Shedding my Persona
There is a reason that the 12 steps are in the order that they occur, it seems. The steps happen to me as much as I work them. During the fourth step (made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves), my character defects (steps 5 and 6) became immediately apparent:
-melodramatic / lie through exaggeration / attention-seeking
-self-righteous indignation / entitlement
-victimization / self-pity
-anxious / fearful
-insecure / vain / self-absorbed
I have clumped them together where I see they overlap in my life.
Neither Steps 6 (were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character) nor step 7 (humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings) refer explicitly to having a persona, but there is a correlation for me.
It has now been over ten months since I broke up with my ex whom I'd lived with for over ten years. We hadn't seen one another in nine months. She finally agreed to let me visit with our dog this past weekend. She supervised the visit.
I cried on and off for over 24 hours after she left. Throughout the visit, it was clearly apparent that she didn't trust me. In fact, as she performed a physical exam on my cat to determine whether or not I was taking adequate care of him, I recalled that she hadn't trusted me with the animals even when we were together. This lack of trust was incredibly painful to experience.
The night before this visit, my new boyfriend (of almost three months now) said that he is having trouble trusting me because of the stories I've told him about my life and my prior relationships. We also talk in program about letting go of stories - Stories and "persona" seem to be clearly connected. How do I cultivate a persona without telling my stories?
This visit with my ex helped me to understand why I might want to shed my persona. Here is the chronology of persona cultivation.
1. I tell stories about my past which create an image of what kind of person I am (my persona).
2. People come to the conclusion that I am a "bad girl." I do not use those words in describing myself, but it never fails that is the impression they develop. The payoff to having this persona is that there seems to be some sex-appeal to this persona. My ex told me she liked that I was a "bad girl." My new boyfriend told me he likes that I am a "bad girl." The last guy I dated stated the same. Without my using those words, they have each labeled me a "bad girl."
3. The flip side to being viewed as a "bad girl" is that these same people have trouble trusting me. It is very painful to feel I can't be trusted.
My great-aunt died over a year ago. During our last conversation, while she was on her death bed, she, too, asked me, "What was it like to be a bad girl?" I was shocked and greatly disturbed by her question. I grieved over this conversation and felt very angry at her for a year after she died. My response at the time was to clarify, "Do you mean 'what was it like to be viewed as a bad girl?'" I refused to accept that label as a self-identity.
As I have strengthened my spiritual practice through meditation, surfing, art, and daily prayer, I am now starting to see a visual representation of this persona. I see my inner, wiser self as a bright white light and my persona "baggage" as shingles from a roof haphazardly tacked over top of this beautiful white light, obstructing its radiance. Perhaps I am finally coming to believe that I am inherently good and beautiful, even with my human imperfections.
Prayer for the end of this post:
God, please help me to shed this "bad girl" persona. Help me to love myself enough to trust I am likeable and lovable without needing to cultivate sex appeal.