I Didn’t Feel Good About Embracing My Identity Until I Got Therapy

Anyone who was not living under the rock for the last few years would know that one of the most significant issues up to this day was racial discrimination. I had no idea how it started, but minority groups practically got tired of being bullied by others one day and decided to rally for their rights. That was especially true for African-American people, who had dealt with slavery for centuries.

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The thing was, when I was growing up; I did not feel discriminated against at all. It must have something to do with my growing up in a primarily black community in Alabama. A lot of kids – including myself – happened to be a product of biracial marriages. There were also a handful of white people in the area, but they were married to African Americans, so there was never any tension whenever they were around.

However, when I was 13 years old, my father accepted a job in New York as a theater director. He was required to be in the city for 360 days a year, so my parents decided to move as a family and leave our little pocket of heaven in Alabama.

Seeing Racial Discrimination First-Hand

During my family’s relocation, I was still naive about racial discrimination. Everyone in the new apartment complex that we moved into was nothing but sweet and pleasant. Some even helped us carry our stuff into the building and told us to knock on their doors whenever we needed anything.

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When I attended the local middle school, though, the first thing I saw was a bunch of teenagers ganging up on a small black kid. They were calling him “Inky” and other derogatory names that I had never heard of in my life. That made me stop in my tracks and worry that I might get the same treatment. To my surprise, no one bothered me at all.

I told my mother about what I saw, and she could not answer me for a few minutes. When she did, Mom told me carefully that it might be because I did not look like a typical African American since I was biracial. I had curly hair, but it was not coarse or thick. I did not have creamy white skin, but it was not darker than honey. In those bullies’ eyes, I might look like I just got a tan.

How It Affected My Mindset

In fear of getting bullied, I hid it from many people at school because I identified as black. It was pretty easy because my father’s job kept him from sending me or picking me up from school. Everyone only saw my mother, and she was white, so no one suspected that I was part of a minority group on that side of New York.

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This little white lie of mine – ironically and literally speaking – came to an end when dad surprised me one afternoon. I had no idea that he would pick me up that day. If I did, I would have faked an illness so that no one would see him. So, when I stepped out of the gate and saw my father waving at me, I pretended not to see him and walked away with my friends.

You could imagine my friends’ shock when dad jumped in front of me and hugged me. I saw one of them was about to scream, probably thinking that there was a pedophile on the loose, but I was quick to tell them to relax since it was my father. Once they calmed down, someone half-whispered, “Did you know Sam’s dad was black? I thought she was Latina all the way.”

My father obviously heard that comment because I saw his nose scrunch up a little, but he feigned like he didn’t. When we got home, he went straight to my mother, and they talked for an hour or so. I held my breath the entire time, unsure of what punishment I would get since I realized in that instant that it was the biggest mistake I could ever make.

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Getting Therapy

When my parents came into view, I saw the disappointment in their eyes. Mom and dad made me explain why I lied about being African American. I felt sorrier than ever for what I did, but the harm had been done.

Still, instead of punishing me, my parents asked me to go to therapy since it was not okay for me to denounce my culture like that. I did it, and the therapist taught me that living a double life could get me in bigger trouble in the future if I kept it up. Not to mention, doing so would make my loved ones extremely sad because it would seem like I was ashamed of who I was.

That last bit did it for me. I stopped pretending to be someone that I was not. I also told my friends the truth, and to my astonishment, they did not care about that at all. It proved that there were still genuine people in the world despite all the harshness we tend to see daily.

Who knew that embracing my identity would feel so good?

I Hid My Identity In College And Required Therapy

I grew up in a little town called Quail in Texas. You might not have heard of the place, and I could not blame you. You could put the entire town in several blocks in the city, but we felt like it was too big for us because it only had a population of more or less 30 people by the time I was born.

Although there were several kids in town, there was no school that you could find. My parents had to apply to get me homeschooled, not to travel every day to another town to get a proper education. They also had to take turns as my teacher, which was not easy because they were busy.

Why did we not move to a town with a school, you might ask? The reason was that Quail had a lot of open lands. My parents always wanted to own a farm, and it was cheaper to do that there than anywhere else. So, even if it was challenging for them to raise a child in a secluded location, they pushed through it.

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Our family would still get some breaks from the quiet life in Quail. That typically happened during the yuletide season when we would visit my grandparents in California. We would go to Disneyland, get In-and-Out burgers every day, and do every single thing that we could not do in our little town.

When My Insecurities Began To Creep Up

I had not always been bothered by the fact that I lived in a place many people might not know of. We had a car, electricity, satellite internet, and everything else we could have asked for, so I thought that was not a big deal. However, I began to feel insecure about people knowing where I came from when I was on holiday at 15 years old.

I could still remember when my grandparents took me to a trampoline park near their home. Since I was a very active kid, they thought that I would enjoy the place. I genuinely did until I thought of talking to a group of teenage girls around my age.

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In the middle of my introduction to those girls, one of them lifted a hand to stop me. In a very snobbish way, she asked, “What kind of accent is that? Did you live in the mountains?” The girls left while laughing, and I was bolted to the ground, unsure of what to do.

Well, I had always known that I had a thick Texan accent. Everyone in my family found it endearing and said that it gave me character. But hearing others laugh because of it made me want to get rid of my accent.

Preparations For Reinventing Myself

When I got my high school diploma, I decided to go to a university in California. It was not easy for my parents to let go of me, but they knew that my life was out there. My mother even offered to help me pack my stuff, but I told her that I still wanted my room to feel the same way whenever I came back for semestral breaks.

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I did not tell my mother that I did not want to bring my things because I wanted to reinvent myself. Since I had a lot of free time as a homeschooled kid, I spent most of that watching TV shows and practically imitating how the actors talked. I sometimes surprised myself because it sounded like another person was talking instead of me.

Before the semester started, I had already decided how to introduce myself to people. I would go along the lines of, “Hey, I’m Anna! I live here in Los Angeles, but I have always been homeschooled.” I also changed the way I dressed subtly to keep my family from noticing it. For instance, I began to wear more colorful clothes and got rid of my plaid shirts.

Facing Reality

I genuinely believed that hiding my identity would be THAT easy. I had three years to prepare for it; I was more than willing to lie to people about my hometown. Then, I went to college and did that, and my efforts paid off for quite some time since I managed to mingle with the “it” people.

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But I made a fatal mistake: I invited my new friends to my grandparents’ home. We did not do anything wild, but they found out that I hid my original accent when my friends were around. That caused them to tell my parents about it, and they staged an intervention for me – with a therapist in tow.

In reality, I had no idea that my mindset was not usual. I thought everyone did everything to feel a sense of belonging somewhere. However, the therapist clarified that I shouldn’t have had to change to be likable for others. “That’s how life goes. Not everyone may not like who you are, but it does not mean that you should listen to them. If you do, you may lose yourself.”

What Did I Do?

I returned to my true self, of course. I lost some of my newfound friends along the way, but I eventually found people who liked me for me. I never had an issue with hiding my identity again.