Between our cat being diagnosed with stage 3 (of 4) kidney disease and my husband losing his job, it's been a stressful July. July is also my birth month which adds insult to injury because it's been the hardest month of this year - and possibly my adult life - when it should have been a light, fun month of celebrating.
My reality is skewed online and I'm fine with it.
The thing that sucks about going through really. hard. stuff. is that even when life is knocking the wind right out of you, you'll try almost anything to feel better. And in those small pockets of feeling better, you post a photo here, a status update there on social media and act as if you're not drowning. These platforms were designed as a means for connection and they allow us to put our best foot forward. Why wouldn't we?
But sometimes it's too hard to say nothing and you write vague blog posts that don't actually say anything. And hey, look at that. I actually feel a little bit better. The balance is, of course, how much to actually share. While I feel better, you may annoyed because you have no clue of all the hard things I'm referring to and I'm not actually sorry about that in the least.
I was born in the last generation that knew what life was like without the world wide web. So that means I value phone calls - even though I don't actually like talking on the phone - and I value face-to-face conversation. I'm not about to be honest with the hundreds of "friends" and followers I have because I don't want to give everyone a voice in this. I don't need everyone's opinions. Back in the day, if life sucked, I called my friends and talked to my family. I didn't broadcast things to my entire community.
So, with the reality of my life right now I'm happy to skew it on social media. If you don't know my actual reality, it's likely because I have no interest in knowing what you think. I still have only a very small inner circle of people that I trust. However, because I have committed so much time and energy into always being myself and presenting only what is real in an authentic way (both online and in real life) I'm willing to accept that I am giving off the perception that I am "fake".
I've known it for a long time, but I'm learning it a lot this month, over and over: Perception is reality.
Perception doesn't suck.
There is an immense amount of value when someone you love and/or respect is honest with you about how they perceive you, but only if you're ready to accept it - that's the key. I've always thought I am open to feedback, whether it's based on my performance at work or how I carry myself as an adult human being, but for years it has always felt like a struggle to get it. I'll hear of perceptions about me secondhand and wonder why I wasn't given the courtesy of being told to my face so I instantly devalue the perception because if they have a problem with me they should tell me directly. Pretty bitchy, right? And for someone who is cursed with literally remembering every word said to or about them, those perceptions tumble around in my head as if trapped in an endless dryer cycle. I often forget I can just power off the dryer and let it go.
Needless to say, I'm not as stellar as I thought I was at receiving feedback which is why no one has wanted to say anything to my face. So that feels reeeeeeeeeally good to recognize. (No it doesn't.)
In fact, a few weeks ago, I took an Insight quiz (I'm a sucker for personality-based assessments) and learned I'm high in internal self-awareness and low in external self-awareness. I wasn't surprised by it but I still took a mild offense to it and kind of laughed it off. Good to know, I thought, but I don't really need to give it any weight. Fast forward a month later (to July, to now) when I am served an American-sized serving of various perceptions from people I love and respect. I am stuffed to the point of aching and so I decided my offense to that quiz was another incredibly bitchy response. So I bought the book.
My Reality & Your Perception
I'm taking things to heart, and in the process I've willingly entered various hard conversations to apologize and ask for more feedback.
My reality is skewed online for self-preservation and to keep the noise at bay, and I'm probably not going to change that. I am as real as I can be with my posts on Instagram and Facebook - call it privacy and being smart - but it doesn't mean that if you only "know me" online and happen to meet me face-to-face you'll meet someone shockingly different. It just means that when you're face-to-face you're going to get an even clearer picture of my life than the one I'm sharing online because I value IRL relationships more.
How others perceive me is important to me because I want to be more self-aware; better at recognizing that what I do, what I say, what I write, and how I act can work for me, but it can also work against me. I don't want people I love and respect - people who want to see me succeed - holding back what they see in me that doesn't align with who they know I am. These people are not my enemy. It's not bad to care what others think, especially when they really just want you to be happy.