Charlie Scaturro argues the truth of ourselves is more complex than the simplistic, black and white expectations society places on us.
Many people in this world want you to be someone.
Chances are that person is not who you actually are.
Many people in this world want you to fit into a box that makes everyone else feel safe.
Chances are that box doesn’t fit you.
Many people in this world want you to confirm their suspicions about who they think you are.
Chances are their suspicions are way off.
Many people in this world don’t want you to be just anyone.
The person we’re supposed to be is based on how these people perceive us and who societal norms say we should be.
More specifically, the person we’re supposed to be is based on how we look, our race, our gender, our sexual orientation, where we’re from, who our parents are, and any number of other factors that don’t come anywhere close to defining the depth of who we actually are. And perhaps, above all, we’re supposed to be someone who doesn’t make anyone else feel uncomfortable or confused. We’re supposed to stick to the script and fit into the lowest common denominator of the person we’re supposed to be.
Often times, this person we’re supposed to be isn’t anything like who we actually are. This person we’re supposed to be is a caricature. This person we’re supposed to be is stereotypical. This person we’re supposed to be is way too simplistic. This person we’re supposed to be is only black and white; there’s no grey area allowed.
For a long time I’ve felt like I’m supposed to be someone I’m not. But this feeling isn’t coming from some neuroses that I’ve created in my own head. The idea that I’m supposed to be someone I’m not has its origins in what other people have revealed to me over the years. In fact, some of the most interesting conversations I’ve ever had are when people tell me the way I appear to them and the person they assumed I was.
- These conversations usually leave me feeling cheap.
- These conversations usually leave me feeling shallow.
- These conversations usually leave me feeling confused.
- These conversations usually leave me feeling like I’m stuck in a tiny box that could barely fit my body, let alone my mind.
I’ve encountered more instances where people have told me who they expected me to be than I can recall. But here are a few examples that I have managed to hold onto over the years:
- A brilliant work colleague at a former job once told me that everything seemed to come so easily for me and that I was the person at work who could glide through everything without much effort and still do a great job. Meanwhile, that job was so extraordinarily difficult for me that I had to work my ass off just to feel like I was keeping pace with everyone else
- An acquaintance in high school told me I should run for class president and that I would make a great leader. Meanwhile, I couldn’t think of a single thing I felt less prepared to do, and the idea of being a leader was so far from who I was at the time I didn’t even know how to respond
- In college, a friend of a friend from out of town came to visit and when I was introduced to him the first thing he said was, “oh yeah…I’ve heard about you! You’re the guy who’s slept around with a ton of girls, right? You’re legendary!” (It was a case of mistaken identity, and he later admitted he thought that because of the way I looked). Meanwhile, that gruff synopsis couldn’t have been any further from the person I am.
- A former girlfriend once admitted that when she first met me she thought I was a dumb jock and had almost written me off completely before even talking to me. Conversely, one of the things that ended up attracting her to me was my intelligence
Though these assumptions were baseless, they still mean something. Though perception may not be fact, the way we’re perceived by other people, and the world at large, does mean something. In fact, it can mean a lot.
For most of my life, I’ve felt like I’m constantly dragging the person I’m supposed to be around with me. It’s not that I’m fighting against being this person, or in danger of becoming this person, but this caricature is with me wherever I go.
It’s a strange feeling to have another person tell you they expected you to do something, be something, or behave in a certain way that is nothing like who you know yourself to be. More than anything else, it’s strange because you’re getting a window into what other people think about you and the way the world perceives you. This perspective can be so alien from the way you see yourself that it defies logic.
In the examples above, people assumed I was a certain way, but who these people thought I was didn’t look anything like who I know myself to be.
The funny thing is, even if we think a person has some kind of moral character defect or that they are simply a bad person, it seems the majority of people would rather be correct about that assumption than have to deal with the confusion of this person being nothing like what they thought.
In these situations, it can be difficult to tell people or show people that we’re not who we’re supposed to be. Because to do that we have to disappoint these people in some weird way.
Though people may be disappointed or somehow even feel misled, not being who you’re supposed to be is one of the greatest things in the world.
If everyone was who they were supposed to be, the world would be a very uninteresting place. If everyone was who they were supposed to be, I think many more people in this world would be unhappy.
Though it may be difficult, it really is okay to be different. In fact, it’s better than okay. It’s necessary.
Of course, it would be easier for many other people if we were who we’re supposed to be. It would be easier for the world to accept us if we read the script word for word and did not deviate. It would be easier if there were no surprises. It would be easier if everyone fit neatly into his or her assigned box.
It would be easier for everyone, except the person who knows they aren’t who they’re supposed to be.
Unedited Photo: Flickr/Georgie Pauwels