The Real Problem With Being Fake by Christina Enevoldsen

overcoming sexual abuse
Christina Enevoldsen

It is my honor to have Christina Enevoldsen ~ Cofounder of the website Overcoming Sexual Abuse guest posting for Emerging from Broken today.

 The Problem with Being Fake by Christina Enevoldsen

Many years ago, I tried to cultivate a relationship with an acquaintance.  I listened attentively; I asked questions; I shared my thoughts and feelings. Nothing seemed to work.  I had the feeling I was spending time with a mannequin.  I tried for months to break through her plastic facade, but I never found anything vulnerable or real.  I knew facts about her—carefully constructed data—but I didn’t really know her.  One day, in exasperation, I told her to drop her phony act and be herself.  I assured her that I’d like the real her, but the fake stuff was driving me crazy.  Not surprisingly, my pep talk didn’t inspire intimacy.  She backed off in a big way and we rarely spoke after that. 

 I crave intimacy and deep connections, so masks have always turned me off.  I want to know what you’re really passionate about.  What are your deepest fears?  How are you really feeling?  I don’t care about the weather; I don’t want to know what you bought at the mall.  Tell me who you really are. 

 The funny this is, for most of my life, I’ve been covered by a facade.  My childhood abuse gave me a distorted image of myself and I was convinced people wouldn’t like the real me. I couldn’t articulate just what was so bad; I just knew that the real me was impossible to love.  I desperately wanted acceptance and thought that covering up was the only way to have that. 

 I’ve worn a variety of masks for different occasions and for different people.  I made it a habit to study others to figure out what they wanted so I could conform to their desires.  I’d gauge their reactions and adjust my performance accordingly.   

 I thought wearing masks would make me more likeable, but it was actually making me less likeable. I eliminated the possibility for deep relationships by constructing a barrier.  Looking back, I can see why I experienced so much rejection, even from nice people.  They couldn’t relate to my false front.  Even if someone connected with that false persona, it wasn’t the type of connection I longed for, since it was based on a lie.  I could never have real intimacy.

 I rejected my true self before I even gave people the chance to accept or reject me.  The rejection of my true self led to putting on a false self, which led to rejection by others, which led to more rejection from me.  What a very vicious cycle that was! 

 I discovered that before I could have a satisfying relationship with others, I had to have a satisfying relationship with myself.  I couldn’t have that as long as I was covered in shame and self-loathing.  I needed to see the real me instead of the lies my abuse taught me.  I needed to sort through those lies and accept the truth so I could see my value and love myself. 

 When I learned to accept myself, I let the real me shine through.  I can connect with others now since I’m connected to myself.  I have deeply fulfilling relationships based on truth—who I really am—a unique and lovable person.

Christina Enevoldsen

Christina Enevoldsen is cofounder of Overcoming Sexual Abuse, an online resource for male and female abuse survivors looking for practical answers and tools for healing. Christina’s passions are writing and speaking about her own journey of healing from abuse and inspiring people toward wholeness. She and her husband live in Los Angeles and share three children and three grandchildren.

Overcoming Sexual Abuse also has a very active facebook page.

36 response to "The Real Problem With Being Fake by Christina Enevoldsen"

  1. By: Taia Chalet Posted: 4th December

    I really love this post but it makes me sad. I feel so lost in this world right now. I have a very painful anniversary in like 3 days so maybe that’s why I am so disconnected lately. I don’t know who I am from one minute to the next sometimes and I truthfully don’t want to deal with anything but I no longer have the courage to just stop. I’ve been surviving off of internet relationships and they are fading. Most times I just want someone to see my pain and understand yet I have the thought that nobody in my world could ever grasp the despair I feel. I’m not a fake person but I do try to please everyone. Nobody truly bothers to please me. In this very moment I want to just cry and have someone hold me in the next I’m sure I will be angry and pretend I’m just fine.
    I can’t believe when I went back to see my therapist this week because I truly feel like i’m falling apart she took pride in the fact I can’t hide my memories anymore. She was happy I was finally facing the truth of my life but I’m in pure agony over it now. How can this be a good thing? Part of me wants to talk but there is still this deep fear flowing through me.
    I just want someone here with me to tell me I can do this. To tell me I’ve made it this far and to keep going. Tell me the pain will end eventually. I didn’t die then and I can’t die now. I don’t know if I am ever going to be free.
    I’m ranting. I just want to be me. Not feel pressure. I want to know who I am. I want to feel love again. I want a mom. I want a family. I want friends. I want a life again. I keep giving it away. Maybe this is the end for me. IDK I’m in such a dark place right now it doesn’t even matter.
    A so called friend came to visit me yesterday and instead of listening to me just let me chemically numb away my pain. I didn’t even desire that. People never listen to me they just want me to shut up and quit whining. 31 years old but today I’m just a kid. I think I’m already dead.. my body just hasn’t realized it yet. invisible most of the time. Ugh who cares… I do. Where do I go from here? I need help to find myself.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 4th December

      Hi Taia,
      It was at the point that you are describing right now, when I realized that it was up to me. It is dark and painful and it can also be a new beginning. (as it was for me) No one can validate you the way that you need to be validated, except you. Our friends don’t know what to do to help. Few people do and most of them have their own pain that they don’t know how to deal with either.
      I wanted to be me, and I started digging to where I was lost. I went back to the beginning and took a look at what happened, the damage it caused me, the beliefs that I adopted about myself, and I began the process of really understanding that I believed a huge pack of lies about me, about my value and about what I deserve. I had to sort it out in order to be free. I spent years trying to avoid the hard work and just do some light stuff and jump straight to freedom… but the time came when I knew that wasn’t going to cut it anymore…
      Today I am free. I have found myself, righted the lies and owned my own value. And no one has to do that for me anymore. Freedom is sweet and well worth the effort and I know that you can have it too. Please hang in there.
      Hugs and love, Darlene

  2. By: Christina Enevoldsen Posted: 17th November

    There are so many things that that persuade us to put on masks, including the shame and fear that you mentioned (not being wanted & the threats). I’m sorry for how painful that’s been for you. It’s been multi-layered for me too and takes time to find the real self under there. I’m glad that you’ve decided to make that effort. Hugs, Christina

  3. By: Emily Posted: 16th November

    I was so dissociated I couldn’t be real. You but it well, I also tried to feel what other people wanted from me and tried to give them that. I have been a major people pleaser and ended up being lonely and isolated. My mother was abused and I think had totally run out of gas when I came along. I can understand and forgive that. What does one do with being slapped across the face and being told you were never wanted, then being told (promised) you would be killed if you talked about the reality of the sex abuse in your life? Between not understanding that other people might want my company, and hiding behind a shroud of shame and silence and death threats- yes, wearing a mask was a way of life. Forced into it from a very young age. I see other people in that same type of place at work. Many people have yet to make the progress to be real. I value those people who are real and my friends, keep the others at bay. Hope to be open in way that is helpful to those that I come in contact with who haven’t figured realness out yet.

  4. By: Christina Enevoldsen Posted: 15th November

    I could relate to what you said, “I don’t know who the real me IS. But another is that I’m exhausted. I’m just plum worn out. And putting in a load of effort to “find myself” just seems like too much.”

    I felt so frustrated that I didn’t have a blueprint for the real me. But I discovered the real me as I chipped away at the lies that I believed about myself. The real me was under there the entire time and I found myself as a result of the healing process.

    Keep going and you’ll find the real you, too. Hugs, Christina

  5. By: Lisa Posted: 14th November

    This post was incredibly resonant for me. Also, Shanyn’s comments above. I think I’ve become aware of the fact that I wear masks and I “insulate” (read isolate) myself to avoid getting in anyone else’s way, or irritating anyone else, or taking up space that someone else might want or need. However, I have not moved out of that place. I have not moved to a place where I can really BE me and not worry about what anyone else thinks. One reason is that I have been a chameleon for so long, I don’t know who the real me IS. But another is that I’m exhausted. I’m just plum worn out. And putting in a load of effort to “find myself” just seems like too much.

    Thanks for your post.

  6. By: Christina Enevoldsen Posted: 14th November

    Hi Natalie,
    Yes, keeping up those masks is exhausting. I didn’t even realize how exhausting it was until I stopped using them. In this healing process, I’ve noticed my body in a new way and I see how much my emotional issues are tied to my physical issues. The dividing line that I imagined doesn’t exist. I’m one whole person and what affects one area affects the rest. I’m so happy for you that you’re doing well now. Thanks for bringing that up.

    It’s funny that in one way I can relate to you thinking that the masks were the real you and that in another way, I felt like a complete fraud all the time. I was just waiting for someone to call me out on that, yet I had no idea why I felt that way since, as you said, I thought it was the real me. I really didn’t know who I was either and the process of finding out has been exciting. Yay for us!
    Hugs, Christina

  7. By: Susan Posted: 14th November

    Great post Christina! I can completely relate! I was a chameleon. I could even consider myself to be a shape-shifter of sorts I suppose. I could adapt and change to an environment or others in a heartbeat. The thing is that I thought this WAS the “real me”. I had been so conditioned and my spirit completely broken by my parental and sibling abuse that I did not know how to be “me”. Even in reading this post I would have wondered what it was I was supposed to be to get a favorable response to my comment. The walls a facade that I lived became my prison. My attempts to be myself or to exist outside of how others had defined me had always been met with some sort of criticism, judgement or abuse that had the effect of leaving me wondering what I’d done wrong. I would become more determined to try harder to be what I was supposed to be. In the end…I had to first find “me” and like you said…accept “me” in order to begin to let down my guard and let others in.

  8. By: natalie Posted: 13th November

    Do you think when people maintain a false facade it becomes emotionally exhausting and can lead to chronic exhaustion or fatigue? ….. I could relate to your false facade structure…I had never believed I could just be myself and over the years this facde keeping in order to at least manipulate others not to reject me caused me to become ill with chronic fatigue…since i hav ebeen in counselling for sexual abuse the faced has slowly started to come off…and not surprisingly the fatigue is lifting…

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 13th November

      Hi Natalie,
      personally believe that all of the survival issues that I learned that originally I needed to cope and to keep me safe, all became exhausting in the end. I had many more physical illnesses before I became healthy. I have long suspected a connection between physical illness and personal struggle and have met others who have experienced physical recovery along with mental health recovery. So as you say… not surprising that the fatigue is lifting. I had some serious problems with my periods for about 7 or 8 years before therapy and on and off my whole life. Suddenly these problems all cleared up. Even the pms was 75% better. This has continued for over 5 years straight now. Amazing really!
      Thanks for being here and welcome to Emerging from Broken
      hugs, Darlene

  9. By: Christina Enevoldsen Posted: 13th November

    I love the way you described your own journey of extracting the masks. My path has been similar—little by little. Conquering the shame isn’t a one-time event. We didn’t acquire the shame all at once and we don’t discard it all at once either. But every layer is like air and sun. Thank you so much for sharing that!
    Hugs to you! Christina

    I strongly identify with your comment, “I realized that I was so good at figuring out what the other person needed from me.” For me, this applied to the masks, but also to the tasks. I was so good at studying others and staying one step ahead of their wants or needs. I knew what they needed before they asked. It was survival then, but it developed my intuition, which serves me well today in a more healthy way. Thanks for sharing! Hugs to you, my friend! Christina

  10. By: Patty Hite Posted: 13th November


    This got me thinking about the masks I wore and why I wore them. I realized that I was so good at figuring out what the other person needed from me. People would tell me who I needed to be and that is who I became.

    It wore me out. It was like running to a closet and changing my clothes many times thru out the day and trying to figure out which outfit to wear for what person. Whew. It’s so much easier since finding myself and declaring that this is me, take me as I am or move on. lol.

    Thank you dear friend for a wonderful blog. As usual, you hit the nail on the head and remind me of places I’ve been and help me see places I need to re-visit.


  11. By: Christina Enevoldsen Posted: 12th November

    I can identify with the frustration of not knowing yourself well enough to recognize how to find yourself. I wrote about that issue in “How Can I Be Myself If I Don’t Know Who That Is?”
    This is an excerpt from that blog:
    “I thought I needed to perceive who I was supposed to be before I could make myself into that image. The truth is that I don’t need to see or ‘make’ myself into anything. I am who I am. I was so used to contorting myself into certain roles that I thought I would ‘achieve’ the real me the same way. All I’ve really needed to do is remove the lies. Then the truth is revealed.
    “The real me is emerging. I’m learning more about myself every day and the sense of wonder and excitement and expectation fill me. The real me is coming out without even really thinking about it. It’s natural and unrehearsed. It’s effortless. As I heal and the masks fall off, the genuine Christina is revealed. She’s been there all along.”
    I’m glad you’re so determined to cut through those lies. I’m excited to see the discoveries you make! Hugs to you, Christina

    Yay, Carol and Cyndi! I can really relate to the masks being too demanding and tiring and it becoming too much. When I started to get my abuse memories back, it was exhausting and I didn’t have the energy for anything else, including holding up the masks. I just hung out all over and couldn’t worry about how I looked or what people thought. I saw how liberating that was. That wasn’t the last time I used those masks but it was a chance to see that I could do without them. The process of letting them go permanently has taken much longer, but I’m loving the freedom I have now.
    Hugs, Christina

  12. By: Samantha Posted: 12th November

    A pivotal point for me began within the past year or two (and still continues…it was more like the beginning of awakening to this aspect) when I began to consciously practice extending compassion and mercy to all of those false selves and masks I needed to create just to survive the abuses and the environment I was raised in.

    So much shame surrounds various aspects of our abuse. We learned to carry the shame of those hurting us, we get shamed by others who may not understand us and what we went through, and we learn to shame those very same parts of ourselves.

    For me, tapping into and summoning up this compassion and mercy for the parts of my persona I had to create to please those around me has certainly not been a one time event. It is one that continues each time I find there is a need for it.

    I can and am learning to be compassionate and merciful towards that little girl inside that cried out in pain so long ago, but was ignored, silenced, rejected, and told that if I didn’t shut up, I would get something more to cry about. I can be merciful to the little one inside who reached out for affection but may have instead been met with disdain, scorn, a violent word, a slap, and a dismissal. I can extend compassion to the curious and adventurous little girl who tried to share her discoveries and learning to those that were not interested in hearing it.

    How can I shame and blame myself anymore for attempting to show myself to a world that would not receive it, rejected it, and only seemed to want to squash the life out of the REAL me that I presented?

    When I began looking at things this way, I could finally start to FEEL that compassion and mercy and extend it to myself. Not easy at first. And sometimes I couldn’t do it for very long as my inner critic would compete within. (and still does here and there)

    Now I have a new awareness and understanding of the masks and the hard protective shell that naturally was created to not only protect me but also hid the true essence of who I am. The unveiling of our true selves is now a process of discovery. An exciting journey. Little by little, the real me will dare to peak her head out to show herself. Sometimes I can stand proudly and at other times, quite timidly. Sometimes, depending on where I’m at or who I’m around, the real parts of me that I reveal is still met with the same discounting and rejections that I faced as a child. In those cases, there’s no point in expending the energy to show MORE of the real me if what little I showed was not accepted. So learning to understand my own comfort level, boundaries, paying attention to internal feelings, is all part of that process of discovery.

    Thanks for sharing your post Christina and thank you for allowing each one of us to share where we are at on the journey and celebrating both large and small victories along the way. 🙂

  13. By: Cyndi Posted: 12th November

    What a great post! I too tried to be whomever I thought others wanted me to be in various situations. I was one person at work, another at home, etc. It all became too much when circumstances beyond my control forced me to stop. I came face to face with the truth that I didn’t know who I was and that playing all those roles was exhausting. Since then there have been many people to whom I’ve wanted to say exactly what you said! And if someone said it to me today, I would be honored that they truly wanted to know me.

  14. By: Carole Street Posted: 12th November

    This is great. Christina, thanks for sharing.
    I once wore masks all the time. I, too, didn’t think the real me was likable, so I hid and pretended to be anyone/everyone else. In the end, it was just too demanding and too tiring.
    So I’ve ditched the masks, people see me for who I am…scars and all. I am human, I sometimes make mistakes, just like everyone else…and people appreciate a true person, a real person over fakes.
    I get better relationships now, it’s great.

  15. By: Paulette Posted: 12th November

    Oh, Christina … I could so relate to what you said, “I needed to see the real me instead of the lies my abuse taught me. I needed to sort through those lies and accept the truth so I could see my value and love myself.”

    This is where I’m at and where I feel desperately stuck and I don’t know how to sort through the lies. Today was helpful though – long road trip with my husband, business related. We had several hours of driving and thus lots of talking. For the first 3+ hours I cried almost non-stop. On the way home, I was more ‘together’ and could talk more without getting emotional. It was a God-send for me. The pain of family rejection really hit me … and as I talked to my husband, I knew that ‘it is what it is’ and I can’t make them believe me.

    He was trying so hard to understand why I needed a therapist and after much thought, I told him its because I feel fragmented and I can’t put my finger on why. If I knew this truth then I’d know where to go from here – but I don’t know what it is. All I know is that something needs to be confronted and dealt with, with truth before I can move on. Feeling fragmented and broken is not a good place to be. I told him that its not perfection I’m after (as he was thinking maybe I was going for perfection), I’m after wholeness. I need truth, I need to know I’m valued and loved … just as I am – imperfections and all.

  16. By: Christina Enevoldsen Posted: 12th November

    That’s funny that you said you could have written that yourself. So much of what you write I could have written word for word. It’s amazing how alone I’ve felt in the past thinking I was the only one who felt the way I did. Yay for us for being transparent so others know they’re not alone!
    Hugs, Christina

  17. By: Christina Enevoldsen Posted: 12th November

    Something about how you wrote that made me connect with just how vital masks were to survival in childhood. I know when you spoke of retreating into a more insulated world, you were speaking about when you were an adult, but that describes what I did in the midst of my abusive family system, too. It takes effort and courage to risk giving that up. I think the way we unmask to test the waters and then run back to remasking for a time of evaluation is a good way to give up the false fronts. It takes time to build trust. I’m glad you’re coming out from behind there. You’re a beautiful person and it would be a shame to hide that.
    Hugs, Christina

  18. By: Shanyn Posted: 12th November

    Christina, your words not only resonated but it felt like you were writing not only to me but about me! I always felt on the outside, the freak, the ‘not normal’ person. Could have a lot to do with childhood control and abuse, some to do with my desire to really understand people and connect in a genuine way (which is almost universally rejected when it comes from children – how sad!). I learned to wear masks, that public faces were better than private faces. I learned that to act and look normal was more important than what was inside.

    It wasn’t until I realized that I was irredeemably freakish that I stopped trying to connect and moved into a more insulated world. Not a healthier world, but one that seemed to require less effort to make connections and find my own self reflected in others. What I saw reflected there wasn’t that great, so why keep looking? 🙂

    Now I know better, and I really don’t feel the need fit in so badly, after all it seemed like the more I tried the less of me anyone wanted. Cookie cutters in the shape of ‘normal’ cutting bits of me off and squeezing others in. Sadly, for them, I’m now more a ‘free form’ drop cookie 😀 and it’s hard for some people to adjust. They like masks, they don’t want genuine connections.

    It’s not a perfect system and lots of times the ache of trying to manage being unmasked makes me want to dash away to the quiet of my sanctuary.

    Great post Christina, thanks so much for the open heart that you share with!

  19. By: Christina Enevoldsen Posted: 12th November

    That’s the way I felt about fascades after all the lies from my childhood. No tolerance at all! I was shocked to discover I was just as fake as those people I was so intolerant of. It gave me a new compassion for them when I understood the pain that was underneath it.

    I’m glad you’ve found the real you and can share that with us. I truly appreciate the sincerity and transparency of your process. The real you is terrific!
    Hugs, Christina

  20. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 12th November

    You might laugh to read this, but I just got that insight when I read your post over today, just before I published it. I had not had that inight prior to today! Your post inspired it ~ there was something you said that made me realize it.
    So glad that you wrote this post!
    Hugs, Darlene

  21. By: Fi MacLeod exNicholson Posted: 12th November

    My childhood was so filled with lies, pretending, falseness and fakeness that I hate all that stuff with a passion.

    I only know one way to live life and that is honestly. But all my life I’ve been wearing a mask – a beaming smile that hid my hurt, hid the truth and hid the real me.

    Eventually I got totally worn out with all that and knew the truth had to begin to come out. I can only deal with people who will deal honestly with me. I can’t cope with people who lie to me or talk to me in ways that do not allow me to talk honestly or be who I really am. Otherwise I cannot connect with them because I need to connect meaningfully and truthfully. I too go very deep, sometimes too deep for my own good (I think)!

    In uncovering the real me I’ve had to receive from trusted others in my life what they see in me – allowing that to help me realise my value and establish an identity totally different to that given to me by my abusers. I’ve also had to accept my brokenness.

    I try not to wear any masks now, but I know I still do to an extent, but at least not to everyone involved in my life now, which is progress!!

  22. By: Christina Enevoldsen Posted: 12th November

    As I read through this again, I don’t think I truly communicated how much of an outsider and a freak I was convinced I was or the desperation I felt in connecting with others. I think you have a great insight about that– that in searching out the identity in others, I was looking for the same for myself.

    Thanks for inviting me to write for EFB!
    Love and hugs, Christina

  23. By: Bethany Ruck Posted: 12th November

    Great post! And yes, it rung so true for me as well.


  24. By: Jennifer Stuck Posted: 12th November

    I love this. I wasn’t planning on doing any reading today, but when I saw the title I had to stop and look. Then of course I couldn’t stop reading it once I started, lol. I can really relate to this. Normally, I can relate to bits and pieces of what people write, but I connect to every word in this blog. Trying to be what we thought other people wanted us to be, and never being able to emotionally connect to them because of it. Craving that connection with people. It’s all so me that I could have written this myself.

  25. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 12th November

    Christina, I love this post.

    I was always really “deep” and I knew from a young age that I loved to “relate” to others. Like you I wanted to know who they were on the inside. I think I was searching for myself by digging into them. I was so sure that the real me was not good enough, that I was trying to find pieces of others to integrate into me… never realizing that I would still not be the real me.
    I was so lost and just like you spinning in that vicious cycle. I had to dig pretty deep to find the jewel that was me, but when I did my whole life changed. And just like you say in your post, all my relationships changed for the better too.
    I am still really deep. I still want to know others for who they really are, but my motive is healthier now. =)

    Thank you so much for guest posting on Emerging from Broken today!!
    Hugs and love, Darlene

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