Friday, May 26, 2006

Self perception: A story about identity.

For most of my life I have struggled with how I see myself.

I am of the "eager-to-please-puppy" type group of persons for whom identity and self-worth are entirely bound up in making the "Boss" happy.

The "Boss" is anyone who deigns me worth having around. If you demonstrate in some way, that you want me around, I will follow you to the ends of the earth to make you happy.

My sense of who I am is very much about what I think YOU think of me. I have always been inclined to see myself in the mirror of your eyes. The image is distorted of course. The reflection I see, is not really what you see, but I change it to fit according to what I believe you see. I mould myself to fit with how I think you'll best respond. I shape my nature so that we find entente quickly - thus preventing me from being alienated and isolated from you.

And how do I make these assumptions? I sense it - see it - in the hidden languages of eye, movement, unspoken words hanging mid-air, in twitches, touch and smell, taste and tongue. I read the stuff below your spoken words, in the depths, where you think it's hidden - and which it sometimes is - but I try to read it anyway to know where I fit inside that great undercroft of your being.

I am always scanning. Scanning the environment of heart, mind and soul, looking for sound underground. I am sensing my place in your world, in your face; looking at myself in your eyes and judging if that image is worthy or not. Mostly it's been not, over the years, but I'm getting better at not believing my own crap anymore. I'm getting better at the self talk, the self thing....slowly anyway.

It's a terrible curse this you know. Not believing in ones value for itself can be crippling emotionally and I have been to those dark places where it nearly got too much.

As time has moved on, I've gotten better at just accepting who I am as I am without personal judgement and loathing. I am confident now despite lapses in concentration occasionally. My personal faith in God goes a long way in this, but I will admit that my temperament is such that I will always need to seek some kind of validation from other people just as bodies need oxygen to breathe.

Maybe we all need validation. We're all looking for the belief that we are valuable just as we are without judgement or imposition.

Looking for self in the eyes of another is what a lot of us do, sometimes at least. We are all scanning the landscape of our lives and relationships, looking for that which brings us release from the burden of thinking we are not actually good enough - perfect enough - to be here. We primp and preen and do our damnedest to ensure we are "fitting in" with what we think will bring us the most security and happiness.

The truth gets blurred here.

What we want to see in the eyes of another isn't always what actually is. Masks are sometimes there for a reason - to hide what we are really feeling and thinking about the person before us. Some masks are worn to protect that other person from knowing our truth - because we do care about them really, just not the way they expect. Some masks are there to frighten others off because we don't like what we see in their eyes about our own reflection.

When we are brave enough, courageous enough to expose our vulnerability within, our fragility and our hopeless need for love from someone; when we come to them with our defenses down and the bridge extended across the moat inviting them to come inside; when we take off our mask and show ourselves as we really are; when we turn off the scanners and just let the other person be too; THEN we have found ourselves at last.

When we are brave enough to risk exposing everything to someone we love, we open the flood-gates of hope.

What we worry about most is when to do this exposing. We won't often risk doing this thing for our beloved especially when we don't see that same willingness to risk, for us, in their eyes. To risk exposing our deepest truth on the mere hope of mutual intimacy and connection is like believing we will win first prize - without a ticket - in the worlds largest lottery.

And so the masks stay on. We struggle uphill, again, perceiving our worth in distorted mirrors and feeling lousy because we can never seem to feel perfect - be perfect - enough.

There isn't an answer to this that isn't spiritual. Finding perfect love comes from a source outside of the human equation. When we seek to know the love of God, we are better able to risk loving other people without needing their validation.

Our deepest spiritual need is to belong to someone, to really belong and to feel connected to the piece of us that seems to be missing. We are all looking for that piece. One day I know we will find it.

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