2. What would motivate us to twist ourselves into a pretzel to belong?
3. What, if anything, can we do to connect with others without having to compromise ourselves in the process?
Our brains are literally hard-wired for social connection so it should come as no surprise that the desire to fit in is a powerful drive that can lead us to seek out people who may not necessarily reflect who we are but who are willing to provide us with a sense of community that we are lacking.
People-pleasing doesn’t work. Turning into a chameleon doesn’t work. Keeping parts of ourselves hidden away doesn’t work. The only remedy to our condition of loneliness and isolation is to genuinely show-up as authentically as possible. But herein lays the rub. What if we do show-up and people reject us? The fear of rejection, and the isolation that inevitably follows, is what motivates us to try strategies other than authenticity in the first place. Of course as we have also discovered, our solution is itself a problem because even when we are accepted for the mask we are projecting we still can’t truly take in the acceptance we are offered because we know that what others are approving of is an illusion. So even when we succeed we are still as isolated as we were in the first place.
Being authentic carries the risk of being rejected by others who don’t accept us as we are. Wearing a mast ensures we remain isolated even when we are invited to join the group because the person they are inviting isn’t real.
Ultimately the lessor of the risks is choosing to be authentic because while the number of people who may be willing to accept us is smaller at least we have the comfort of knowing that those who do accept us accept us for the person we are rather than some fictional person we are pretending to be so whatever acceptance we receive can be received wholly and to the core of our being.
Attempting to get others to like and accept us is a natural desire and we need to be very compassionate with ourselves when we realize the full extent of how we have modified ourselves in order to secure the approval of others. Our primary motivation isn’t to be intentionally deceptive; our motivation is to experience social connection. It is just that the strategy our ego has come up with to accomplish this fundamental human yearning is incapable of achieving its intended purpose.
Regardless of the number of people who like our mask, we know we’re wearing a mask. Once we accept that the only way to truly experience genuine connection is by being authentic then no alternative, however reasonable or logical it sounds in our head, is open to us.
We all carry scars and we all carry secrets that we would rather not display to the world, yet if all of us are in the same boat perhaps through our courage to live more authentically we reduce the risk that others feel about also living more authentically.
Find someone you trust, someone who won’t judge you, or try to “fix” you; someone who is coming from a loving space and share your secrets with them. Once you have the experience of surviving this ordeal your confidence will grow and you will begin to emerge from the veil of secrecy that has held you prisoner, and kept you isolated for far too long. Take a chance. What have you actually got to lose other than the isolation you already have?