We want to show the world our best. This is even more true online with social media where we eagerly post our latest vacation (paid for via credit card) but don’t show the reality that is real.
Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t something new. People have always aspired to show their best side. I do this every time I get my photo taken, especially at the DMV.
Still, there are things about each of us that we hesitate to share with the outside world. Maybe we’re afraid the real world won’t like us. Maybe the real world would judge. Maybe the real world would reject us.
On the flip side, there are just things that other people don’t know, and not just about you. Things they don’t know how to respond or relate to because responding and relating is just as hard for them as it is for you.
People don’t know when they ask, “How are you?” and you smile and answer, “Fine,” you may very well be fine or you may be far from it. They often don’t pause long enough to find out. Neither do you. Neither do I.
People don’t know your private worries. (And we all have too many, don’t we?) They think your smiling self is the real you when it may not be.
People see you as completely normal, when you may feel anything but.
People don’t know that despite the car in the driveway and the name-brand shoes on our feet we all have our self-doubts. We hurt. We don’t know what we are doing, sometimes.
People don’t know that money can’t solve everything — or anything for that matter — and people who try to pretend that it can are only pretending.
People don’t know that life is just as challenging for everyone as it is for them. Life is meant to be challenging, I think, because easy isn’t worthwhile. Challenges develop character. They build strength, but it’s difficult to embrace that when you are in the middle of a challenging situation.
People don’t know how to respond to your tears or sometimes your honesty.
People don’t know how to find joy in their hurt. People don’t realize this is even possible. I didn’t. Don’t. Hoping to. Trying to. Two steps forward, one step back.
All these observations come from the truth and the fact that each of us puts up an exterior: the one we want the world to see. The sometimes inauthentic exterior that is not any of us, but rather represents us in the way we’d like the world at large to perceive us. And even, perhaps, the way we’d like to perceive ourselves.
People don’t realize this, however. For the most part, they don’t know — about others and maybe more importantly, about themselves.
I don’t think it’s all bad, actually. We should present ourselves in the best light possible. Being brutally honest about our obstacles and our struggles isn’t as entertaining as a good family photo in front of Cinderella’s castle.
Still, obstacles exist. Life can be hard sometimes, even when you are in the middle of a trip to the Magic Kingdom. When that happens, please give yourself a break. Acknowledge you are doing the best you can with what you have right now. What you are doing is enough, because you are enough.
Then turn toward the camera and smile for your selfie and realize tomorrow will give you another chance for a day as perfect as the castle in the photo’s background.
Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.