Theologian Eugene Peterson said that many of us go through life impersonating ourselves. He was highlighting the natural tendency we have to wear masks, to put forth an image of ourselves that isn't truthful in order to manipulate how people respond to us.
We wear masks to hide personality flaws or insecurities. Heck, I read other people's blogs and hear other people speak and think I'm not anywhere close to their level. It is that insecurity that often has me grabbing for the mask of being more intelligent or humorous than I really am. It's exhausting to maintain an image.
A friend of mine, McNair Wilson, a former Disney Imagineer, and, as he puts it a professional third grader, says in his creativity workshops that you must be you "actual size". That is, be no more or no less than what you truly are. So, how do you be you actual size? You must be vulnerable with two people.
You must be brutally honest with yourself
This entails confronting those aspects of yourself that make you brilliant as well as the dark sides that hinder you. You can't hold back or be afraid of what you might find when you let your guard down and confront the totality of who you are. How do you know the totality of who you are? The answer: only in relationships with others. They are mirrors and conduits for feedback on who you truly are. Good friends should move beyond being nice with one another toward an honesty that cares deeply for the growth of the other. We all need friends who love the truth more than they love us.
What have others been revealing about yourself over the years? What have those closest to you seen as your flaws? What drives them nuts? What wonderful things have been said about you over the span of your life? What qualities do they seek out in you?
Is there a personality pattern that emerges?
You must be completely vulnerable with others
There is a contemplative, intentional community in France whose mission is to be "fully vulnerable, and fully available". Sounds noble and appealing but by gosh, is that a hard thing to do! We are ladened with defense mechanisms to protect ourselves from being fully vulnerable and full of excuses to avoid the inconvenience of being fully available. To be completely transparent with others means you have an inner fortitude and a healthy enough ego that is able to share with others the most intimate characteristics of who you are; what you see is what you get. The ability to share our thoughts and emotions helps build security and safety into our relationships – and strengthen our esteem and ego in the process.
Now there is always the risk that people will take your vulnerability and abuse it or use it against you. Thus, you can't be vulnerable with everyone (be cautious on facebook) so stick with the friends in your life who know you best. They'll use it in ways that minister to your heart and your soul.
Try today to share one intimate reality of you who you are with a close friend or spouse and see what happens. I've found that nothing but good comes from it.