Being Yourself

I have a friend that I deeply admire. She’s actually a barista at my favorite coffee shop, but I’m there so much that I consider most of the barista’s friends at this point, or at least close acquaintances. This particular young woman, let’s call her Michelle, impresses me because she is always herself. I… am not always myself. Don’t get me wrong, I always try to be myself, but there are times that I wind up being someone else, or trying to be someone else, to impress someone, or to hide some insecurity, or to protect myself from getting hurt. I think that I can honestly say that I am usually myself, but not always.

I’ve never seen Michelle be less than herself. She has a unique personality that is inspiring both in it’s confidence and in it’s openness. I can’t say that she’s not afraid to share who she is (I don’t know the inner workings of her mind), but if she is afraid, she doesn’t let it stop her. Michelle doesn’t seem concerned with impressing people, and in being unconcerned she is impressive precisely because she isn’t trying to be unconcerned. I’ve written a fair amount about striving. Striving for success, for coolness, for likablility, for wealth, for attraction, for godliness, for… whatever… we strive for the things we want, we push, we fight, and weep, and we are never satisfied. Michelle strikes me as a person who is simply satisfied.

I’m probably wrong in this, at least to some degree. I’m sure that she has her share of problems, and I’ve certainly seen her on off days when she wasn’t particularly happy with something. I’ve seen her on days when she’s down in the dumps, on days when she’s still asleep, on days when she’s bright and chipper, and on days when she’s just plain frustrated with something. I’ve seen her struggling with problems she didn’t know how she was going to handle. So I’m not trying to say that Michelle’s life is perfect, or that she handles life perfectly. However, I can say that she handle’s life honestly.

I am forced here to think of another young woman I met at this coffee shop, a very pretty young woman to whom I was quite attracted… until I spent a little time talking to her. I honestly don’t even remember her name, but we’ll call her Red Dress… it was what first attracted me to her… unlike Michelle, my few conversations with Red Dress have seemed… less then genuine. She strikes me as a person who forces herself to be happy, even when she isn’t, because it’s the Christian thing to do. I remember one of my first conversations with Red Dress, she put on one of the most plastic smiles I’ve ever seen, and told me that I too could be filled with unbelievable joy… the only thing I could think was that if the ‘joy’ I saw in her was the joy she was offering, I didn’t want any part of it. Michelle is joyful, even on her crap days she exudes a sense of wonderment about God and the world around her. Red Dress is… fake.

One of the most important things that any of us can do is to be honest with ourselves. If we are not honest with ourselves, then we cannot be honest with others. If we cannot be honest, then we cannot be ourselves. We will put up fronts, masks, falsehoods without even realizing it, and all to often, people can see through these into our actual selves. Masks are a natural part of being. A natural part of living. That doesn’t make them good.