“You're not who I thought you were.”
Do those words sound familiar? Or some variation on them?
Whenever I hear that phrase, especially when it's directed at me, I either feel a swell of happiness or shame. Someone sees me in a new light. Oh shit.
Then there are those times I think it/say it about someone else. “Well, I certainly didn't expect that from you.” In my own mind, they've done something unexpected, something that didn't quite fit with my image of them. This happens to us regularly, in small or large ways. A sign that someone didn't have the perfect life you thought they did. Your partner cheats on you. It varies, you know?
Sometimes our masks hide and protect us from being open and vulnerable with others, so they experience us in a limited, controlled way. But whether someone is authentic and vulnerable in a moment with you, or not, are you seeing them as a whole human being, or your assumption of their being?
When I was a young teenager, I occasionally was told I was a snob, or stuck up; once even by an adult. Not that I SEEMED like one to them. That I WAS one. In reality? I was shy. Sensitive, and shy. I loved people, even if I felt overwhelmed by them sometimes. So those words cut deep.
We are wielding a huge weapon when we make “You are” statements. They build people up, or they can cut us down if we let them. Unless scientists figure out ways to climb inside the mind and soul of another person, chances are we don't know the whole story.
The responsibility falls on both parties. If I paint the picture of what I want people to see of me, then they're probably just going to see what I allow them to unless they're really paying attention. You can often fool the world, but it's much harder to keep fooling ourselves.
We offer ourselves to others like a puzzle. Sometimes offering a mostly complete picture with a few pieces missing, or slowly handing out piece after individual piece, or other times deliberately handing out a few pieces upside down and withholding others There is nothing inherently better or worse about any of these methods, but are we aware of what we choose to hide of ourselves? And why?
On the other side, can we be mindful of where our judgments of others come from? “You're not who I thought you were” is not a statement of their character, it's a statement of mine. They didn't change. My assumptions just suddenly weren't valid anymore. What I really mean is: “I now see more of your being, and I experience you differently because of it.” For better or for worse. And that is the sacred dance of human interaction. Gradually, we expose ourselves to the world whether we intend to or not, meeting each other face to face as mirrors. How I choose to see you reflects what I am willing and not willing to see and appreciate about you, and even myself.
The more we accept all aspects of who WE are, the more vulnerable we can be with others and the more we can accept all aspects of others. It's not going to be perfect. Honestly, I don't think it's meant to be perfect. Otherwise it wouldn't be a dance. But those of us who come to our yoga mats, or engage any other self-reflective practice, are craving some deeper connection. With ourselves, with others, with Whatever.
When we DO offer someone a piece of our true puzzle, it is out of trust. What will you do with those pieces?