There is a song by a band named Pedro the Lion called, “When They Really Get To Know You They Will Run.” Never once does he utter those words in the song, so when I finally noticed that it was the title, I did a double-take. Are you serious? I chuckled. The song is about the ridiculous standards that society places on women resulting in a distortion our self-image, written in a very tongue-in-cheek kind of way. Well written, David Bazan. But that’s for another post. What I do want to point out is how that song title speaks loudly to one of my core fears.
I like to fit in. I like to belong. I like to be liked. It seemed like while the rest of the world tried to find its unique place in the world, I was riding the wave of conformity like a professional surfer. I mean, I spent a bulk of my youth doing my best to blend in and not stand out at all. Then somewhere along the way, I started to see that I was different. And I’m starting to be okay with that. All these years, I denied myself and the world a unique person in all of her fullness… the good, the bad and the ugly.
As liberating as this experience has been, I forget all the time and I find myself trying really hard to be liked. I’ve noticed lately that I use humor as a way to appear a certain way. I’m not a particularly funny person. I grew up with humorous parents, but I didn’t really acquire that sense of humor. I’m not all that much into comedies and though I laugh often, for me, it’s not a necessary element to enjoying life. I admit, I do find funny people, well, funny. But I think I’ve noticed that people especially love and value those who are funny.
Funny people lighten up the mood in any given environment. Funny people can crack a joke at almost any situation and see the world in a different way than the rest of us. Funny people are enjoyable to spend time with and delightful to have in almost any gathering. Funny people are unique and can make us laugh to no end. And laughter sure feels good.
But I’m not a funny person. So why do I act like one sometimes? I’ve been thinking about it. Though I’m not sure if I figured it out comprehensively, I have some clues. I’ve made some headway in building authentic relationships this past year, but there is still a huge part of me that fears connection with another human being. I have a hard time being present with another person because there are millions of thoughts going through my mind, mostly something along the lines of, You have to say something interesting, otherwise she’ll lose interest in you and not want to get to know you. Or, Don’t let there be any awkward silences, or else he’ll think you’re boring and not pay attention to this conversation anymore. Yes. It’s hard to tell when I’m interacting with a person, but these are the types of thoughts I fight internally all the time. I’m afraid that if I say one thing wrong or not interesting enough or not funny enough, the other person will find me out and dismiss me. Basically, I’m afraid that when people really get to know me, they will run.
I’m pretty normal by the world’s standards. I don’t lead all that much of an exciting life, and the relatively exciting parts, I do pretty hesitantly and with clenched fists and iron-clad feet. (I can imagine some people saying ‘What about your music?’ But honestly, it’s not as exciting as it seems and it’s much more hard work than anything, and really, in the grand scheme of things, I’m just another musician in a sea of musicians in NYC.) I went to an average college and had decent grades. Until very recently I’ve done the 9 to 6, 7, 8 office thing and have been a pretty average citizen. I donate when I can and champion social justice causes when they come up. I’ve been basically living the American life and on track to a normal retirement. I have a pretty even-keeled temperament, I’m a good listener, loyal friend, and usually only speak up when I feel a strong urge to. All this to say, there isn’t much about me that anyone would really dislike. Similarly, there’s isn’t much about me that anyone would find all that interesting. So maybe I feel the need to make myself look a certain way so that people will like me. Maybe if I am able to say a funny thing here or there, I will be valued more.
I mean, honestly, who likes a boring person? It’s much more likeable to be fun, outgoing and adventurous. But maybe that’s not really who I am. Maybe I am just another person. Or maybe I just like serious conversations and movies and life and death, and that is just plainly who I am. And though I enjoy spending time with and value those who are fun, outgoing and adventurous, I can accept the fact that I’m not like that and be okay with it. Maybe even love myself for it. Maybe at that point, I can really be myself in my fullness – because this life is just too short to hold out. Because I think it’s much more liberating to live out of my true self; and it touches something deep within when others live out of their true selves. And at that point, I can say a funny thing because it was sincere and not just to disguise an awkward silence. Maybe then I can really love others in an authentic way, for who they really are.
Maybe I’m hoping that when we really get to know each other, we won’t run. We’ll embrace each other.