Being an impostor is hard work. You have to emulate someone else, always chasing their look, their style, their experiences and you have to work tirelessly to fool others that you are someone you are not. This leads to resentment and eventually hatred of the original.
That feeling of being uncomfortable and transgressive is the internal warning sign that you are doing something wrong. That you are hurting yourself and others. Perhaps it’s not the clothes you like to wear, but fooling yourself that you should be someone else that is the problem.
Identifying with someone who isn’t you is empathy. Identifying as someone who isn’t you is identity theft. You must maintain the mask at all times because even a tiny slip is perceived as a huge inconsistency. This is very time consuming and it leads to self-obsession.
Instead of trying to understand yourself and empathise with others, you are further isolating yourself behind this mask. When the mask slips, you are overwhelmed with shame. So you end up resenting the original because they are effortless at being themselves, forgetting that you could be yourself too.
You could be a man who loves to wear dresses and makeup, a man who isn’t macho. It would be hard to explain this to other men, but that effort is nothing compared to the effort of pretending to be a woman. Because you, and everyone around you, knows that you are not. Because on some level you know that no amount of pretending, demanding, crying, threatening, not the state power, nor law or medicine, can make you into a completely different human being.
But there is something that could help you transform your life – asking whether you want to remain an impostor, or would you rather allow yourself to be happy in your own skin, in your own life?
When you don’t like yourself, imagining yourself being someone else, someone thinner, richer, more feminine, seems like a dream come true. But these thoughts are just an escapist fantasy. You can never know what being in a different body and life would actually feel like. This fantasy is externalising your internal experience, rewriting your own personal history, it’s cherry picking another’s body and life, one that typically doesn’t struggle with things you struggle with, or so you think, because of course, you can never know.
We see this in cosmetic medicine all the time. Your lips are too small, so you inject fillers and overnight you have a different body part. A dream come true? Think again. When you externalise your insecurity in this way, changing the body part doesn’t erase the insecurity, it only makes the insecurity attach itself to something else. Eventually, displacing internal issues in this way erodes our health and sanity, because whether we have fake lips or a fake identity, they are never good enough, because we are never good enough.
Self-acceptance can’t be outsourced to material things or body modification. As long as you are choosing that path, you are setting yourself up for failure. It’s never about the nose, or weight, or identity. The insecurity is rooted in painful experiences, betrayal and rejection.
When I was little, I was growing up in a very abusive household. Both my parents beat, berated and rejected me. I remember sitting in a bath alone, a rare moment of peace for me, wishing so hard to be prettier, thinner, more graceful, like my ballerina mother. I externalised the violence of my parents, which I could neither understand nor control, and figured that if only I was less objectionable to their eyes, they would treat me better, love me more. Becoming that other girl was more manageable than accepting the senseless violence. Furthermore, I was prepared to trade my intelligence, good grades, sporting ability, everything I had, for beauty. This led me into an eating disorder and a life of self-neglect. My body was my enemy, the reason for my suffering. I know a lot of women who understand this.
So I know the appeal of this fantasy of becoming someone else, so that people can finally stop hurting you. Chances are, if you are resorting to this fanasy, you have been hurt and let down. Because most people who are truly loved, manage to accept themselves before real damage is done.
That this fantasy is increasingly marketed to kids as a viable option, even though it’s not, is scary. But whether you’ve been seduced into dealing with your insecurities in this way, or you’ve always gravitated towards it, you will suffer as long as you keep pretending.
And only when you can look at yourself in the mirror without judgement, when you have shone the light on every part of your soul, even that something black and heavy that you percieve as alien, when you can hold yourself with unconditional love, you’ll know peace and happiness.