Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Not Being Silent

Throughout my life, I have struggled in silence: comparing myself to images of women in the media and letting this comparison influence my behavior, treatment of my body, and attitude. I was in a constant battle to not let these unrealistic images influence my view of myself. I felt like I should change myself to a standardized “ideal” image in order to be happy and accepted by others.

I am overcoming this battle and realized that I didn’t have to go through it alone. I should have reached out and not been silent about what I was dealing with. Now, my aim for my life is to keep my mask off and let people see the “real” me and I encourage others to do the same. In our society, an individual’s image is very important, and their personal success is what matters. I guess I believed that appearing as if I had it all together showed a sign of strength. However, truth is, everyone has struggles as no one’s life is perfect.

In my past experience, if an individual talks about their personal issues and is vulnerable, that person has a high likelihood of getting judged negatively.  Therefore, to avoid being judged, most people stay in the “safe” zone in conversations.  Rather than open up when individuals need help, they tend to turn to things they can easily consume (i.e., alcohol, drugs, food, products, etc.) or go to drastic measures to cope and make them feel better. However, in the end to recover from these addictions, these individuals will have to talk about their issues with trained professionals, which is expensive.  Talking to others and sharing their story is an important aspect in the healing process.   But, it doesn’t require going to a professional to deal with personal issues. You can prevent this step by reaching out, sharing your story, and connecting to others in your community early on. Connecting with others is your safety net.

I got the strength to take off my mask permanently after an interesting conversation with a friend.  We had known each other for a number of years, yet we only talked about “safe” topics. However, I had been craving the need for a deeper friendship. During the conversation, my friend brought up how I was a “frustrating friend,” as I only talked about superficial topics; so, the friend had lost interest in our friendship. Throughout our friendship, we had both gone through hardships, yet we did not share with each other.  While I had thought I was authentic, I had a hard time being vulnerable and letting others (even in this case, one of my closest friends) know what’s going on in my heart. To become a better friend, I learned to open up and to be vulnerable to others. I think it’s important to get people talking about what is going on in their lives. Life is not meant to go through alone. Odds are, others are undergoing similar things.

Life is short, so put your time and effort into deeper relationships. They are so important. Next time someone you interact with tells you they are “fine” even though they look sad, take time out of your life and show them you care. Just remember that these relationships take time; some connections don’t happen immediately or when you want them to. But, don’t give up when things go slower than you had hoped. Be patient with the person; people have baggage that may cause them to not open up right away. Also, remember that relationships are two ways: you have to be vulnerable, and you have to express your feelings to the other person as well. So THANK YOU friend for the reminder to be more vulnerable in my relationships and to open up more. I’ve learned my lesson, and I now try to take off my mask. As well, I now try to be honest when people ask me how I’m doing.  But, I don’t want to stop there.  I want to share my story with others, so that they can be inspired to share their stories and take off their masks, too.

Arianna Merritt has a rich background in education with and a Bachelor of Science (Honours) Degree in Psychology and a Master’s of Education Degree in Human Development and Applied Psychology.  Her goal in life is to empower individuals to become the best they can be.


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