The Road to Real

Dec 3, 2008

I’m a performer.

An epiphany from a conversation with a friend yesterday. Let me explain.

For most of my life I’ve made a career out of figuring out what people want from me, what pieces of me will make them happy, and giving it to them. Some would call this “acting.” Maybe. But actors act for the love of their art (at least those who are purists). I perform because I can’t stand the thought of disappointing anyone.

As if.

The thought makes me want to puke. And curl up in a ball and sleep for days with all the blinds pulled. I spent much of my teens and 20’s trying to be a good daughter, a good church girl, a good wife, a good student, a good friend, a good employee, a good … Trying, trying, trying. Though I usually accomplished what I put my mind to, I was ridiculously out of my league here.

My journey down the road of living real and authentic began the moment I realized the years of trying to become what I thought others wanted eclipsed the person I could’ve been. I’m still unraveling what “being real” means. I hear the phrase thrown around, but I’m not sure how many people are being real about being real. And though I know it’s a worthy pursuit, I also realize it comes with a heckuvalotuv responsibility. I’ll post more about that later. For now, here’s what I know:

  • Most people are sick and tired of any person or relationship or organization that seems plastic.
  • Most people will say they want the real you
  • Most of those, however, don’t know what do to with the real you. They’re too conflicted about how far they’re willing to take their own authenticity.

Ah, the rub. We want authenticity, but don’t know what to do with it. It makes us uncomfortable. We’re scared spitless to lower our own arms and bare our souls. Seldom do we expose our truest selves to those who have theirs safely covered up. If we do, we second guess and panic and retreat. And when someone else dares to drop the safety net…well, we second guess and panic and retreat.

When will we grow tired of the performance? When will we grow tired of performing?

And who’s gonna be the first to be real?


  1. Kay Day

    wow Michele. this is so me.
    and when I try to be real, I wonder if I am just stuck again in Trying. Am I just being “good” at being real?
    I am right there with you. So tired of striving. So tired of being good for all the wrong reasons. Trying to figure out how to just sit still and let God work this out in me. let Him make me real

  2. alece

    this was so good.

    and if ind myself right in that boat with you. i want it, but don’t even know what that means or what it should really look like.

  3. Megan DiMaria

    I guess we all worry about how we’re portraying ourselves to the world.

    I wonder how to “be” what others want because I don’t really know how to do that. I am what I am, and I am what you see.

    A few years ago, I went on a job interview where I was given a battery of tests. The man who conducted the tests showed me the results on a subsequent interview. He said he’d never shared results with candidates but he’s never seen anything like mine. One result illustrated the kind of person I really am, and the other test illustrated the kind of person I project to the world. “Look at this,” he said. And then he placed the papers one on top of the other and held it up to the light.

    The results were the same. The true me and the me I show the world are the same.

    I wonder what that means?

  4. Joanna Demers

    I am exactly the same way. I discovered a few years ago that I had become what others around me wanted me to be, not what God wanted me to be. I’ve been searching since then to find my true self. It’s a lesson I’m going to pass on to my children. Hopefully, they won’t struggle with it like I have.

  5. Jan Parrish

    “Most of those, however, don’t know what do to with the real you. They’re too conflicted about how far they’re willing to take their own authenticity.”

    This is true. But you are not authentic to please them, you are authentic to please God and remain at peace. Therefore, those who can’t handle it probably shouldn’t be your friends and those in your family who have a hard time with it will eventually come to accept the real you.

  6. Lewie Schultz

    Of all people who have demonstrated a willingness to confront the duplicities of life in Christ, its you, Michele. There is joy in my journey, also filled with VERY REAL life circumstances that have me living in that whole other paradigm you talked about. I had so few qualified “failures” in my early life, I found myself trying to discover the authentic man God created me to be. I developed skills that caused many to respect and follow me, all the while becoming a quintessential people pleaser. “The fear of man is a snare… (Prov. 29) and I have lived most of my life trapped in the pursuit of the praise of man. Thanks for pointing out that the “jails” I have lived in and especially the one I currently reside in, some of my own making, some born of the depravities of well meaning Christian people who chose to believe and broadcast evils about me that were unfounded, are very much a fair description of the realities of life in Christ.

  7. Michele

    Lewie: YES! “The fear of man is a snare…” I, too, have discovered that to be true, and still battle it fiercely (though I’d like to think/hope I’ve grown and matured at least a little bit???). Ahhhhh…sweet grace. It’s the only rescue. Thanks, Lewie. I love your heart.

  8. Photoqueen

    Wow – such truth in that post. And such a familiar struggle.

    I once had a professor comment about a presentation I gave that it seemed as if I were wearing a mask. She said that as long as I had my mask on, my speaking skills were great and my confidence was evident. But when I allowed the mask to slip – even just a little bit – I stumbled.

    I wasn’t even sure how to react – other than to agree – because not only is that observation so true about my public speaking, but about my personality and spiritual struggles in general.

  9. Michele

    I’m right with ya, Photoqueen. My confidence lowers as my mask does. Wouldn’t it be something if security and authenticity went hand in hand? That one’s still a work in progress…Thanks for the insight. Powerful.



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