I love quotes. I often search the internet for one that will inspire my next thought and subsequent blog or column. But sometimes a concept is so concrete that I can make the quote up in my head, and there is likely to be a famous quote that matches nearly verbatim. I would imagine that “If you have to tell people who you are, you probably aren’t who you think” is already a searchable quote, but for me it was just a loud and clear thought I had the other morning.
I read new web content by an author who had taken the time to think through who he was and state it neatly. The sentiment was charming and prophetic. A headstone of sorts for a life well intended. “Here lies Joe, he had every intention of being these things, but never did get around to it”. While I appreciated the concepts, it was not in fact who he was; it was a collection of goals for who he very much wants to be. Ironically, the author is someone in whom I see profound hope, but who does not much care for me, and one can hazard to guess that this will not help the cause. Oh well.
I have spent years telling the world exactly who I am, though there has been a paradigm shift in the last few years to just show it. Here is the problem with the latter model. What if who you present to be by your actions, is not the stellar overachiever you wish for the world to know? When my cousin Lisa and I were little, we dissected my brother’s Stretch Armstrong doll in the basement bathroom to see what was inside. Stretch Armstrong, for those of you who are under 40, was a hulk-like action figure with bulging muscles, but he was stretchable. Think drawn and quartered, but with an indestructible flair. This is why no woman in her 40’s can be wholly satisfied by a mate: we are all looking for the bulging hunk with a soft core that we can pull in four directions and have him remain strong and unscathed. We took a razor blade to Stretch and found gelatinous red glop inside. I recall there was a pregnant pause between the two of us, in which I admit being a bit disappointed by Stretch’s pathetic secret. He felt like a fraud to me, and made me appreciate my solid plastic Barbies.
This is, though, how many of us go through life. We are our actions, our deeds, and our hearts. We are infrequently, if ever, our words. I still sometimes tell people who I am, but now recognize that if I feel the need to tell you who I am, it is probably because I am trying to convince myself as well. Here is a litmus test: If what you are stating is overwhelmingly positive and enlightened, it is probably a clue that you are sharing your goals rather than your truth; otherwise you would allow it to show through your actions. Here is my truth: I am a person who flosses a few times a week but tells the dentist I do it regularly, who rarely makes my bed, who often licks the spoon while I’m mixing something and hopes the germs are killed in the baking process (Sabrina, can’t wait to see you for dinner Sunday.) , and who complains about every load of laundry I have to do, but then tears up at the thought that the day will come when I won’t have a million tiny undies in every load. Now that is who I am, who are you?