Who We Are vs. Who They Think We Are

I’ve been myself for 24 and a bit years. After all that time, those decades (oh my gosh, I’m old), I think it’s safe to say that I know me pretty well. Better than anyone, actually. After all, I have to live inside my own head all day, every day. And yet despite this, I often have people trying to tell me that I’m not who I tell them I am.

There seems to be a string of people this week telling me who I am. Or at least, who they think I am. Friends, family, my boss, and that one security guard at work who seems to get a kind of strange joy out of describing my personality and its characteristics, as he thinks they are. I’ll be honest, usually I just smile and nod, and let them think what they want to think. It’s easier than arguing with them, and they wouldn’t budge from their opinions in any case. But lately, I have to admit that it’s kind of been getting to me a little bit. To constantly have people telling you that they know you better than you, it gets…well, frustratingly tiresome.

Whilst it is true that an opinion cannot necessarily be wrong, these people seem to think that their opinions about me negate the truth about who I actually am. It started with a conversation I had with my dad the other day. I made a joke about being alone forever, which was the beginning of a conversation that culminated in him telling me that he believes I am going to end up with a man. Now, my sexuality as it stands is that I am almost exclusively attracted to women but I am not ruling out the (somewhat faint) possibility that the love of my life might just happen to be a man. I can’t predict the future, and so I cannot say 100% that I will never date a guy. I can’t even say, with full certainty that my dad is wrong. But there was something about the way he said it, and the knowing little smile he had that made me feel the need to reiterate that my attraction to women is not a phase. He conceded to that, but that smile stayed where it was, and I felt somewhat put out by the conversation.

I’ve written about this before, but people have a funny way of projecting their ideas of you, rather than seeing the real you. They will form an idea of you in their heads, and then refuse to acknowledge the blatant truth you put in front of them. Or worse, get angry at you and act like you deceived them when the rose coloured glasses fall away. Like my boss, lovely though he is, who thinks that I’m gentle and lovely, and that my snap quick anger is just a facade. Or the guy a few years ago who told me I was a lot colder in person, because he couldn’t reconcile with the fact that I’m not very good at opening up and sharing, and that I didn’t reciprocate his feelings towards me. When you don’t fit the mould of who people want you to be, they will shape you in their minds, until you appear to them as they imagine you are.

I have never tried to live up to the expectations of me that other people often have. I am always open and honest about exactly who I am, which has a lot to do with why I tend to make a bad first impression. People don’t want to see the “ugly” parts of you. If you show negative emotion, or declare that you don’t like cats, or tell someone that you like to be alone and that the notion of spending time with other people makes you weary and irritable, chances are they will either assume you’re lying, ignore you entirely, or simply decide that you’re not worth their time. Frankly, I’m ok with the last one. If I’m not your kind of person, you’re probably not mine either, and we will both be better off not knowing one another. No harm done.

I believe the best way to get to know a person is to take them at face value, and then wait and see if the mask falls away and reveals the real person underneath, or if they were telling the truth straight away. Don’t try and relate to every aspect of a person, just for the sake of having something in common. Don’t try and change who you are to suit the idea of another person. You are you, just as I am me. And I promise you, we know ourselves better than anyone.

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