I can’t count the number of people I meet who can’t be honest with their spouses, friends, colleagues, and family members because of fear. They fear conflict, rejection, and disapproval and are terrified of losing their relationship if they really let someone know what they want, think or feel.
We all struggle with hiding our true selves from others. We pretend something doesn’t matter to us when it does matter. We do something we really don’t want to just to avoid conflict. We act happy when we’re hurting. We say something doesn’t bother us when our blood is boiling. We pretend we’re not as smart or talented or as resourceful as we are so we don’t threaten a person’s ego.
We act as if we’re more spiritual than we are so others will like us or look up to us. We get so good at faking it that we forget who we are and what we’re passionate about.
Instead, we morph ourselves into whatever we think others want us to be just so they will like us or want to be with us. In the process, we forfeit the joy of being known and accepted for who we are. We smile on the outside and begin to shrivel up on the inside. We become pleasers, pretenders, and peacekeepers, often feeling stressed out, burned out, and emptied out. This leads to isolation, loneliness, discontent, and depression. Not only that, when we live for the love and approval of others, we lose out on becoming the person God designed us to be.
If you recognize that you’ve been hiding behind a mask and want to break free, here are three things you must do.
1. Get honest with yourself. Part of the reason you can’t honestly share yourself with others is that you’ve been hiding even from yourself. You don’t know who you are, what you feel, what breaks your heart, or what thrills your soul. You’ve been so busy being whatever you think other people want you to be or just being too busy, you’ve lost you.
2. Place your identity and security fully in God’s love and acceptance of you rather than people. When we know (really know) that God has our back and that we’re deeply loved and fully known, people aren’t that scary. That doesn’t mean we don’t need people to value and love us, but we are free to be ourselves with them.
3. Learn to tolerate the unpleasant feelings that come when we disappoint someone or there is conflict. It happens to all of us, but when we can tolerate them without caving into them, they eventually go away.
When we stop pretending and start to speak honestly about who we are or what we can or can’t do or what we want in our relationships, we always feel awkward and uncomfortable because we’re not used to being real or disappointing people.
Don’t let those feelings stop you from making the changes to get honest. Most people feel a little foolish when trying new things. In order to stop hiding, you have to learn to speak the truth in love so that there is an opportunity for you to be known and for mutual caring and understanding to be expressed.
Some of you may realize that your relationships are very lopsided. Perhaps you’re afraid that if you stop pretending that you like this arrangement, the taker in the relationship won’t hang around.
You may be right. On the other hand, your honest talk might also be just the impetus he or she needs to change and start learning how to give back and think of someone else for a change. That would be good for him (or her), good for you, and good for your relationship.
The writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us of the blessings of healthy relationships.
If one falls down, his friend can help him up.
But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?