In his play, As You Like It, the intuitive William Shakespeare famously wrote,
"All the world's a stage,
and all the men and women
They have their exits and entrances;
one man, in his time, plays many parts..."
While certainly not the literal reality, there is some truth to his oft-quoted words. Although most of us will never own a multi-million dollar mansion in Beverly Hills or audition for a role in a movie, we each have the potential to be an actor or actress, and we can often play the part very well. We as humans feel this need to put on a certain image that will make people view us the way we want to be viewed. We all desire for others to believe certain things about us (whether they are true or not) because "it's the impression that matters." It is so easy to cover up the real truth about ourselves. By our actions, we can become very good at deceiving those around us into perceiving us as one thing even though that may not be the real us. Quite often, we become so proficient at this acting that we start to believe the image we're projecting, all the while covering up the real longings of our inner soul. In a sense, we create our own Hollywood. Only when stripped away, do we realize that everything we have tried to show the world about ourselves is just a sham.
A few years ago, I was a full-time actress without the pay. Driven to this place by life circumstances and personal despair, darkness was my friend. And while I continued to care for people on the outside, denial was a daily part of my existence on the inside. I spent many long nights staring at the ceiling of my bedroom, feeling forgotten and alone. Afraid to face potential rejection of allowing others into my painful and seemingly shattered world, I stopped trusting. I withdrew...and the act began...
Quite successfully, I should add, I kept the world away from my darkness and my darkness away from the world. While I never set foot on a film set, I hit many emotions and thoughts that I was too scared would destroy my image. I was, after all, known for being friendly, caring, fun, and fairly happy. People enjoyed being around me. In saying this, I should note that I wouldn't consider myself during this time as being fake by any means. I genuinely reached out to others and, I believe, they felt I had a good heart. But so many times, I had to will myself to be accessible when I was really afraid to get close to anyone. My relationships seemed superficial and meaningless. I acted so well, though, that I seemed like the last person others thought would be so insecure. But when the door shut at night, everything changed: the actress left the set, and the real me came out.
It's hard thinking of how many conversations I had back then were my acting took over, and I denied that I was battling for my very soul. When others asked, "How are you?" I would play the part and say, "I'm fine," while inwardly, my one thought was, "If only you knew the truth." I just couldn't bring myself to voice what was really going on. In looking back on those years, it is clear to me now that this is a struggle almost everyone faces. My short-lived acting career isn't so much the exception as it is the norm. Each person must come to reconcile the life without and the life within. Torn existences only result in hopelessness.
Perhaps people have told you for years that you have a beautiful smile but, behind that smile, is an untold story of grief and pain. While you continue to "grin and bear it," you are removing yourself from the valuable relationships in your life and are finding ways to keep others from getting close enough to discover the real you...
But here's the thing I've discovered: your good-looking, smart, competitive, or winning personality doesn't get you anywhere in the end if all you're doing is trying to fool God, fool others, and fool yourself. Eventually, your act will begin to break down. The darkness will start to creep out...and you'll find that you can't keep holding it in any longer.
To be continued tomorrow...