“We will never feel loved until we drop the act, until we’re willing to show our true selves to the people around us.” – Donald Miller
I wish I had heard of the book “Scary Close” a long time ago, because it would have saved me a lot of effort, frustration, and pain. I’m not sure how it happened, but when I entered 8th grade I suddenly became aware of our performance driven society and my need to conform or become insignificant. I became a performer. Next to all of my Hollister, Abercrombie, and North Face clothing I housed all of my masks. I wanted to be liked by my peers. In all honesty, I was lost and I didn’t know myself. I was wired to trust only after it was earned and to perform for large groups of people. There were only a select few who knew the me behind the mask. Living in this manner was exhausting. I constantly felt pressure and a need to prove myself and my value.
My sophomore year of high school, I found who I thought would be my best friend for life. Around her I never wore a mask, and I never had to prove myself. She actually helped me box up some of the masks that I had sitting in a pile in my closet waiting to be worn. Becoming friends with her, I learned that, “the more we hide, the harder it is to be known. And we have to be known to connect” – Donald Miller. However, later in high school, we had a falling out. I was left broken, vulnerable, and hurt. Over the next few years I would experience more broken friendships and a broken relationship. I left all of these feeling wounded, damaged, and longing to be loved. I put up a wall that was impenetrable, and I brought back those masks I’d once packed up.
During this time, I began to realize more of who I was and what made me tick, but it wasn’t until college that I would truly become comfortable with the person behind the mask. Once I finally realized that relationships can only be built by embracing imperfections, raw honesty, vulnerability, and trust, I began to let that wall I’d built crumble. I’ve realized that relationships are fragile and unpredictable. I’m a person who likes being in control, and relationships cannot be controlled or manipulated.
By the end of college, I had become fully comfortable in my own skin. I was no longer putting on a performance to impress people. Realizing that not everybody is going to like me is terrifying but freeing. It’s okay to be the real you, in fact it’s the only way to have real authentic friendships and relationships.
I share this because I think today we have a real problem when it comes to loving others well. This problem exists in romantic relationships, friendships, and also simple acquaintances. So many of us are trying to display the best version of ourselves. So many of us have an idea of how we want our friends to act/be or we’ve dreamed up the future and how it will be with our significant other. We try to manipulate and control all for selfish gain, and sadly, we often don’t realize what we are doing. We are innately wired in such a way that we desire to be fully known. Unfortunately, the majority of us are not willing to put in the effort to become fully known.
As a culture, we have foregone intimacy for the cheaper version that ends up being superficial, shallow, and slothful. Donald Miller writes, “The stuff it takes to be intimate is authenticity, vulnerability, and a belief that other people are about as good or as bad as we are.” He says, “vulnerability and openness act as the soil that fosters security.” None of that is easy. All of that takes a lot of work and practice and trust. Some people will walk away from you, but being authentic to who you are is far better than any mask you can conjure up. Don’t waste your life trying to fit into a mold from which God did not create you. Embrace yourself, flaws and all. In the same way, don’t expect other people in your life to fit into a mold you’ve created for them.
Recently, I heard that you can wear a mask so as to receive people’s accolades, but you never receive the love, only the mask is loved. Real relationship, real authenticity, real intimacy is hard to achieve, but it’s oh so worth it. Now go out and pick up a copy of the book scary love and begin implementing his thoughts into your life, and remember that you aren’t an accident. You were designed with a purpose. You are a miracle. Live freely and boldly in that.
Just. Show. Up. (but leave the mask at home)..