All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts.
William Shakespeare, As You Like It

When, as a teenager, I discovered those words, I was immediately enthralled. As someone heavily involved at the time in dance, theatre and fashion, how glamorous was it to envision life this way?!

As an introvert not without dramatic flair, this basically gave me permission to construct a character for myself. I’m not sure how conscious or deliberate the process was. What I do know is that it certainly seemed much easier than wearing my vulnerability on my sleeve.

And so on I went, playing only to my strengths, throwing in a hefty dose of mystery (because who isn’t intrigued by a mystery woman?) and, as I discussed in a previous post, being staunchly determined to save face at all costs.

I could just as easily throw in those lyrics:

Inside my heart is breaking
My makeup may be flaking
But my smile still stays on
Queen, The Show Must Go On

Just as tragically appealing, right? Way to romanticize despair!

I mean, how heartbreaking to believe this as an obligation? That no matter what we may be feeling, we need to keep up appearances?

I think it’s damaging.

Now, I’m kind of an advocate of staying calm, no matter what happens. That’s my way of apprehending life. That said, it doesn’t mean negating what’s going on in order to maintain an illusion is the way to go.

It’s hard to be immune from it, that pressure.

Many will argue that in the era of social media, it’s the bombardment of curated images that creates that pressure.

I disagree. This predates social media.

We didn’t wake up a decade or so ago and suddenly realize we had to look good on the interwebz. This has been going on for a very, very long time. Keeping up with the Joneses—to name one manifestation among many— isn’t a new phenomenon.

I certainly went a very long time without ever showing the cracks. It was horrifyingly exhausting. In fact, I can partly credit the fact that I dropped the act by simple virtue of just being too tired—both psychically and physically—to keep it up.

It helped me realize that the imperative to perform instead of just being is ultimately a self-imposed sad one. Now that I think of all the energy we need to muster up in order to act on that “stage”, I can’t help but wonder what we could accomplish if we redirected that energy somewhere else.

My personal motto throughout this whole year (and probably beyond) is Think and act from a place of love, not from a place of fear.

Love embraces things as they are. Fear is really good at hiding behind clever disguises.

I like to repeat that authenticity begets authenticity. More than a catchy phrase, I think it just states a fact: when we are being truly authentic, when we are allowing ourselves to just be as we are, we are also sending out a very clear message to others that they too can drop all pretense.

It is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to
live an imitation of somebody else’s life with perfection.
The Bhagavad Gita

On the reverse, when we put on an act, we are—often unwittingly—promoting falseness. This acting is closely linked to perfectionism—we want to be seen a certain way, and we think ourselves too imperfect to do it without a mask.

By wearing this mask, we signal others to do the same. By repeatedly concealing our true selves, we rob truth of its value.

Furthermore, when we are constantly trying to project an image of what we “should” be—regardless if this concept is ours or (ugh!) someone else’s—we often forget to actually question if that identity is one we genuinely want, so wrapped up as we are in controlling others’ perceptions of us.

And that’s a vain pursuit. We can’t, in fact, control what others think. We never will. And we shouldn’t even try to.

So how about less fear, more love, and more authenticity?

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