I came across this quote to today and found it super interesting and inspiring. In a big way, it gave me a new perspective and joy in one of my long-term “problems.”
This quote has not generally been true of me–just the opposite. I have often felt that I have a problem with either the way in which I am presenting myself–or, more clearly, in the way that people interpret who they think I am. I tend to lean more toward the latter, as the way I am “presenting” myself mostly consists on just being exactly who I am (while still making an effort not to be a burden, annoyance, or irritation and be respectful to those around me.) My goal has always been to be my most authentic self and to live from that place of wholeness and beingness rather than being lost in cultivating an image that may or may not be genuine. I don’t try to be what I am not; I try to simply embrace who I am. I do refrain from showing “everything,” especially to those who will not possibly understand. I have often been guilty of being “too much” “too soon.” I try to meter that with patience without losing authenticity and self-expression. I try to be strong and know my self-worth, while also being able to self-examine, take criticism and make changes as I think I need them. I love what I am; I am also open to new information and growth. Balance in all things, right?
With all of this it is very painful to me that so many (sometimes it feels like “everyone”) seem to so drastically misunderstand and misinterpret who I am. It disturbs me to feel that it is so hard for others to accurately “see” me. I am a human. I want to connect, to feel understood, to be liked. Why is it so hard (especially when I really am “just being myself”? Am I unlovable? Fear creeps in. Acting from and being in a place of fear and loneliness does not help me to be my highest self.
In thinking about this problem (too much) I have come to realize that, for many people, I become a mirror. That their interpretations are mostly projection–they say far more about the projectors than about who I am. Nevertheless, there is the saying “I am who I see others seeing me.” I have to constantly be strong and fight against this. I have to be rock steady in knowing who I am, and not allow their projections to overtake me. This is exhausting! Not to mention that the fact that what I see others seeing of me (from the feedback that I get–this isn’t all projection on *my* part–and I allow for vice versa to be “true” as well–that’s where the critical self-examination comes in,) is so drastically different than how I see myself. The things that I see in myself are very likable–what am I doing wrong? Why don’t other people seem to see my good qualities? Questions like these are very stressful for me. Even when it is positive, it disturbs me that the images are not even close. It is too anxiety provoking to be concerned with this all the time, or to constantly monitor and stress over my image; it also takes constant strength and fortitude to stay strong in who I know I am. The only way out of this which I know is the way in. To just be. To just always try do be my best self. To “always do my best.” (I keep coming back to that, lol.) To find out who *I* want to be, and concentrate on that. I try to stay away from people who try to force their projections on me and disrupt my progress (while taking constructive criticism into account.) But this gets very lonely. I so long for it to be “easy.” Certainly, I have developed a bit of anxiety around people. I would love to feel understood and seen (and liked!) I hate feeling like an island in a swamp, but I have no wish to lose myself in a desperate and lonely attempt to connect; I am too tired to get caught up in other’s views of me again. Surely my people are out there somewhere?!
In my strength of beingness, I know that I can sometimes cause others to feel insecure. People who are less solid in who they are, who have not “done the work” so speak, or who are overly attached to “image” rather than “self” can feel that my life is a statement of their unworth. In actuality, it has nothing to do with them. I can be “good” in my own way without feeling like I am making a statement about them being less. But in the mirror of my being, it shows them how they have not done the work, and that makes them feel insecure. I don’t like making other people feel this way–but I also don’t think it is fair or right to pretend to be less so that they are comfortable around me. It’s not a contest! I want us all to get there! I DO understand it–certainly, when I look at a supermodel or at someone who has aspects that I aspire to but feel like they are unreachable, I also can feel that anxiety–“I’m never going to be thin enough, or smart enough, or accomplished enough, etc.” But I also know that this is an ego trap. I would NEVER try to tear them down to my level. There is a reason the tagline of my site is “We rise by lifting others.” I hope we ALL make it. (In fact, I’ve been told I once made a promise to wait for all of us to do so.) Comparing yourself to others, you will always find those who are greater and lesser than you. The only REAL yardstick is that of your own progress. When I fall into those traps, the ladder out is to look back–where was I a year ago? Then look forward–where do I want to be a year from now? Trying to compare yourself to others is like telling a bird he is stupid because he can’t breathe underwater like a fish. Even in trying to communicate this idea, I have occasionally triggered insecurity in others. Sigh.
I may have some answers, I may have “solved” some of my own questions, in ways that work for myself–I may even sometimes think I can “help” others. That in no way makes me “greater” than they are. Other people have given me answers, other people show more progress in areas where I perceive myself to have lacks. This does not make them “better” than I am. Perhaps it is because I perceive all things as part of one whole that I see this more clearly. You do not berate your hand for not pumping blood like your heart. You do not berate your heart for not grasping objects like your hand. Both hands and hearts are good. They each have their own beingness and functions to be honored. People are the same, if only we could see it. I’m not always successful at this, either. There are still people with whom I have to remind myself of this truth. I have never ever claimed to be perfect.
Many of the things I consider my “strengths” came about in direct opposition to the negative perceptions I have withstood. Many of the things I have cultivated were seeded by this struggle. I’ve had to work hard at keeping my own boundaries and not dissolving into what people have constantly tried to tell me I am or tried to force me to be. I’ve had to do the critical self-examination with brutal honesty to assess exactly what and where I was and to make those (sometimes painful) changes in an effort to live authentically and be my best self. The very goal of “living authentically” has come from this challenge. I had to really think about what it is I wanted to be, over and above what others thought I was capable of, in order to have this knowledge.
This quote struck me profoundly. To LOVE the idea of not being what people expect, people must first expect me to be something I am not. To delight in this and to see it as a source of strength and joy removes a huge burden of sorrow and confusion. This quote has not generally been true of me–but I hope that it will be in the future. (And, uh, yeah, I still want community and to be liked and not to “go it alone.” Haha)