In this excerpt from Dare to Connect, Susan describes the fear that all of us feel when we put ourselves out in the world, wishing and hoping that others will like us.
Metaphorically, we all wear an “I want you to like me” sticker on our foreheads. Whether we are conscious of it or not (and most of us are not), much of our behavior—good and bad—is simply part of an “act” that we developed as children in the hope that it would earn us much needed attention and/or approval. Our “act” probably underwent some modification as the years went by, but the reason for the “act” always remained the same—we want to be liked. In fact,
We need to be liked.
John Powell presents us with a very poignant answer to the question “Why am I afraid to tell you who I really am?”
I am afraid to tell you who I am, because, if I tell you who I am, you may not like who I am, and it’s all that I have.
A good clue as to why connection is so difficult! Implicit in this answer are the following truths we consciously or unconsciously hold about ourselves:
I want you to like me. But I don’t like me. If you really knew me you wouldn’t like me either. Therefore, I’ll pretend to be different than I really am.
And to make matters worse, the person with whom we are playing this sad little deception is consciously or unconsciously saying to himself or herself,
I want you to like me. But I don’t like me, and if you really knew me you wouldn’t like me either. So, I’ll pretend to be different than I really am.
And what we are left with are two people trying to connect, wanting to connect, yearning to connect, but who have no way of penetrating each other’s masks. It doesn’t matter whether these two people are sisters, brothers, parents, children, friends, co-workers, lovers, mates, “strangers” in the street or some combination of the above.
Consciously or unconsciously, we believe that no one could love us as we truly are. Eventually, we lose all sense of who we really are and our “act” becomes our identity. What is left is a fearful robot who has long ago forgotten the answer to the question, “Who am I?”
When we are lost to ourselves, how can we possibly connect meaningfully with someone else?
This alienating pattern changes only when we begin the process of re-conditioning ourselves to feel the enormous power and beauty that we truly possess!