The gap: who we say we are vs. who we actually are

To a certain extent, we all have an idealized version of ourselves.

It could be something as small as:

Who we say we are: “I’m really ambitious! I’m spending 10 extra hours per week teaching myself a new programming language”

Who we actually are: (falls asleep with laptop on chest, streaming Netflix)

To something as big as:

Who we say we are: “I’m an open book! Honesty and transparency is what I value most”

Who we actually are: (gets caught in a series of not-so-white lies)

This is a difficult topic and admittedly, a difficult article to write.

I’m haunted by a recent experience in which someone I thought I knew quite well turned out to be a completely different person in terms of their character, values, morals and ethics – a classic Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde case.

For weeks, I reflected and more or less questioned my own sanity: “What did I miss?” and “How could I not see the red flags?” until I realized, I didn’t miss a thing. There were few warning signs, if any. In the wake of this unfortunate discovery, I can’t help but wonder, was this an intentional or accidental manipulation of the truth? Meaning, was this person aware of their Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde split identity, or was this an instance of a very well-intentioned person completely unaware of this nefarious alter ego?

I don’t know if I’ll ever know the answer to this question.

In thinking more broadly about the idea of do we intentionally or unintentionally dupe others about who we really are, I don’t think this phenomenon is unique. I believe most people wrestle with the gap between who we say we are vs. who we actually are.

Something I’ve come to question, regardless of whether we intentionally or unintentionally dupe someone about our identity, is what is our responsibility to lessen this gap between who we say we are vs. who we actually are? Because the hard truth is, this gap not only affects us as individuals, it affects everyone around us, especially the people closest to us.

What is your responsibility?

Closing the gap between who we say we are vs. who we actually are doesn’t come without effort: introspection and self-awareness doesn’t come about organically. You can’t buy it. You can’t rush it. No one else can do it for you. You have to do it yourself (and/or through the help of a trained professional). Whether you’ve been guilty of duping someone unintentionally or intentionally, it’s your responsibility to look inward, to take ownership and seek to understand the root cause of why the situation happened in an effort not to repeat the same mistake

Come clean: acknowledgement has power. Acknowledgement also takes humility and courage. To stand in front of the person you’ve hurt, look them in the eye, recognize the ways you’ve affected them and ask for forgiveness is no easy feat, but it will make all the difference in the world to that person

Open the feedback loop: aside from self-reflection and/or working with a trained professional, creating a feedback loop with trusted family members and friends is a great way to enhance your self-awareness. For example, if you question how others perceive your degree of empathy, just ask! Ask your closest confidants to give you honest feedback about how they perceive you. If you notice a pattern in the feedback, it’s probably something you need to consider working on!

Why this matters

Self-awareness and authenticity makes you a better human being

You’ll improve your relationships with other people: lessening the gap between who you say you are vs. who you actually are inevitably makes you a more authentic person. Trust and empathy, two critical components of any good relationship (familial, friend, romantic) are born of authenticity

What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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