Who are you when the world isn’t looking?
Who do you become in the moments after the door closes behind you after a long day at work? Who are you when that door shuts, the lock clicks satisfyingly into place, and you’re free to be alone and un-judged by the eyes of others?
What facades immediately fall away?
We choose, both consciously and subconsciously, to project a certain image to the people around us. From the time we’re young and first start to interact with social groups, we learn what it takes to be accepted and to feel like we belong. We enhance the things that are positively reinforced and diminish the ones that get us teased or ostracized.
Or we don’t.
And in the place of acceptance, we suffer the ridiculous injustice of being seen as “weird” or we end up learning how to exist on the outskirts.
We tweak these versions of ourselves as we grow until we settle into a suitable mask for daily use. Some are lighter masks that allow more room for us to breathe. Some weigh heavy on us, sapping vital energy the longer we choose to hold them up.
Lighter versions have their place. It’s impractical to think that we should walk around wearing every reaction and thought for the world to see. Not everything is for everyone and not all situations are appropriate for radical honesty in this version of society. Not if we’re trying to get through the day relatively unscathed and generally accepted, right?
These masks might be humorous and light. They might be boldly confident and dripping with ego. They might be submissive and understated, so as to divert unwanted attention.
Doesn’t matter what form they’re showing off to the outside world. Remember this:
Everyone wants to be loved.
Even the most self-involved and rude among us still want to be loved, they just have less of a grasp on how to get there. Instead, they may try to default to the replacements of being respected, having power, being feared, or they might even just settle with being envied.
Want to build a deeper connection with someone? Be curious about them because people are longing to be seen.
Care about the “Whys” of who they are and not just the “Whats”.
The chronic issue of feeling invisible is bound to heighten as we delve ever deeper into this social media world where we control the way we are perceived by others. People begin to love and idealize our exteriors and, all the while, the subject of this affection can begin to feel more and more dissatisfied.
Because being idealized is lonely.
It’s all fun and games until you come to the realization that there’s no true satisfaction to be gained by having people infatuated with who they think you are rather than who you really are.
Assumptions that we should avoid pushing onto other people:
“You’re beautiful. Your relationships must be perfect and fully satisfying.”
“You’re hilarious. You must be happy.”
“You’re weird. You deserve to not be included because you’re not pretending to blend.”
“You’re so smart. You’re never wrong or second-guess yourself.”
“You’re so confident. You must never doubt yourself.”
“You’re a narcissist. You must love yourself.”
“You’re so ___________. You must believe that about yourself.”
Some people may very well be all that they appear to be. But…know that plenty aren’t.
Look for what drives people, what they choose to talk about, and how they make you feel. Let people know that you’re interested in the less filtered version. The one that doubts and the one that cries. The one that hides and the one that lies.
Strong people experience doubt. Beautiful people experience insecurity. The ones that don’t? Sure, they could be out there. But, they usually exist in a vacuum where the external world is catered to their whims. Most of us don’t live in that reality and, when you give it some thought, it’s likely to be a more difficult way to live an existence rife with connection.
Always take comfort in remembering that celebrities are just people. The most gorgeous Instagrammers you follow are just people.
You are people.
People who trend towards being more “themselves” have a certain magnetism. Have you noticed that?
You can rely on them to be guided by their principles above all else. You can trust that you know how this person will behave in any number of situations because they’re steadfast to a fault and (one of my favorite terms) “unapologetically themselves”. Those who choose to exist this way won’t be appreciated by everyone (and certainly won’t feel comfortable all the time), but that’s perfectly alright. They’re upping their chances of attracting the right people, intimate and platonic relationships alike.
Maybe truth and genuine confidence lead to more sustainable and long-lasting love? I know nothing, but that seems worthy of exploration.
We are beautifully complex and we do ourselves a great disservice by trying to pigeonhole ourselves and others into being certain “types”.
Some people choose to spend a great deal of their time looking inward and trying to figure themselves out.
And some don’t. That’s just how it is.
Somewhere on the inside…they still want to be loved.
Take the time to get to know a person that genuinely interests you and to allow the multiple facets of who they are to unfold over time as you permit yourself to be open-minded to the intricacies of their character.
One of the most beautiful gifts you can give to another person is to acknowledge them warmly if they choose to open up to you.
Be an ear, be curious, be a comforting word, be a guide if it’s asked of you. Give less credence to the tone in which they share because it may be comical or dismissive. Instead, listen closely for the truth that’s fueling the words.
Above all else, let people see you in the hopes that it’ll open the door to more meaningful encounters and opportunities.
I’m grateful that I’ve sloppily managed to reach a point in my life where I’m aware of when I’m wearing my mask. I see those moments so clearly now that I can’t believe there was a time that I couldn’t tell the difference between the shield and the reality that existed behind it. It’s oddly liberating.
You’re gonna screw it up, friends. You’re gonna mask up and drop an assumption on someone from time to time. Just like we all do. Just like I do.
Because it’s harder to be seen and face the potential rejections that come with the choice to reveal yourself and it’s natural to try and categorize people for the sake of continuity and wanting people to conveniently fit into the context of your past experiences.
But, aiming to be genuine and present when you show up leads to a greater sense of freedom in this swiftly moving and unknown period of time that we’ve been given.
So, let’s awkwardly fumble our way to a little more truth one step at a time.
Your Thought Experiment of the Day: “How often am I wearing my mask? How heavy has it become?”
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