Still faking. Still hiding.

I am a projection. A mirage. I hide behind desperate attempts at normalcy, clenching onto a twisted sense of inclusion. I have been doing this my entire life, suppressing who I was or who I could become so that I would be more acceptable.

So, as it turns out, I still don’t know who I am. And with two decades now under my belt, I have come to the conclusion that I don’t know who I want to be.

The answers to life’s most basic questions elude me: What are my deepest desires, my wildest dreams?

Part of me is afraid to answer these questions, because deep down inside, I know that I am not good enough.

Projection. Mirage.

I see you before you ever see me. I take note of the way you walk, what you are wearing, and how you look.

From there, I become someone else. I become what I think you want me to be. I put out an image that I hope will say to you: I am normal. I am one of you.

Except, I am not.

Because to be honest, I don’t know how to belong. I don’t know how to let myself exist without worrying that the comfort of belonging will soon be gone when others find out who I really am.

So again, who am I?

Questions of my core identity had always focused on whom I was attracted to and not who I was as a person.

The world’s obsession with my sexuality turned into my own obsession with my sexuality.

Why was I constantly asked if I had a girlfriend or if I was gay? What about the questions that revealed my heart?

Why wasn’t the world interested in my heart?

So here I am, two decades under my belt, asking for you to tell me who I am. But I know life doesn’t work that way. I must find myself. Rather, I must uncover myself.

Says Richard Rohr:

LIFE is not a matter of CREATING a special name for ourselves, but UNCOVERING the name we have always had.”

I have lived a quarter of a century. And I still want to know me.

Do you resonate with this feeling: I still don’t know who I am? Do you know who you are? What are some things that make you you?

* Photo courtesy, Matthew Hurst, Creative Commons.

About the Author

  • Bradley, I could had written this at 25 (I’m 55 now). Especially the parts of being a chameleon (to fit in) and hiding the fact that I hated myself so much. Perhaps that was what set me apart the most from all the others. “I fear people will reject me because I reject myself.” “My only hope is to be someone else”. I had to learn how pointless all that was. It DOES get better. And I feel I know the real you a little bit – simply because of what you wrote from the heart above.
    Do I know who I am now? Far better than at 25 – but… still I question and fear. There are those “dark parts” that require suppression. What makes me me? I know how to survive. But I also know the price. I know how to provide for others – but not so good for myself. I am outwardly “successful” adult and inwardly still 13 years old. I am very good at listening, and then presenting what I think others need to know, in my profession. Yet have almost given up in my personal relationships.

    • I want to know who I am right now and not give myself time to develop into who I truly am! I guess some of this comes from the pressure of our cultures obsession with authenticity.

  • Hey brother, I’m guessing everyone can resonate with what you’re feeling and has known the whirlpool of trying to follow Jesus with SSA. It can be really hard and tiring to the soul. If you keep going with Jesus, you’re going to find that all your questions have their answer in Christ. And it is usually in those deep struggles that those answers are living and become a part of who you are, or rather, who you are in him. I tend to overthink things and often miss what Paul wrote is the simplicity that’s in Christ. Whatever confusion or struggles pound on you, set your heart on going on with God regardless of feelings or failures. As Jim wrote, it does get better. And not because it’s necessarily easier but because it’s blessed, and you’ll find the crazy road you’re on is how you came to be like Jesus.

    • This is so right on the money. It’s though this journey that we discover ourselves, and learn more about our God.
      I especially love the last sentance: “It does get better. And not because it’s necessarily easier but because it’s blessed, and you’ll find the crazy road you’re on is how you came to be like Jesus.”
      Keep after it, Bradley. It’s a lot of work. But it’s how we free ourselves from this burden.

  • I think you are in a good place, Bradley, an uncomfortable place but a good one. You are aware of the issues and problems with being a chameleon. And you are asking great questions. So many folks never ask them, and many others don’t have the awareness after a half century or even 25 years later. God is altogether interested in your heart; that will become more clear in time. And you will probably learn that there are few others you can trust with your heart. But those are Godsends.

  • I understand. My experience is similar. I even thought that God was not interested in me. Me. I was wrong. The real issue was that I did not know what was in my own heart. I did not really know me. I was so distracted with the SSA part of me that I could hear and see nothing else. It was / is not who I am. I am a child of God.
    Sometimes I wish I had not told anyone. Now it’s as though that’s all they see. “Oh you’re the gay celebate guy at church.” I still get labeled and dismissed. It’s all right. There is always someone that will take the time to get to know you, or maybe a few. A handful of a few close friends that really know you is better than 1000 acquaintances any day of the week.
    Getting there is hard. Friends are not always who we want them to be. They are just the way they are….as God made them. We learn about each other together. There are things we do not like about ourselves and our friends. So be it. We are all different. Go with the flow of where God puts you (outside of your comfort zone). To be known takes some effort. It can hurt. It can also be full of joy. Ask Jesus. He experienced both and no one fully understood Him or His heart.
    I hope i that made some sense. You are a good writer. You communicate where you are at and who you are quite well. I hope you continue with your efforts at sharing yourself and putting yourself out there. Others will learn your heart and so will you.

  • Bradley, I think everyone is always changing, so who we are is not fully realized. I love that I am changing, and that I’m seeing the masks that I wear more and more each day. I don’t think I will ever remove all of them, because there are new ones being created all the time. I however think I have fewer masks than I ever did before. I think it is human nature to want to belong and to ask others their opinion of us. It is good to some extent, because we are part of a community and we need to function well in it. At the same time, I have different roles in different circles of people, so there are subtle differences in how I project myself. That is not a mask, but a practical part of my functioning in society. It can be difficult for me to differentiate which is a role, and which is a mask.
    I lied about my true attractions for a long time; until about a year and a half ago. I always told a few close people along the way, but most of them weren’t interested in hearing about my struggles. It was something that made me feel ashamed even though I was accepted in other ways. I read another YOB story that said he mentioned his struggle to a close friend after not talking about it for years. He said he thought that wasn’t a problem any more because he hadn’t brought it up. That happened to me once and I think I realized that I was more ashamed on my own rather than what others really felt about me. I shed the shame through a process of working on it through self-help books, counseling and disclosing more often with other straight men. Now I don’t feel hardly any shame and others seem much more open, friendly and accepting. I think I was projecting some of that onto them and when I seemed uncomfortable or afraid of them, they reacted the same to me. I also started choosing my friends more wisely and decided not to try to make others be more accepting or loving towards me. I would be more obsessed with those I thought didn’t like me and let the people who did go to the wayside.

    • I think the tendency in your last sentence is very common, Bryon. We fixate on something that disturbs us and inadvertently ignore many fine things that are right beside us. I do that with relationships, body image, thoughts about church, etc.

      • That is definitely something that I do and I do it well. Ask me something good about myself and I struggle to come up with one good thing. Now,ask me something negative about myself and the list will go on and on!

    • I feel like the more I am changing,the more I am becoming the real me. Its more like I am shedding masks. Or maybe, learning which masks are the real me.
      Not sure i worded that in the best way.

  • You asked who you were…you are a child of God. He sees you just as you are. You can’t become something you are not in His Eyes. He knows you. Maybe think about that in terms of self discovery…He may have something for you to do too.

    • Yessssssss!!!! Love this, as Bradley said, “x1000!” My husband and I started a LiFE group for LGBT folks in our area a little over a year ago, to give them a safe place to encounter the Lover of their souls. He is teaching on identity this year, and this is exactly what we have been telling them! “It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves…” (Psalm 100:3). He gets to say who we are. He gets to give us our identity.
      (I haven’t commented a lot on here, so for those who don’t know, my husband shares the SSA struggle. I think that you would all appreciate the story of his journey as well. We are doing what we can to reach out to both those who struggle with their faith and their sexuality, and to those in the church who are seeking a way forward. Love and blessings to you all!

        • Thank you! It took years for my husband to find the courage to tell his story, and then this LiFE group was birthed. We have people who are connected to the group who live 1 to 2-1/2 hours away and come whenever they are able. We come across new people everyday who need to be loved well, so that they can know the One who loves them and know that He is passionately pursuing them!

  • It’s an interesting question: “What is my core identity?” It’s interesting to me because I wonder if people used to ask themselves this in times past. I mean, we knew that we were creatures of God, we were aware of (some of) our talents and desire, but I can’t imagine asking myself that question fifty years ago. Is there an answer other than “human being,” possibly broadened and refined to include being a creature and male (or female)? One could go on to mention occupation and interests, but I think that gets us beyond “core” identity although it may still be part of identity, as is orientation.
    Several years ago, I was on an 8 day retreat, during which participants spoke only once a day with their director and at Mass. My director noted that I was always “looking over [my] shoulder” to make sure that nobody could become aware of my orientation.
    When I went to nursery school, I didn’t know anybody there. When I went to first grade, I didn’t know anybody there. When I went to parochial school in second grade, I didn’t know anybody there. When I went to public high school, it seemed as if I didn’t know anybody there, as I had virtually no contact with classmates from parochial school. When I went to college, I didn’t know anybody there. But at all these stages, it seemed that there were lots of people who were already friends. In other words, I was an outsider. And I didn’t think I could become an insider, although I did become respected, and managed to pick up a few friends.
    Outsider isn’t part of my core identity, it just feels that way. Cautious has become part of my personality, even if it isn’t exactly “core identity.”

    • Not to quibble, but being a creature of God and being a child of God are two different things. John 1 says that God gives us the right…the right… to become His children if we accept His Son. It’s a pretty big deal. Once adopted we are supposed to evolve throughout the sanctification process – we adapt – we become what He wants us to be. That does not happen if we do not really take hold of our adoptive parent. Most of us act more like foster children than actual heirs. We need to become who our Father wants us to be. He’s not just our minder. He is our eternal parent and unlike like our earthly father’s, He’s perfect. He knows. I think that’s part of the confusion for some of us SSA’s. Our relationships with our birth fathers were a mess and it translates spiritually to our heavenly Father.
      Saying that and doing it … well…I don’t know

      • Well, of course, creature of God and child of God mean different things. I deliberately chose the former because I was talking generally of the people of 60 years ago, and I didn’t want to imply that all were Christian.

  • I’ll just echo everyone else in saying that we can relate. We are with you on this journey, walking beside you.
    I’m also going though a time of asking, ‘who are you?’ and, ‘what do you really need?’
    I got lost along the way.
    Growing up, I learned to turn off my needs and wants, as I realized that my deep emotional needs were too much for my family. And my friends too, when I opened up, would reject me.
    I can’t, and don’t blame them. But at the same time, my needs went painfully unmet. I often cried out to God, asking him to fix me.
    That wound took on a new dimension when I realized I was gay. My emotional needs intensified, and I was filled with moral hated of myself, and I became desperately lonely. Again, I cried out to God, asking him to fix me.
    To survive, I learned to “turn off” my emotions. To stay on (what I thought was) God’s good side, I learned to reject my sexuality, and all of my needs. To be accepted, I learned to mirror those around me.
    This caused a split in me- the outside vs. the inside. I believed (still believe?) that I can not be myself and be accepted. But I know that is not the message of the gospel. And I know that God made me with these needs. And I know the one who can fill the needs.
    Now I’m at the point of trying to bring the parts together. To make the outside, like the inside. And to reawaken those parts that were lost.
    We are on this journey together. I will accept you, just as you are. Let’s find God together!

    • Josh, that all sounds so very familiar. The reawakening is altogether possible, just terribly difficult at times. I’m sure it is what God wants for all of us. His heart for us beats loudly with restoration and deliverance.

    • Hey Josh, welcome to YOB if you’re new. Then again, you might have founded it with the other guys and I just missed it.:) Belated or not, welcome brother!
      “To survive, I learned to “turn off” my emotions.” Man, sometimes I still want to do that. Trying to navigate emotions and friendship with straight guys is a black hole for me, it’s like I’m flying blind and just want to shut down. And it’s not just feelings, I want to figure things out and I’m realizing that the enemy always outflanks my soul and I need to learn to turn to Jesus sooner to figure things out better. There’s just this huge struggle with SSA to get things right. . . right with others, right with ourselves, right with God, whatever ‘right’ means.
      I know that shutting down emotions and never figuring things out isn’t the way forward or what God desires for us, but too often this struggle just seems to become self-focused and self-centered which too quickly becomes this quagmire. I’m wondering if all of it is just a distraction keeping us from going on with Jesus in the only way he’s allowed, which isn’t that we find ourselves but lose ourselves. Knowing how much SSA screws with us, I often wonder why I’m so slow to deny myself and instead want to get it right. You’d think Jesus’ words that whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life would resonate deeper and quicker for us with SSA. I find myself wondering if I’m fighting the wrong fight sometimes, or fighting the right fight in the wrong way. Finding myself always shortcircuits being all in with Christ.
      “We are on this journey together. I will accept you, just as you are. Let’s find God together!” I don’t know about you Josh, but I get tempted/driven to work out this SSA thing on my own, away from even brothers with SSA, and pretty much screw it up. All to say, I’m glad you’re here man. There’s so many good guys here who walk with Jesus who’ve helped me on this journey. I hope you too find fellowship here.

      • Thanks, Man. I’m pretty new to the site. But I’m finding lots of great guys here. It’s refreshing, and encouraging.

      • I tried to shut down emotions and not feel hurt for over 20 years, but I was largely unsuccessful. I’m a highly sensitive person so I realized I have to manage them rather than deny them because that made me feel worse. My self-loathing and fear of being judged for a number of reasons kept me isolated half or most of the time. The truth though was that a lot of people liked and cared for me but I just couldn’t receive it. I had attachment disorder and simply couldn’t maintain a caring attitude for others. It was a cat and mouse game, where I would pursue, but if they responded, I would back away out of fear. I relate a lot to the things you write Mistaken Identity and I’m glad you are on here and vocal about your own experience. Keep writing!

        • Hey Bryon, I’m not sure if you meant this for Mistaken Identity but I got one of those Disqus emails.
          “…I would pursue, but if they responded, I would back away” Sometimes I used to do the same thing where some guy responds to friendship but then I’d figure if they wanted to be friends, there must be something wrong with them. I know, really stupid huh? Getting better at this deal tho and learning not to be an idiot so quickly.
          Hey man, Mistaken Identity has all kinds of wise and is a good writer. If you meant to reply to him, just ignore this comment. I’m taking a hiatus from YOB for awhile to clear my head. I was figuring things out badly here, leaving comments more confused than encouraging. Keep well Bryon (does anyone else get dyslexic about your name? I keep wanting to type Byron.)

  • We have not heard from Brad about any of this. What’s up man? What are you thinking? I know that at 20 things look much different than they do now at 59. I may be the old man here, but I think most of us are older than you. Are you thinking we’re all old geezers or are you gleaning anything from our experience? Just wondering. Reality and being a grown up are just around the corner for you (and hopefully for me 🙂 ). My thought is that you avoid my mistakes, be who God made you to be, living within His will and not giving a flying leap what anyone else thinks. You will be a healthier man for it and much more relaxed as you slide into what God wants you to become. Dude…the world is your oyster as they say. Pry that sucker open and pull out the pearl.
    I have assaulted the deceased equine enough. Let Bradley’s adventure begin!

  • I’ve been walking through this question a lot lately. There are a lot of good thoughts here man! Thanks for writing!

  • Bradley, I resonate with what you wrote. The first time I was confronted with hiding who I was and trying to fit in and seem “normal” was in early adolescence when other boys bullied me and called me fag or fairy.
    I never fit into the athletic club, so I tried to avoid everything athletic, so no one would see how inadequate I was in this manly activity that “all” men did. Just made me feel more like I didn’t belong in the world of men…and made me hide my true self more!
    A big turning point for me was my early 20’s when I started to grow on my Christian Faith and understood that God the Father loved me unconditionally. It was the start of accepting myself just as I was, not as the culture norms dictated I should be. But that journey of self-acceptance and learning not to hide has been life-long and now, LOL, I am 60.
    It wasn’t until I was 58 that I realized for the first time in 50 years that I liked my male body and accepted it s good.
    It has only been in the past few years that I have been willing to tell my story–all of it with SSA to others with complete honesty and vulnerability. As Elliot and Tom talk about on one of their podcasts, I want to know and be known. I want others to see me with Jesus’s eyes. I’m a sinner saved by grace and on the road to holiness through the blood of my Savior and the power of the Holy Sprit renewing the man inside of me.
    So, I know who I am in Christ, and that is good enough for me. I am a grateful man in love with the one man whose love never disappoints–Christ my Lord and Savior!

  • I feel like this every morning, when I awake. Every afternoon, when I reflect on myself. Every night, when I go to sleep.
    And this struggle of not finding myself just keeps me in a loop of misery and fear.
    I think with myself: “What is going on? Why can’t I be just normal? What do I have to do to make this go away?”. The answer never appears.
    But I have to trust God’s plans. I’m too young yet to really know anything. It is not my time yet. The suffering doesn’t end, but I must be strong. I must be vulnerable, loving and patient.
    I fell down multiple times, and I keep falling, but I just have to learn to stand up again.
    Blessings be with you all.

  • I do indeed resonate with these feelings, Bradley. Not so much as my reality anymore, but certainly as a path once walked.
    You see, I am a chronic people-pleaser. It is just one of my predominant weaknesses. So God gave me a new name, literally, in order to remind me to purpose in my heart to be a God-Pleaser instead.
    Dane is your name,” I heard the Lord tell me during my prayer time one afternoon, about ten years ago. It means, “God is my righteous judge,” and it reminds me to please our Father God, and to stop trying to please men.
    I am also a recovering perfectionist, which also includes being my own worst critic. This can often manifest in my life as a very subtle form of pride and idolatry.
    It is the kind of pride that ultimately says, “What Jesus did on the cross was not sufficient enough for “me.” It says this in all the ways that I am refusing to forgive myself for failing to live up to some stereotypical standard that I have set for and imposed upon myself, rather than simply having daily relationship with our Lord.
    And when I set any standard that ignores the all-sufficient and finished work of the Cross, then it becomes a form of idolatry which also rejects the grace of God, which is always sufficient for us.
    As several of these other brothers have also expressed here, every day is a battle to remind myself of these things… to walk in faith, standing upon the redemption that Christ has already bought and paid the ultimate price for, rather than walking in the deep depression of inward “self” focus and tunnel vision. And every moment of every day presents me with an opportunity to keep my eyes on Jesus, or to focus upon the many intimidations of everything else.

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