for the most evolved human being, it is hard not to hurt when any kind of attachment is severed, especially if you were not the one to do the cutting. Particularly in those cases, it is difficult not to think, was it something about me? Am I not good enough?

That same old tape plays, over and over again. All the negative thoughts and beliefs about yourself. It’s been the same since childhood, it comes up without you having to push play. Like some sick joke, it plays during the worst moments of your life, and during your best. When the kids taunted me as a girl and called my ugly. When I make a mistake at work. When I trip on the sidewalk. When someone asks me out. When someone pays me a compliment. The tape goes on, and this break-up is no exception.

But there is a clear difference this time around. I’ve had years of self-awareness of my tape, but oftentimes struggled to press stop. It was too overpowering, it sounded too true to my ears. However, after a long time in this battle, I have now finally found myself at a point in my life where a still voice is breaking through the noise, saying, I’m done. I’m so over beating myself up. I’m so over letting people treat me like shit. It ends today. It’s done. This is it. No more. We all have our own journey and timing, and now, I feel truly ready to throw the tape out. It is no longer serving me. It is killing me. And with that, the truth sinks down to my very bones: I am good enough. I am worthy. I am a human being, prone to make mistakes, but I also have so much to offer. I take responsibility for my actions. And most of all, I always strive to do better. There is nothing more the universe could ever ask of me. No one will ever get me to believe otherwise again. Absolutely no one.

At the beginning of this process, my favorite word in the English language came to mind: empowerment. It is a value I’ve come to hold, and in this season, I am challenged to live up to it. And that also speaks to one of my other values. Integrity. It means living and always remaining true to your values and what is good, even in the face of temptation. My tape tempts me. My ex’s words reverberate through my broken heart. The pain sometimes clutches too tightly. But I will not waver. I will stand strong, knowing what is right and true, and never let go of that.

And this is how I empower myself. I remind myself of all my good qualities… I am intelligent, good-hearted, compassionate, empathetic, resilient, beautiful. I refuse to put up with any kind of abuse or ill-behavior. I speak out against injustices. I give kindness to those I meet, yet never allow anyone to take advantage of what I have to offer. I value every single fiber of me, physical, mental, spiritual, or otherwise. I give thanks to the good the world offers me, and use the lemons I am given to build strength and character. I will not allow for any person or circumstance to define me; I will define myself. In everything.

This is my path toward self-empowerment.