I think we're all told what we are most of the time, and eventually, that's who we think we are.
I was on a reality TV talent competition. At the moment, that's what I wanted. I was young--14--and I think I just wanted everything to happen quickly, so I auditioned. I made it somewhat far on the show, and life was moving rapidly. After I was on the show, I was in a very weird place, because in my heart I felt something wasn't right, but on the outside, everyone was telling me how much of a good experience it must have been, and how great it would be for me and my career.
Suddenly I wanted to change everything about me. I wanted to change my name, change my hair, my look. Everything. I didn't want to be me--Now I know what was in my heart was shame.
No one is stronger than shame. Shame makes us do things to ourselves we would never think of doing to others.
But why was I ashamed? I think I was ashamed that I auditioned for a stupid reality tv show. I was ashamed that I didn't make it.. But I think I would have also been ashamed if I made it too. Sometimes shame doesn’t make sense. But it is just is.
The shame went on for years. And I didn't even realize it. I hid it in little things like not wearing glasses anymore or changing my hair constantly. I also hid it by not going by my name anymore and starting a band with new names. In those three years, I completely lost who I was, inside and out. I became what people told me I was.
People do that so often, whether it's good things or bad. I also think we spend a lot of time pretending we know who we really are. When the truth is.. Most of what we know about ourselves is from what other people tell us.
"You're so kind" "You're SO funny".
Or even the negatives.
"You're not good enough."
"You are not valid"
I've always been generally happy, but there's only been a few times where I've been genuinely content. And I think contentedness comes within. Not anything else. It's the feeling where you're at peace with yourself first, then the world around us.
I see a lot of people try to find their happiness in a new city. Or a person. Yes, those things make you happy. But once you're settled.. The new is gone. All there is is what's inside. Identity. And I lost my identity. Because I relied on what the world made of me, not what I made myself to be in the world. I was put in a spotlight, and after that light went out, there was darkness.
So then I had an epiphany earlier this year. And I looked at myself from the outside in, and asked myself, "who am I?" And when I did that.. Every single thing changed.
It was like taking my first breathe. Except not the refreshing kind of breath.. The kind that hurts your lungs and makes you cough. I coughed a lot. I accepted my past, my mistakes. I also accepted how poorly I had been treating myself. And slowly, I became myself again.
It's easy to live a life holding your breath. But as soon as you start breathing, when you face the world that's around you and the soul that's inside you, you will live. You will be content within.
At least I have.
JAKE'S STORY " ONE YEAR LATER"
As my life continues, I’m happy to say I’ve experienced many more highs, lows, and all that lives in between. Shortly after writing my story, I moved to Nashville to pursue my dream as a songwriter and attend college. Six months after my move, I was fortunate enough to start writing as a signed songwriter at Sony/ATV Music Publishing. So there is was--a huge of mine came true. But now more than ever I have to remind myself that my personal successes should never be the “mountaintop” but rather just another step down the path.
Now more than ever I have to ask myself “Who am I?” and really struggle with the answer I find. It’s never easy for me to look within myself and find that I’m not actually who I think I am--but that’s when I grow the most. I’ve learned so much in the past two years but it never came without growing pains. I love where I am now and I am hopeful for what tomorrow might bring. Not every day is easy, but being aware of who I am supposed to be makes every day worth it.