Who Are You When No One Is Looking?
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We all have different personas. We aren’t exactly the same person with our friends as we are with our boss. We aren’t the same with our boss as with our spouse. That’s normal, that’s fine. It’s probably not appropriate to be the clown at work, unless of course our work is being a clown.
The real question is, is there a you that is a different person than the person you are in the company of others? Is there a you that has beliefs you never share for fear of being ostracized by those around you? Is there a you that reads certain books or newspapers only in private because that isn’t what those around you read? Is there a you that dreams of dressing differently than you dress but you don’t because, “What would people think?”
While we have different personas we should also have some congruence. That quality of being essentially the same no matter where we are and no matter who we are with. That quality of being truly ourselves is essential because then, in being truly ourselves, we are free.
Who are you when no one is looking? Are you freer alone than you are in the company of others?
When we don’t feel that we can truly be ourselves around other people we not only carry the burden of wearing a mask but we also can’t build the strong, supportive relationships that sustain us when times are tough. If we aren’t showing up as who we truly are when we need support people won’t know how to do give that to us. If we don’t let others know who we truly are then they can’t be there for us in the most meaningful ways, in times bad or good.
I remember having a conversation with a friend years ago where she said that I was very good at getting to know other people but not that good at letting them get to know me. I’d been aware that I was more interested in getting to know others than in having them get to know me. What I hadn’t realized was that people noticed and I hadn’t thought about how they might feel about that.
That question sparked an internal conversation that I clearly needed to have. What kind of a friend was I being if I wasn’t willing to let others inside my truest life while I expected them to let me inside theirs? I had to think about what that meant about me; that there was a certain kind of selfishness that I was hiding under the guise of being interested in others. In addition to that, what was it about myself that I wasn’t willing to have in the light?
If we aren’t willing to be who we are all the time, with appropriate behavior for the circumstances, then we are imprisoning ourselves. We are giving away power in our lives to other people, often people we don’t know or don’t care about. We are effectively saying that what they might think about us is more important than being who we are.
When we are who we are, all the time, and out in the open there is an ease that comes from having nothing to hide and no worries about being found out as a fraud. When we live from our own sense of right and wrong without regard for how popular or unpopular our beliefs might be with those around us we rest easy. When the person we are when no one is looking is the same person we are with the eyes of the world upon us, fear dissolves.
If you find that you need to merge your inner and outer personas take it one step at a time. It can be scary to show up as who we are; but with each step in that direction we gain courage from the expanded freedom we feel. Hold on to that growing feeling of freedom and keep moving towards being your perfectly imperfect self in your whole life.