On a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis I have the choice to decide how to present myself to others, and to a certain degree, what part of my personality, character, and habits I will reveal and what parts I will hide. This all combined will create a perception of me in the minds of others. We all have this liberty, but, when desired perception trumps an accurate presentation of reality, one has to ask one’s self, is there a different or better way to approach this?
Why is entrusting another human with the truth of who we are, how we are really doing in life, what we are struggling with, or even what we are delighting in such a hard thing to do sometimes? Is it because it makes us feel vulnerable? Is it from fear? And if fear, fear of what; being judged or perhaps that no one will understand?
While most of us know in our hearts that we are not alone in the sense that God is always there to help us, I find it can be easy to forget that I’m not alone where other people are concerned. Most of us can identify with that feeling of “Am I the only one who has this specific quirk, habit, struggle, flaw, etc?”. I believe though, that more people than we realize, often even close family members or friends have similar if not the same type of struggles, quirks, joys, and struggles as us.
The feeling of vulnerability that comes as a result of taking down the mask that separates what I want other’s perception of me to be, and who I really am, can be a scary thing. Maybe the two aren’t that far apart, maybe they are, but, I believe that honesty has the power of bringing people together far better than any pretend perfectness ever could. Let’s suppose for a moment that we were to ALL take down our masks and be real with each other. Could it be possible that in doing so we would experience relationships with people on a much deeper, long lasting, and mutually encouraging level than before?
Have you ever been around someone who just exuded an aura of being perfect and having a life that was completely put together and problem free? I have, and it certainly didn’t encourage me to do anything other than try to mimic their facade of perfection. And so the cycle can go on and on from person to person. Someone, somewhere, has to break the cycle and decide to just be real. What I find interesting, is that upon reflection, we all know that no one is perfect or leads a difficulty free life. So why the act? Any relationship I’ve personally been a party to, where a false perception was promoted, has eventually come tumbling down; and when the evidence of reality comes forth, it only serves to manifest mistrust and a sense of being deceived in the hearts and minds of those involved.
Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m a BIG advocate of discretion, even though I’m not always the best model of it. I’m not suggesting we should all necessarily share more about our lives and who we are, but rather, make an effort to share information that creates a perception rooted in reality. I believe that there is a healthy balance between honesty and discretion for the circumstances that can be reached in an attempt to be real with others. One personal example that comes to mind from last year is a friend asked me how my week went. On this particular week, I had cried more than I usually do in a year, and I was still recovering from a long and weakening sickness. To say that it went good, fine, or even ok would have been a downright lie, because the truth was that it was an awfully hard week. So, I told him the truth, which was basically what I wrote above. I didn’t go into further detail, since it was too personal in nature, but the result of that one little interaction is it demonstrated that I trust and respect him enough to be honest with him. Speaking from experience, being on the receiving end of honesty encourages me to be honest with that other person; not just on that one occasion, but also in the future. And over time, that builds trust with people.
Trust in relationships can’t be built upon a mountain of half truths or fake realities. It’s built upon the raw and non enhanced truths of life and rooted in a mutual respect for each other.
Personally, I want to be real, authentic, and genuine. I want the Maria that people see to be synonymous with the good, the bad, and the ugly of who I am. I want to be a real person that other people feel they can trust and can understand and relate to the everyday struggles they face. I still have a long way to go, but, it is my desire to break the cycle of wearing a mask for the occasion or company I’m in. And hopefully, just like a tiny pebble can send out countless ripples, it will empower others to do the same which will further empower even more people. Yes, sometimes it is difficult to do, but I believe that in the end the result will be deeper relationships that are better able to weather the storms of life, because the basis for them is in truth.
Shakespeare was on to something when he said “The world is a stage, and all the men and women merely players” What he failed to leave out though, is that in the end, all the costumes and masks will come off; maybe not in this life, but definitely in the next, and we will each stand before God and see ourselves and each other as we truly are.
I figure, if it is all going to be revealed in the end, why not begin now and not knowingly exaggerate the difference between perception and reality anymore than it already is?
Just like Pinocchio wanted to be a “real boy” and not just the image of one, I too want to be a real person to the people around me.