We judge ourselves on the inside by what others project on the outside. And that can be devastating for our self-esteem.
What’s more, what a lot of us are putting out on the outside is bravado and PR. What we’re putting out to the world hides the huge and painful struggle it takes to even approach who we’d like to be.
These issues are what this true-life story is all about, and there’s something here for everyone. It could even change your life.
There are two women in this story, and for privacy’s sake I’m going to have to keep identifying details to a minimum. Jessica’s a businesswoman and a social activist, particularly in helping women. Connie’s a professional woman, leading a quieter life, also devoted to helping women and other people in her community. They’re both involved in a non-profit working to give girls greater opportunities. And they’re friends and close neighbors.
Now Jessica has a great front. She fiercely proclaims how the days are long gone, LONG gone, since she’s worried about what others think of her. She’s not living to be liked. She’s living to make things happen. Moving and shaking, particularly shaking things up.
Connie’s much more low key, and her life now is less intense.
At one point, knowing how busy Jessica is, Connie sends Jessica a brief text merely asking if, in the organization for helping girls they’re involved with, they should address a certain social issue that’s been in the news a lot.
Now Jessica could have replied along the lines of, “Yeah, glad you brought this up. Let’s talk about this soon.” Or, “When do you want to meet to talk about this?” Or, “Can we put off talking about this for a couple of weeks? I have too much on my plate now.”
The Jessica that Jessica had presented herself as being would have responded like that. By not allowing herself to feel pressured by Connie’s text, which wasn’t phrased in a pressuring way in the first place.
But no. Jessica got her ass in gear and immediately made certain changes in the program in the girls’ organization. As if Connie’d been pressuring her. And then Jessica started acting a bit resentful towards Connie’s non-existent pressure.
So. Ah hah! It turns out that Jessica’s not as much the captain of her ship, the master of her destiny as she’d been proclaiming! On the contrary. One puff of wind is all it took to blow her off course.
From Connie’s point of view, she felt had. She’d trusted Jessica’s PR as someone who could take care of herself, but she didn’t AND blamed Connie for it. Rather than being a role model as a strong woman, Jessica was secretly fragile and now had to be handled MORE with kid gloves than her openly fragile friends.
Plus Connie felt very silly for all the times she’d compared her weak, people-pleasing self to Jessica’s stand-up-to-everyone self. At great cost to her own self-esteem.
But this opens a huge window into Jessica. It would be so wrong to think of her as a hypocrite. No. She’s like all of us. She knows who she wants to be, HOW she wants to be. And God knows the mighty struggle she makes to approach her own standard.
But Jessica knows—dimly or in very harsh inner light—how often she fails to live up to her standard. And so...what can she do? Her best. So what we see as her PR is for Jessica her cheering herself on. Cheering on a team not that wins every time but one that—as only Jessica knows—wins far less often than Jessica would like.
So we need to remember, when we look at the brash, take-charge, seemingly successful Jessica’s of our worlds, that what we’re seeing the front of is an inner struggle that’s as mighty, if not mightier, than the front they project.
And calmer, quieter Connie? Sweet and smiling? A seeming haven of having it all together?
Later Connie shared with Jessica a deep and painful struggle she’d been going through for years and years. Jessica dropped the ball. Based on Connie’s surface, she missed what a big deal this was for Connie.
Connie went home devasted at how her friend had let her down.
An hour later, there was a knock on the door. There was Jessica. “I’m so sorry, Connie. Can I give you a hug?”
And their outsides melted away.