Genuine… authenticity… truth… real… the real Roxanne… there are all kinds of words and phrases used to describe being, well… real. Telling the truth – your truth – and being true to yourself, I suppose. What does it mean to be genuine? To be real? Does it mean being the person you are right now, including whatever defense mechanisms and walls and behaviors you’ve built up? Does it mean being honest, even if that honesty, that truth you’re telling, changes 6 months down the road? How do you know if what you’re feeling is real and the truth, or something you’ve just talked yourself into?
And what are the barriers to being real? To being honest? To telling your truth and finding people who are trustworthy enough to hear it? Fear? Of what? What is it that prevents people from being who they really are?
Many years ago, my very favorite person at the time installed a mirror in my room. The next day, he asked if I’d used it; I told him I had, and that I loved it. But I hadn’t used it, I’d forgotten about it. I was a people-pleaser back then and wanted to make him happy. By that afternoon, though, I was eat up with the guilt for not telling the truth, so I had to call him and sell myself out. I think he laughed (good-naturedly, of course) and I felt better and that was all there was to it, aside from the learning experience I got from it; still carry that around with me – obviously.
I tell that story a lot. There have been other situations like that over the years, ones that I think illustrate an inner struggle pretty well – wanting to be one kind of person and wanting to enjoy a certain kind of reputation, but really just being someone else and eventually that REAL someone else bubbling to the surface. “Here is who I really am.” Trusting that the real you, the honest one, is good enough just as you are – even if you screw up sometimes. Or a lot. (It would probably help if I weren’t so hard on myself.)
About as long ago as the mirror incident, I knew someone who lied. All the time. About everything. Big, small, personal, inconsequential… didn’t matter, you just never knew if what was being said was the truth. They were lies about who that person was as a human being, as well as what they may or may not have had going on at the time. And that makes me wonder why, you know? Where does that come from? What gets you to the point where you feel like you have to lie about everything? I mean, I get that what I did re: the mirror was a lie, but I also get where that came from, and it was a one-off in that situation/relationship. Is the person telling all the lies all the time being real? I mean… is it possible to lie and have that lie-telling persona be who you really are? “Here is who I really am – I tell lies.” What does “real” really mean?
Anyway. It all leads me back to pondering who I really am. I suppose calling it/me a work in progress is about as good as it’s ever going to get. In keeping with that, I had another “incident” this week as I make my way through the SNAP/food stamp challenge for school (more about that in another post). I totally cheated by taking advantage of free coffee – we are strongly discouraged from taking advantage of free food during the challenge, and lose points if we go over budget. Granted, I didn’t go outside the budget, which is the main requirement of the project, but still.
True to form, I sold myself out with the class. I guess maybe that’s part of who I am, too – I do things that aren’t necessarily in keeping with who I want to be, and then I course-correct as best I can. And maybe part of that, too, is being willing to own whatever consequences come as the result of actions taken.
The little things like this are easy; it’s the big stuff where there’s some work to be done. I like to think of myself as this amazing communicator, and I’m all about encouraging that in other people, but the bigger it is, the scarier it seems, and the easier it feels to just ignore it until it (hopefully) goes away or works itself out somehow. Or, you convince yourself you’re okay with how things are, without having to speak up, until you really are. Or you think you are. See also: Paragraph 1.
“You make-believe until you can for-real.”
All I know is, I value seeing and knowing who people really are, and I do my best to present the same. I think we are our defenses as much as we are who we are when the defenses are down and the vulnerability is there instead. And we get to choose what we want to change (or if we want to change at all, I suppose). We are the sum of our experiences, we are the stories we tell, and, to quote a favorite, we are “the product of all the people that [we] ever loved.” And if that’s the case? Who I really am is pretty great. That’s the real Roxanne.