You, Me and The Rest Of Us.
Part Two: Imposter
I’ve always been afraid of being found out. Afraid that one day I’d walk into a room full of every person I’ve ever met and they’d all know. I fear that they will finally see that I am mostly making it up as I go. It’s a strange and curious feeling, almost exhilarating, as if each interaction may end a different way every time. It hasn’t yet.
I used to be afraid of this feeling. Now, I look forward to it. At some point I caught on that I do not need to have it all together, to be in perfect control at all times. There’s God for that. I use this fear instead as motivation to live up to the person I pretend to be. After all, he is a lot of good things; hard working, diligent, honest, kind, loving and driven. There are some unsavoury things in there too, but even those contribute to the fullness of his character. I strive to turn my perception of myself into my reality. By most accounts this is a good thing, working towards the best version of yourself. That’s what you’re supposed to do. However, I find myself thinking about all the different versions of me that I burn through to get this one. For the longest time I felt this was something only I dealt with.
Then I talked with Selin who says she’s “always moving, always changing, never still.”
“There are so many versions of me. There’s the Selin my colleagues know, the Selin my parents know and wish to see through their parenting. There’s Carleton University Selin, overachieving journalism society president Selin that’s really type-A and annoyingly strict with details and deadlines. here’s the fun Selin who seems giggly, one-dimensional, and silly. There’s the Selin that is trying to make a good first impression, trying to find common ground and mirror similarities between the Selin and others”
Selin and I have quite a lot in common, my favourite of which is our tendency to over elaborate when asked even the most mundane of questions. I’m sure if I let her, I’d hear about a thousand more Selins. Aware of this, I gently try to guide us through this thought. Let’s simplify the question.
Are you who you pretend to be?
The surface answer to this question is easy; no, of course not. Like Selin, on any given day I pretend — sometimes out of necessity — to be so many things. Smart, funny, scared, ambitious, interesting, the list could go on. I am who and what the moment requires. And so is she, “I would say there are so many sides of all us that we can never truly be who we pretend to be.”
The rational conclusion should be that no such person exists. After all, people aren’t just one thing. We are a unique combination of experiences, feelings, moments, likes, dislikes and the people we are in one given moment mostly depend on how we internalize and express those myriad of variables. Selin calls this our backstory.
“We all have our backstories that are always ever changing with not only age and time but through our emotions, experiences, and within different contextual environments. Everyone’s backstory has different types of baggage attached to it that allows them to perceive and make judgements and see reality in a different way. Sometimes two people’s realities are so far apart that they actually become toxic for each other to be around.”
Context is everything. Almost everything about us as people means nothing unless put against the backdrop of our past experiences and the environment in which we find ourselves. Without context — a backstory — I’m unsure if we are truly able to understand ourselves or others.
Selin goes on to say one of the more striking things from our conversation, “People often only perceive what they see on the outside and not who we truly are on the inside.”
People only perceive. The wording of that sentence rescinds all responsibility and turns the emphasis on the receiving party. It is up to them to discern, to interpret who we are from the bread crumbs we leave through our words and actions. Interesting that we do that; put the onus on others. I have a guiding principle in my life which I alluded to earlier on; perception is reality. That is, regardless of the truth, what people see from you is very often their reality of you. So if during our interactions I am kind, then to you, I am a kind person. And so on. I’ve always known this and try to put it into practice but it took that simple sentence from Selin for me to realize maybe just what we do wrong. Maybe it isn’t up to the people around me to distinguish which version of me is the truth. People can only perceive from what we show them. Selin concedes this too, “Largely, a part of who we are is how we are perceived. And often times, if we don’t live up to that perception, there are consequences.”
Nobody likes those consequences, however trivial they may be. So we try to avoid them by impersonating different versions of ourselves, dancing to the tune of the reactions of those around us. But the onus of perception is on me. It has to be. One of my favourite quotes of all time says we should “always aim at complete harmony of thought, word and deed”. Those are Gandhi’s words. I believe the harmony Gandhi speaks about here is meant to give us a sense of control. Which we crave so much in our lives. A sense of control over how those we care about see us. A sense of control of who we become and why. A sense of control over the traits we put meticulously assemble together to construct the best version of who we are. Thought, word and deed. It could all be so simple.
Yet — always changing, never still. This way to describe the way we grow and change as people settles deeply with me. Are we so deeply lost about ourselves or inundated with the pressure to know exactly who we are or who we have to be that we constantly adapt, change, morph and iterate the person we are to suit whichever external factors we may be dealing with in those moments? If I am truly honest, the most distinct aspects of who I am are forged from a desire to move far away from moments where I felt inadequate. Like I had fallen short. I am confident now because I am continuously tormented by moments when being less than came at a cost I now know was simply too much. As it turns out, I am still afraid. Afraid of the versions of me that never worked out. The cowardly, selfish, disrespectful, lazy, stubborn versions of myself that I run from daily.
This line of thinking often helps me overcome a mind that is often haunted and crippled by self doubt. I second guess all of my good traits but treat my flaws as the absolute truth; a moment of kindness is merely a moment yet an act of selfishness becomes the purest reflection of my true self. That is the true battleground of my personality and whomever wins that war of mind is whom I become, but only in that moment.
And therein may be the answer, we must come to terms with the idea that there isn’t one perfect version of us. There is no golden ticket, no silver bullet, no magic key. We are in constant motion. Constantly learning about ourselves and the things that drive us. For me, it is now less about always being one, complete version of myself and more about developing a core that I am at peace with. If I develop and maintain a core that is true to the things I believe in, my values, then any evolutions around that axis won’t feel so fraudulent.