It seems to me, from casual observation, that many (perhaps most!) people feel intensely pressured to think, act, feel, and be a certain way, to fit a certain role or social expectation. We’re scared to truly be themselves because we’re afraid of what people might think or how people might respond, so we limit ourselves to the parts of ourselves that we think will be approved, and try to force the other parts down into hiding. And the pressures can come from all sides, making it even worse. For instance:
…a relatively reserved and morally conservative young adult may feel unable to admit his homosexual feelings for fear of disappointing his parents, whom he loves deeply, but after acknowledging them may find it equally hard to express his desire to stay celibate when the gay community that has given him encouragement and relief from his feeling of being isolated pushes promiscuity and sexual experimentation.
…a young mother, torn between wanting to maintain her career and to stay at home with her babies, may feel so overwhelmed by the “should’s” thrown at her (e.g., you should stay at work and contribute to the economy, to show your children that women don’t need to be tied to family and home! or on the other hand, you should stay at home because your children need your attention and time to develop to their fullest potential and why would you have kids anyways if you’re just going to pay someone else to raise them?) that she can’t even reach down to identify what choice would be most true to herself and her own unique personality and desires.
…a newlywed struggling with her marriage might feel social pressure to make everything look ok, while inwardly she’s drowning in confusion and sorrow, and try to bury the “inappropriate” feelings deep inside her so that no one will know and think less of her or be disappointed in her.
We see it in each other, adults all grown up in our inauthenticity, hiding the “unpleasant” and “uncomfortable” parts of ourselves in the deepest and farthest reaches of our hearts – which may be good for casual relationships and acquaintances, but isn’t sustainable in our closest, most intimate friendships. Our inauthenticity will smother our joy, wither our hope, and weaken our faith; it will poison our own hearts and sabotage our relationships with the people we love the most. It’s ironic and tragic, isn’t it? Our efforts to protect ourselves and the people we love from the “bad” things inside us just end up causing more pain and more isolation, and our fear – fear of rejection, fear of hurting the people we love, fear of letting down everyone who’s expecting something great from us – speaks its own self-fulfilling prophecy.
And what I’ve noticed is that it is typically the people we love the most, who mean the most to us, who create in us the strongest feelings of unworthiness and give rise to our wildest inauthenticities. We’re willing to sacrifice our very selves, who we are in the fullest sense of being, to keep them happy, because we love them so much – and most of the time (barring cases of abusive or psychopathic relationships here) it would devastate them to know that we were doing that. These people whose rejection and disappointment we fear (our parents, our friends, our spouses) typically love us just as much or more than we love them, and they want to see us live in fullness and joy. If only they knew – if only we could tell them! – that sometimes joy comes through suffering… that the sun can only rise after the night has spent its full course… that our “dark” and “bad” feelings need to be spoken before they can be healed.