Sunday, December 4, 2011

Other People's Opinions

Imagine this: You go to your closet, and instead of your regular clothing, the most fantastic clothing ever awaits you. For me, it would be some authentic period costume--probably post-Restoration England--the male or female dress--both are beautiful to me... something sumptuous, something you've always thought of wearing. Please don't imagine my costume, since most of you won't find it particularly appealing. Besides, it's my costume, not yours!

You put it on. You feel fantastic, newly made, as if suddenly the real you is pulled out into the open, shimmering in a way you normally don't.

Now imagine you are at a huge party, surrounded by people you know--ordinary people you know, wearing ordinary clothing, not the kind of stuff on your own body. You stand out immediately. They stare. Their eyebrows wrinkle up a bit. They lean in towards each other, mumbling words of suspicion, questions, comments like, "Why is he/she wearing that?"

It's similar to the dreams most of us have had of being in public either in pajamas or in the buff. And most of us find it disconcerting at least--or downright mortifying. But is it? What is it that makes us respond so negatively to this situation?

It's the physical representation of what most of us fear every single day: that people will see the truth of who we are and will judge us for it. We each remember moments in our lives when people have judged us. I've been called all sorts of things, and even though many of the names given to me over the years revealed far more about the people who judged me, I still find I hold onto these judgments as if they are valid. But why?

Because I fear something else: that my own view of myself is so skewed that these people are more right than I am. How have I prevented testing this theory? How have I managed to hold onto my own opinion? By hiding. If I don't show my true self--if I don't put on the costume that really suits me and sport it in front of everyone--no one will be able to know the real me, or judge me for it.

But I have come to realize that when I hide, I tell myself to be ashamed of who I am. I devalue myself, not because other people devalue me, but because I assume they will. I don't even try to show who I am, so certain (or fearful) am I that who I really am isn't worth anything but a good scoffing.

Imagine this scenario instead. You are dressed as who you truly are, with your own personal shimmer now physically undeniable, and as people surround you, they do talk, they do lean in towards each other to ask questions, but then they move toward you, eyes teary, their lips soft and smiling. "Where did you find that fantastic outfit?" one finally asks.

"I made it myself," you answer.

And it's true. All these years, you have been working on this costume of yours--it fits you like a glove, shows off your best features, and emphasizes the who you are in beautiful asymmetry. Okay, so a few of the seams aren't perfect, and the trim is a little goofy on one sleeve. So what? It's still cool, and it's still you.

So, why not wear it? Why hide the garment in your closet? What good will it do hidden? Sure, you can open the door and stare at it happily once in a while, but that's it.

Go on, then. You know what to do. Stop hiding. Put it on. No more fear.


  1. Given the differences in our personalities, it doesn't surprise me that my scenario is different. See, I'm wearing my clothes every day, telling people who I am and doing my best not to care when they laugh at my clothes.

    Most don't, though. They tend to like me or hate me, but even those that hate me tend to respect my honesty, maybe my bravery.

    But I have my own fear, my own fear that no one will ever see me and truly love me. Oh, I have people that like me, accept my foibles, care about me deeply but most of those folks are at a distance where the overwhelming sense of me-ness is less likely to become boring or abrasive.

    Those that have rubbed against me,day in and day out for longer, find themselves anxious to spend time elsewhere, then desperate to do so.

    So, for all my honesty and accomplishment (which I have in moderation) and qualities I like about myself, I still end up alone.

  2. I had to borrow a few but TEN THUMBS UP!!!!!!