My name is Catherine. I got to pick that name myself, five years ago. I think I’ve only ever been able to tell three people in person that it’s my name, two of which were on accident. I’ve never felt truly comfortable telling people the truth about who I am – whether it be due to my anxieties or just being unsure if someone would take it well or not. This fear caused me to start to only show certain pieces of myself to others, where rather than feeling like I could show my true feelings to anyone if I wanted to, it became more of a risk – “If I started talking about how I felt about myself, would people be able to figure out who I really am?” While everyone has, or at least should, have some sort of filter on what they say, I felt like I needed to be extra cautious since I didn’t want to accidentally out myself in public, especially not in front of people I thought might even hate me for it.
Since I couldn’t be myself in person, I tried to become the person I wanted to be through the internet. While social media is known for ruining people’s images of themselves, for me it was surprisingly quite helpful. Sites like Twitter and Discord don’t ask to see your real face, instead letting you make your own. You don’t need to prove yourself to others, there is just the freedom to be yourself without worrying about how others perceive you since you get to have nearly total control of your image rather than being at the mercy of how others perceive you in person. I got to be myself for one of the first times in my life, but I still wanted more. Much to my parent’s chagrin, I started to make friends with people I just met off Twitter. So many of the people I met shared the struggle I had, which made me realize I wasn’t the only person struggling on the path to becoming the person I wanted to be. This led me to start separating myself from others in the real world and instead focus on the people I knew online.
When I wasn’t at school, I spent a lot of time on my computer, whether it be scrolling through social media, talking to my friends, or playing games by myself. I would only be around my parents when I had to eat, and around my friends in school only when I couldn’t be on my phone. For me, this was perfectly fine for a while. I didn’t even realize the pain I was causing myself until I was in college, when I suddenly didn’t have my parents around, or the friends I had in high school. I felt like I was entirely alone, and the years of separating myself from the people I was close to finally sunk in. When I was finally able to go back home on break, I tried to open myself up to them more – not enough that I told them my real name, but to where I enjoyed spending more and more time with them. I know I won’t ever be able to show all of my true self to my mom and dad, but getting to show them a little more of who I am gives me confidence that I can finally show them the person I want to be