When I was a preteen, I was a member of the youth choir for the church my family went to. I always tried to blend in the background, keeping my voice quiet, because quite honestly, I did not want that kind of attention at the time. I had major anxiety about singing in front of people in general, and I had panic attacks before every rehearsal and performance.
After one particular Christmas pageant performance (for which I wore a fluffy white onesie and was a super-tall lamb who stood taller than even the star of Christmas), our choir director cornered me in the reception hall.
Apparently, he heard me singing while walking by him in the procession and thought I was AMAZING and wanted to recruit me to sing for the diocese’s Chrism Mass.
At the cathedral… in front of lots and lots of people… BY MYSELF.
Instead of being honest and saying I just wasn’t interested in squeaking my tiny voice into a microphone in front of the entire diocese, however, I pretended to be excited and happy to do it.
Suddenly, the demon child who had said I looked like a man in my sheep costume was the least of my problems. (Although I started wearing makeup shortly after that. Unfortunately, I didn’t grow boobs until like 10 years later.)
I had a panic attack every single day between that moment and when I actually sang for the mass. And yet I still acted like I enjoyed it; like singing was something I wanted to do. I pretended to be poised, confident, and happy. But really, I was counting the number of days I had left before the nightmares of losing my voice at the mic would finally end.
When it was finally over (and it was bad… the other girl who sang a psalm at the same mass was a natural frickin’ Susan Boyle), they asked me to sing at the upcoming confirmation mass as well.
My inner voice:
Fake, people-pleasing me:
I felt guilty that I wasn’t in love with the idea of singing at church. Everyone I knew acted like it was something that was ME. So I didn’t want to let them down.
I was trying to fit into bacon that wasn’t my own.
This has been a nasty habit of mine throughout my life. It made me lose touch with my real, crispy bacon (i.e. unadulterated, truest self) because I was trying so desperately to fulfill all the versions of my bacon that everyone else thought I should be. And for every little thing they wanted me to be, I felt like I had to do it perfectly. Not because of some ego trip, but because I truly thought I had no worth otherwise.
I would wear fake bacon for some of the silliest things, too. If I thought a question was dumb to ask in class, I wouldn’t ask it. If someone asked me whether I knew who Amy Winehouse was, I would lie and say yes. Hell, I once tried to hide a small lunch box under my jersey during the National Anthem before a soccer game because I was embarrassed to hold it or even put it on the ground next to me. (There’s a home video somewhere, and it looks like I have a mini TV protruding from my abdomen.)
My brain was constantly working out ways to not embarrass myself or do anything that contradicted the fake bacon I was trying to keep up with. The result: I had absolutely no clue what my ACTUAL bacon tasted like.
What Happens When You Keep Feeding Fake Bacon
There are a number of things that happen when you neglect your real bacon and feed that fake shit.
1. You Feel Guilty When You Are Unable to Deliver
When you fall short of your fake bacon, you beat yourself up for it. But not being perfect at something that is not in line with your actual bacon just means it’s not who you are. That’s not your fault. Your greatness is simply needed elsewhere, with a purpose that feels more natural to you. You can’t fit a size 13 foot inside a size 6 shoe, no matter how hard you try.
2. Your Self-Esteem Plummets
If you’ve been playing the fake bacon game for a long time, you may not even notice it happening. But the more you neglect your real bacon, the worse you will feel about yourself. Why? Because you’re being someone you’re not, and no matter how “good” you’ve gotten at being fake bacon, you will always feel like you’re falling short.
3. You Constantly Seek Validation
Since your self-esteem is low and you’re in a constant state of guilt, you will yearn for validation from others all the time. You haven’t spent a lot of time with your real bacon to know that you are enough and only need your own approval. As a result, when you receive in the slightest criticism or negative reaction from someone, it propels you further into a state of desperation, self-loathing, and guilt.
4. It’s Challenging to Make Friends
Solid friendships are built on authenticity. If you’re always fake bacon, people miss out on getting to know the real you. And people can always pick up on fakeness. It’s very difficult to become friends with someone who is trying to be someone they’re not. As a result, all of your interpersonal relationships remain surface-level, which will also take a toll on your self-esteem.
5. You Can’t Tell the Difference Between Kindness and People-Pleasing
Remaining in a state of fake bacon makes your “need” to please everyone almost involuntary. When someone needs help, you may find that you help them not out of kindness, but because you want them to like you. It becomes harder to tell the difference between genuine kindness and the impulse to please.
6. You Make Things a Lot Harder Than They Need to Be
With fake bacon always at the wheel, you spend a lot of time in your head trying to navigate every situation to make sure you don’t contradict the person you’ve convinced everyone that you are. As a result, you tend to make things a lot harder than they need to be. Suddenly, the issue of where to put your lunch box during the National Anthem becomes an astronomical physics equation involving ninja-like skills to solve when really all you had to do was put the damn thing on the ground.
7. You’re Always Exhausted
Trying to be someone you’re not takes up a lot of mental energy. You find that you’re exhausted probably most of the time. You start avoiding situations where you have to interact with other people because you just don’t have the energy to keep up the act. And since your self-esteem is very low at this point, you’re alone with your self-hating thoughts, which drown out your real bacon even more to the point where it’s just a flacid flap of phlegm.
8. You Start Envying Other People’s Bacon
Other people who are living their true bacon stand out to you because you’re envious of their confidence and self-love. You wish you could be as comfortable with yourself as they are. You may even try adopting some of their bacon’s traits, but you only end up even more unsatisfied because you’re simply adding on another layer of fake bacon.
Trust me: fake bacon is never worth it. Don’t let other people’s definitions or expectations of you keep you from allowing yourself to be your glorious self, just as you are. If you want to do something, make sure you aren’t only doing it for someone else. Kindness is one thing; it comes from a place of authenticity. People-pleasing, however, comes from a place of insecurity and feeds the fake beast.
Your bacon is YOU. It’s unique, it’s talented, it’s destined for great things. Let it happen. Flaws and all, your bacon is delicious. Don’t be ashamed of it.
And if you don’t want to wheeze into a mic in front of a church full of people, for Pete’s sake, don’t pretend to be thrilled about it.