Is Holding Back Holding You Back?

Do we show who we are to the world or do we show the world who we wish to be? In the act of showing the world who we truly are, do we then become who we were always meant to be?

Who are you? Really? How often do you hear this question and secretly roll your eyes? Here we go again, you think. Are we now going to sit down, cross our legs as I close my rolling eyes and hum out a mantra? Oh joy, you tell yourselves, sarcastically.

Fraudulent Paradox

"The more we try to not feel like a fraud, the more we feel like one."

Let me ask a different question. What do you do? For me, this is more of a tangible way to understand myself on a deeper level. Let me give you an example. The other day, in a Facebook forum, the author of the page wrote about the Fraudulent Paradox, an inspired concept by David Foster Wallace that suggests that the more we try to not feel like a fraud, the more we feel like one. Now, this concept assumes you feel like a fraud. Do you? Could you? If so, keep reading.

The forum author continued sharing that there is a secondary paradox, which proposes that even when we realize we are acting a fraud, when we realize what is happening, we can’t stop it. No choice? I don’t buy it. But wait, there is more. Keep reading.

What caught my attention was not what the author shared initially but how he interpreted the paradox, internalized it and how it landed for him. What he did next was powerful. He shared how he feels like a fraud in his life. He shared how his life has been about impressing others, how insidious the likes on Facebook are because he cares so much about them, how he wants everyone to like him, even if he doesn’t like them in return, how he hides behind a smile, like a mask, how he plays like he’s part of the in-crowd, even though he doesn’t feel he is and instead, can feel lonely in the pack, and how he’d rather help others than let anyone help him.

Where Am I Fraudulent?

How often have we felt one way and acted another? How often have we done this to gain acceptance, to avoid judgement, to feel a certain way? What are we creating when we do this? What is happening the more we do this? Because we fake it, do we make it a reality? In acting a fraud do we then become the fraud?

When I read how the author views himself a fraud, I started thinking. How am I a fraud in my life. Possibly, you were thinking the same as you read how he views himself asking, “Where am I being fraudulent?” The author suggested that breaking free from your fraudulent self is to call yourself out - like he did or like Eminem did during the final rap battle of 8 Mile, taking back any power his adversary had over him. He stood proudly and said, “This is my story, whatcha gonna do?”

So, here I go. I’m calling myself out and sharing who I feel I am even though I may show the world someone else. To step into the arena without a shield is to make yourself more vulnerable but then, as you shed what you believe protects you, you shed what weighs you down, enabling you to move freely. Let's hope this doesn't hurt, too much.

Calling Myself Out

"I share my messages because I am the one who needs them the most."

I know for me, like the author, something you may be able to relate to is, I want to be liked by others. I will fill the void of a conversation because I don’t like silence. I will agree with someone, even though I don’t and tell myself it is because I don’t want to make them uncomfortable when really, I don’t want them to not like me. Being disliked is the discomfort I am avoiding. I try too hard when I want something. If I admire you, I want to be your friend and find myself stumbling like Patrick Dempsey in the 1987 version, ‘Can’t buy me love,’ feeling the outcast and wishing I could secretly pay for your attention. In wanting to be your friend I act the fool online as I post and hope you notice, while liking and loving everything you share just to get you to see me. It is like the people who do see me aren’t enough - when, if I stop to think about it, they really are.

I get angry when I expect something to happen and it doesn’t. I also have a strong temper. I do. I have had people react with surprise when I’ve told them because they see me as someone who is so patient when I work with others. Yet, in private, I am impatient with myself, my kids, and even the dog. My expectations get the better of me and I let out the person I see myself to be, not the person I show to the world. I feel like a failing parent even though I’m told regularly I am a model of what a parent should be. I don’t feel smart even though I’ve been described as intelligent. If someone questions my intelligence I want to fight to prove them wrong. I want my father to be proud of me and even though he tells me he is, I secretly feel I am not measuring up.

I post online and want others to like what I write and I look too often to see if I have any of those insidious likes of my own. I care if someone writes a compliment about my posts, my parenting, or just about me so that I can, for that moment, feel what I wish to feel all the time. But I don't respond to the compliment because I don't want to seem arrogant. I am really hard on myself. I don’t feel successful. In fact, I deleted my personal Facebook page because it was a stealer of my time, and then realized how much I disliked seeing other entrepreneurs succeed because it reminded me of how I lack that feeling in my life. I love the spotlight because I like the attention and will sometimes pull myself back a little because I don’t want others to know. I feel lazy even though others have told me how busy I am. I think often about the difference between busy and productive and feel that I am standing still in life. Everything I teach, write about, share are things that I don’t feel I do enough personally to justify teaching them…but then, that is why I teach them. I share my message because I feel I am the one who needs it the most.

It's Just a Story

""That's the moment you may be starting to get it right." ~Neil Gaiman"

I want to thank the author who shared the concept of the Fraudulent Paradox. He is someone I admire. His post provided an opportunity for me to reflect on what I do and how I project myself to protect myself. How I act in certain contexts to gain what I don’t really need. But also, how in calling myself out has provided insight that just thinking and feeling internally could not provide.

In writing out what I do, I gained a new perspective. How I view myself is not necessarily who I truly am because what I’ve written above is still just a story. Nevertheless, being aware of who I believe myself to be, I take back the pen from whoever or whatever is authoring my life. In doing so, I am able to move freely to edit what has been written. I begin to write the next chapter. I realize in what I have written above, although possibly not 100% accurate, I'm beginning to get it right.

I love this quote: "The moment that you feel, just possibly, you're walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exist on the inside, showing too much of yourself. That's the moment you may be starting to get it right." ~Neil Gaiman

I invite you to call yourself out in the comments. To shed your armour and walk freely - to become aware that the words that have been authored are but a story encased in a book you are holding. Close it if you wish or take up the pen and get to work. As you read the words in your story, look at them as starting points, edit if you wish, then set your course. This is not the end but the beginning of your journey to who you truly are and for me, this is an adventure I am excited to be taking with you.

~ Love Robert

Photo by Rachel Coyne


I'm Robert

I am a father, a husband, a coach, an educator, and a life-long martial artist. I have inspired and motivated people throughout my life and, at times, I didn't even know it, until they told me. These are my stories, my thoughts, and my beliefs and I want to share them with you, my fellow traveler. 

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