During a more reflective turn in a procrastination-filled afternoon, I decided to ask my friends to describe how they saw me. It was a little horrifying.
Now, there’s bias because they are my friends, so all the descriptions were flattering, but what pulled my mind through a cheese grater was that the ways in which they described me were not at all how I describe myself.
One thing did align. Most of my friends see me as secure in knowing what I’m doing and where I’m going, when in fact, I’m more like a duck gliding peacefully across a choppy pond, paddling furiously underneath.
Maybe it’s imposter syndrome; perhaps it’s just fooling people daily. I’m taking less time to debate that in my life than I have in the past.
While I could see the phantom version of me that they created from the edges of my personality, the things that I thought I trotted out mindfully into the world were not my dominant traits in their eyes. Their versions of me were a gift, though; I could know what version of me they valued.
A concept I tracked back to the 1926 novel One, No One and One Hundred Thousand by Luigi Pirandello (after hearing it mentioned online) was that there are thousands of versions of you in the minds of everyone you’ve met, however brief or however intimate. Will those versions ever match up? Do we want them to?
Many of us likely spend more time than we want carefully crafting a curated version of who we are for others. Perhaps the version is an amplification of who we really are, or the version is a mask for things we don’t want others to see.
Performing those roles can also offer comfort to others in their lives, especially if we stay constant. But stepping out of that role, expanding the lines, or placing yourself in different scenes can cause discomfort or even have them urge you to return to the part you played in their life. It’s like seeing your teacher at the grocery store or your sunburned dermatologist at the beach.
But when we feel that we’re forced out of our roles by those inner parts of ourselves that we might keep hidden is when we might be cueing up for disaster.
It may not end with us striding across a stage to slap someone, but it may mean that we cross the street to avoid the panhandler or have an unnecessarily terse conversation with someone in retail, even when we swore we’d never turn down that dark path.
What might have been the most shocking about the moment at the Oscars is that we were perhaps wrong about our preconceived notions about who we thought a professional actor, carefully curating the likable everyman image, was, and, how he wasn’t in the role we expected.
An actor, even in the vault of the celebrity, doesn’t owe us a continued performance.
And yet, a continued performance is something we may expect of others in our lives and strive to maintain in our own.
— Cassie McClure is a writer, wife/mama/daughter, fan of the Oxford comma, and drinker of tequila. Some of those things relate. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow her on Twitter: @TheCMcClure. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.