There once was a woman who had one hundred faces. She showed one face to each person, and so it took one hundred men to write her biography”.

—Anais Nin

I must say, people end up on my page looking for some bizarre, dark, and morbid things. My analytics program has told me that recently, people found my page by Googling for “Amy Winehouse casket photos”, “Amy Winehouse autopsy photos”, and “Deaths On Atlanta Subway”.

Ugh. For those who don’t know me, I might have a very dark, Gothic kind of streak that runs through me, and I might think vampires are sexy (the Anne Rice ones, not the 16-year-old effeminate boys that glitter.), but I’m actually possessed of a pretty fragile constitution when it comes to blood, death, gore, and all that other stuff. I haven’t seen a horror flick since I was 11. You’ll never see any sort of blood or graphic violence on these pages. In fact, I’ve had to recently start de-friending well-meaning people on Facebook because they’re putting up pictures of cute dogs saying “This is Fido’s last day on earth. He will be executed tomorrow”, or because they’re putting up photos of abused children to let us know this is what happens when we don’t care. I’m all for the well-meaning causes, but my sensitive nature can’t handle seeing the photos and being reminded of the cruelty that surrounds us every day.

Anyhow, I’d originally meant to write about a topic that’s gruesome and heartbreaking in a completely different way: rejection.

I don’t think rejection is an experience any of us takes particularly well, because the natural response to being rejected is one of “What’s wrong with me? Why am I not good enough?” Sometimes, there are answers to that question: there are reasons you didn’t get the job you wanted, or a guy/girl you liked never called you back, or you put yourself out there and things weren’t a rousing success. Other times, though, that’s just the way things are, and nothing about you or how you handled the situation could have changed the outcome.

I have a number of talented, intelligent, beautiful friends in the world that I see limiting themselves due to fear of rejection, and this behaviour is so ingrained in them, I don’t think they recognize it. I have a friend who is one of the smartest people I know, but never puts himself out there to get rid of the job he hates, allowing him to find out what he really wants to do. I have another friend who is so physically attractive that there is never anyone who doesn’t notice her when she is in the room…but she lacks the confidence to go anywhere by herself, or to approach strangers without the company of a friend. The more I look around my world, the more I see tons of examples like this.

Growing up in the world of performance, I experienced a lot of rejection at an early age. It’s one world in which going on a job interview is liable to give you feedback that is hurtful enough to make you cry on the spot, but you don’t. It hurts everyone in the world to hear you’re not talented enough, not attractive enough, not graceful enough, too short or too tall, too fat or too skinny, or that you should consider cosmetic surgery to improve your image. It hurts every single person who’s been told they’re forgettable, or come across as someone the average person will dislike. But it’s part of the job, so you go home, you cry, you think mean, negative things about yourself, you think mean, negative things about everyone else, and you go to the next audition, and the next, and the next.

I also didn’t necessarily grow up in the healthiest, most loving family environment, and hearing a list of the ways in which I failed or wasn’t good enough was a weekly, if not daily, concern. The result was a tendency toward perfectionism: I told myself I would keep on working and unfailingly try to improve myself until everyone loved me and found me irresistible.

Of course, this is a far from healthy mindset, particularly when it leads you to secret, in-the-closet self-destructive behaviour, as it did for me…and many like me. But it never occurred to me that I couldn’t handle rejection or I didn’t like myself. Instead, I spent a lot of time looking at myself from a cold, almost removed point of view, seeing everything there was not to like about me and vowing to become a more perfect person. I thought being perfect would lead me to being loved, and until I got there, I didn’t deserve love or appreciation.

It wasn’t until after I moved to Atlanta and stopped performing that these issues became apparent. I didn’t love myself, and I didn’t truly expect anyone else to love me, but I’d gotten so used to hiding behind a wall of arrogance and fearlessness that said “Fuck you, I don’t care if you like me or not.”, that I didn’t consider it a problem. When a relationship ended or I got fired from a job, I didn’t handle it well. But I had no doubt that life would go on, and that jobs and relationships were replaceable. And at the same time, I was crumbling from the weight of my own imperfection.

At the end of a particularly difficult and intense relationship, I asked my partner how he didn’t know for sure that I wasn’t the right person for him. (He’d suggested we “take a break” and “see other people”, which, in my years before discovering the world of polyamoury, translated to “I’m really just over you”…which, in many cases, it does.) I remember standing in front of the coat closet in my apartment, and him saying, “I know, because when I look around the world and see attractive, capable, confident women, I find myself wondering what it would be like to be with them instead of you.”

And that was the first time I realised just how brutal rejection can be for certain types of people. It isn’t just about hearing “no”. It’s about something more personal, all the ways in which you’ve failed—failed to be perfect, failed to live up to “potential”, failed to make someone else happy. That failure has always been something I can’t live with, something I struggle with on a daily basis.

People often tell me I’m socially fearless. I’ll go up to anyone and introduce myself. If I’m attracted to someone, I’ll let that person know in a pretty straightforward way. I’ll sit in a formal restaurant by myself, and take the NYC subway home at 5 AM alone. I’ll travel the world myself…and in some ways, prefer that. There are few “dares” that get a flat refusal from me.

On the inside, though, I’m constantly struggling with the fear that someone won’t like me….and it’s no accident that I’ve not only gone through my life encountering people who don’t like me, but despise everything I embody and actively work to humiliate me or bring me down. I’m constantly struggling with the knowledge that I’m not as beautiful as this person, as smart as this other person, as gracious and likeable as another. Some days, I wonder how or why anyone could love me at all…because I never figured out how to be perfect. I never figured out, even, how to look in the mirror and see someone others will like.

I still often have the desire to act out in self-destructive ways nobody ever has to know about, to add to my list of imperfections. I often wish I could just escape from the world at large for a few months, and re-emerge as a happier, skinnier, more attractive, more accomplished, healthier person. I never do these things, but the desire for that to happen doesn’t disappear…and the belief that I’m surrounded by people who love and support me despite being so imperfect never quite sinks in.

I’m writing about this topic because recently, a few people have talked to me about how hard it is to meet people, how dating is a challenge, and even approaching people can be difficult. I do understand. Particularly in Atlanta, a city besieged by the “If everything about me appears perfect, everyone will love me” mentality, the tendency to get to know others for who they are is often not there…because it requires a vulnerability people aren’t willing to reveal. I understand just as well as anyone. In some ways, this is the worst possible place for someone with my particular set of issues to live (though Dallas is very close behind, and Miami even worse.) , because it’s filled with people with the same issues and insecurities who also have the money and the dedication to do something about what they don’t like in themselves, whether it’s apparent in a high-powered job, a new car, perfect teeth, discrete nips and tucks, or the need to appear like a carbon-copy of their best friends.

I’m not socially fearless, by any means. But what I’ve learned is that if you don’t forget about yourself long enough to reach out to others, you’ll spend your life by yourself. Nobody is perfect, nobody is out of your league, and even if rejection hurts, it doesn’t always have a single thing to do with you. No matter how great you are, everyone will not like you. Everyone will not be charmed by you, find you attractive, or even care to converse with you. Some may even instantly dislike you, for reasons that don’t matter and you may never know.

The important thing is that some people WILL like you, find you attractive, want to get to know you, see something special in you. And the person you’re afraid to talk to? Well, he or she has a secret list of insecurities and fears and baggage just as long as yours.

So, talk to a stranger. Go to a movie by yourself. Apply for a job you don’t think you’re good enough to land. Ask that person you’ve had a secret crush on to go out on a date. And if there are things you’d like to improve about yourself, whether it’s getting in shape or going back to school, it’s never too late to make those changes. In fact, if you’re like me, you try to re-commit yourself to building a better life pretty frequently.

Being open to whatever comes along seems to work the best for me. Trying too hard to make things work and beating myself up over my repeated “failures” is a personal self-destructive trigger, and will send my life in a direction I’d rather not go. In the immortal words of a legend, “You can’t always get what you want..but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need.”

Life has a way of pointing that out…even if you don’t know what you need, the Universe sometimes seems to.

Forget about yourself for a little while. Try. Take a chance. Put yourself out there. And whatever comes back, know that you’re better for the experience, because it’s never about the results. It’s about knowing you don’t have to be perfect in order to be loved, liked, appreciated, or successful. If you did, none of us would ever be happy or do anything worthwhile.