In 1987, Dirty Dancing was released and T’Pau’s China In Your Hand was the UK #1 for 7 weeks straight. I was 14.
I watched Johnny masculinely remove Baby from the corner on a London-bound 747. And I wore out the rewind button on my walkman listening to that craptastic 80s ballad, while I spent three months travelling around England with Gran. Thatcher had been re-elected and the stock market had just crashed. I was immersed in the music and the politics and the Englishness of it all. I had my first Proper Snog with one of my cousins friends. It was all so exotic and thrilling and an entire universe away from my home town of Waikouaiti, New Zealand. Population: not-quite-2000.
I went back to East Otago High School with my hair done exactly like Carol from T’Pau and was immediately ostracised. I had been away too long, changed too much, grown in ways I couldn’t put into words. My classmates knew I was different and they hated me for it.
I was bullied relentlessly for over a year. Most of it was verbal.
Dad came home from work unexpectedly one lunchtime and discovered me hiding in the wardrobe with a torch and a book. I admitted I’d been avoiding school at least two days a week for months. At the start of the next term I moved to an all girls school, happily making the daily two-hour round trip to Dunedin.
I thought I had left those teenage sadists behind. But they shadowed me for years.
I was so determined to avoid being disliked, I spent decades twisting myself into a version of me that was ‘likeable’.
In every relationship of my life, I showed up as a compromised parody of me. I spent a lot of time pretending and lying about who I really was. So even the peeps who said they loved me, only loved the me I let them see. I was convinced that if they knew the real me, I would be abandoned.
Being an approval whore is freakin’ exhausting.
It wasn’t until my ex-husband left me, that I finally had no one else to project my twisty self onto. It was shocking to realise that I really had no idea who I was without him.
Eventually, I found that the more I got to know myself, the more I liked the real me. And whenever I was tempted to return to my twisty ways, it just felt so icky. Thank sweet baby Jesus he left!
Still, its taken me years to really really get it.
Whatever anyone else thinks of me, is just not up to me.
At the end of last year when I left Corporateering, I found there was no longer a split between the online me and the ‘professional’ me. And creating my fancy new website has removed yet another layer.
Now I can just be all me, all the time.
But this has not been made of fluffy rabbits and ice cream.
As I have shown up as completely myself, several long-term relationships have ended.
This has been at times confusing, deeply hurtful and difficult. I’ve had a few long dark nights as my oldest fears have been exposed as valid – I showed you who I really am, and you didn’t like me.
I’ve been grieving these friendships. And after the initial sadness, there is the work to look at what I want to choose to make this mean.
I’ve done a lot of self-coaching to reject the thought that I am doing something wrong. And I’ve come to find a deeper and truer relationship with myself, and with my people.
Just because you don’t like me, that’s not a reason for me to not like me.
And if I change myself to be who you say you want me to be, you wouldn’t like me then either. You’d like the twisty version of me.
So when you decide to walk away, I’m just going to love me enough to let you.
I curious to know if have had friendships end as you’ve grown into yourself? There doesn’t seem to be a manual for this! I love to know more about how you moved through it.
Updated – here’s a resource worth checking out: My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Losing and Leaving Friends
PS: if this post resonated with you, please check out my new group coaching programme: Rethink Your Relationships – registration is now open!