A few months back, I was trying to help a loved one through a rough day, and fumbling for some words that felt important for both of us to hear.
"You see, the thing is," I ventured, finding the words as I went along, "because our brains are wired differently, we don't really naturally speak the same sort of language as most people. The way we naturally express ourselves seems unnatural to others, so when we're struggling to find the words to convey our authentic truth, it can often sound fake to other people. Either overblown, exaggerated and histrionic, or forced, hollow and insincere. So right in the middle of that vulnerable, exposed moment, we can end up getting backlash from people who don't really speak the same language as us, because it looks to them like we're making a clumsy attempt to deceive them somehow.
"And a lot of the time, what we're doing is trying to find a way to put our truth into words they can understand. Trying to speak their language, as best we can, as best we understand it. But intrinsically, neurologically, we're just not wired to speak their language, so it comes across as unnatural, because for us, it is unnatural. And that's what people pick up on, and it triggers something in their heads that makes them think we're lying. And they get offended, and we get hurt and traumatized by their reaction, and, well ... it all becomes a big mess.
"Because the thing is, when you're just wired differently, like you and I are, we can't simply tell our truth to others directly ... we have to perform our truth. And in this cynical day and age, people see that we're performing, and they assume it means we're lying. But we're not. We're just trying to communicate, fumbling through it as best we can, the only way we know how.
"So when you feel like everyone thinks you're fake, or insincere, or lying, I want you to trust that you are being true to yourself, okay? You're doing your best, and you're speaking your truth ... you just don't speak the same language as them, which is why you have to perform your truth. So when it feels like people are trying to tell you that you're lying and fake, I want you to know that they're wrong about that, okay? They just don't understand, because they don't have the frame of reference to get it. Just know that I hear you, and I get it, and I understand, okay?"
That message has stuck with me. So often, in my desperate attempts to tell my story and be heard and explain the stuff that people wouldn't see, wouldn't know to look for, unless I pointed it out, I end up trying too hard, and looking like a buffoon and a charlatan, and falling flat on my face. Or at least that's what my anxieties tell me I look like to others. An attention-seeking glory-hound trying to leverage controversial headline issues for my own personal gain, going for shock value in an attempt to garner fame and notoriety.
Well, okay. How much truth is in that assessment? I am trying to "perform." I am trying to attract attention ... to ideas and issues and perspectives that I think need attention. To stuff that I think people aren't paying enough attention to. And if one of those things that I feel like people aren't paying enough attention to is me, well ... okay. Maybe that can be okay. Maybe that has some validity.
I often get uncomfortable in large groups of people. In a crowd, at a party, conversations swirling around me ... I can't process what's going on, can't make sense of all the auditory and visual input, and my understanding of my social surroundings slows to a crawl. But put me on a stage, in front of a similarly large group of people ... put me in the spotlight ... and I can perform. I can display. I can focus on that single process, a more coherent and unified input/output stream. And I can enjoy that kind of attention. I can show off. I can feel important and valued and seen and heard.
Maybe that's okay. If that's the one way I've found to be comfortable in a larger group, and I can learn to operate in that mode with enough skill and poise and provide enough entertainment value to my audience, then maybe I can accept that about myself. Maybe I can go with that. Maybe I can use that, use the joy I feel from being in the spotlight to motivate me, as I use the spotlight itself to draw attention to the issues and topics and ideas that I think are really important. Those little quirks of my own unique perspective on the world that will go unseen and unknown in the wider world unless I speak up, because I'm the only one who sees the world from this particular, exact angle.
That doesn't mean that my perspective is more important or more worthy of attention than anyone else's. It just means that it's as important and worthy of attention as anyone else's. And if my performance style of my particular brand of truth-telling makes it seem like I'm being more self-important than that ... well, okay. I'll try to have fun with it, and model that part of my self-expression after Stephen Colbert's example, and simultaneously leverage and poke fun at our modern attention-seeking celebrity culture. I can play the clown and make fun of myself. I can use my nature, and the nature of our modern reality-show culture, to perform the truth, and get it out there, spread the word.
So, I'm an incorrigible show-off. It seems to work okay for me, when I can let myself accept and enjoy that part of myself. And it seems to work okay for society at large, and for getting messages into the public dialogue, in this day and age. So this could be an okay thing, or maybe even a positively good thing.
And I can have fun with it. Score!