"In most of our human relationships, we spend much of our time reassuring each other that our costumes of identity are on straight."
--Ram Dass


"And what is our personality?
Our personality is what we call our 'image'.
Our image of ourselves. And also our thought about ourselves, our idea of ourselves.
This is the person. In other words what people meet and understand, and what I understand as Alan Watts, is a big act, which is not really me."
--Alan Watts


”We are nothing but images of images.
Reality, including ourselves, is nothing but a thin and fragile veil,
beyond which … there is nothing.“
--Carlo Rovelli

Recently some family members sweetly informed me that they think my life choices –not having children, living alone, not throwing dinner parties- indicate that something is very wrong with me.

Apparently my loved ones see me as socially damaged, afraid, isolated, and of course, plain ol’ weird.

Whaattt? They don’t see me as independent, free thinking, comfortable in my own skin? They see me differently than I like? This is an outrage!

I mean, if you’re going to bother thinking about me, get it right will ya?

Let’s face it, we all have a way we want to be seen- smart, caring, spiritually evolved, attractive, good.

We have a lifetime of carefully-honed presentation and story-building, as we try to “come across” to others in those ways.

As in, we try to make others think right ideas about us.

Never mind that we also have personality quirks and odd little habits which don’t fit those right ideas. There's the drawers and closets hiding chaos, the quick temper, the desire to be admired and better than others. There's all those compulsions, addictions, irritations and preferences.

Yeah we do our best to hide those.

Let’s hide the social anxiety or suicidal thoughts or the indignation when someone calls us stupid or lazy or loser. Let’s hide that we haven’t had sex in years, that our skivvies have skid marks, that taxes are 5 years overdue, that we cower rather than confront, that we binge at night after eating very little in front of friends.

The self has secrets.

Because it must control the presentation. Because it must be defined somehow.

Otherwise the self is nothing. Otherwise we might realize that what we call “Me” doesn’t exist.

Yes we know this. That’s why it feels so necessary to hide so carefully, and to put our best foot forward, and to avoid situations where we can't do either.

Ok well, that’s a big secret right there.

Unfortunately, periodically someone doesn’t buy what we’re selling. Periodically, despite all of our careful branding, someone sees us “incorrectly”.

Then the fact that the sham, the illusion, the façade might be exposed suddenly becomes a possibility.

It is never a happy moment when that happens.

That’s when we freak out with shame, fury, hurt, anguish. That’s when we obsessively replay conversations in our heads, argue with no one in the shower, rehearse what to say next time.

We'll set them right, dammit.

Meanwhile really nothing has happened. Someone had a view of us which is not the view we wanted them to have.

Other than that, nothing.

And yet still it feels so important that people “get” us and see us right.

The sense of who we are rides on pretending images and identity are an actual person. The sense of who we are rides on flimsy things like others’ opinions about us.

Otherwise there’s nothing to hold onto.

Ok fine, what do we do with this?

Well, when we’re upset in troubling situations, simply understanding that the pain comes from being identified in a way that clashes with the preferred view of ourself, can ease that upset a little.

We might think specifically about how we’d like those people to see us. In this situation I want them to see me as normal, reasonable, right, lovable, successful, kind. Or whatever.

And then we might consider how those people actually do see us (as far as we know).

And notice they don’t match.

That mismatch is the source of the fury, hurt, and shame.

That clash between the life-long image, up against the threat of exposure of its lie- that’s what makes us feel bad.

Because to the hologram, of course it feels dangerous that the plug might be pulled.

Is this avoidable? Nope. Not even Ramana escaped the pain of being seen “wrong.”

The sense of self is built into every cell, every feeling, every thought. Maintenance of that illusion is a 24/7 requirement.

That’s the game here. There's no getting around it.

Luckily there can be a little peace, a little kindness, in that accepting that unavoidability.

There can be calm in seeing that we’re doing our best as a wispy image.

Sometimes we succeed in fooling ourselves and others that we’re more than that.

Sometimes we don’t.

When we don’t pull it off, it can be upsetting.

Even so, no view or opinion is a person.

No image or identity or story is a self.

Which leaves flimsy holograms with a whole bunch of nothing.

And also the relief of a whole bunch of

So what.

Click here to get your Mind-Tickled every week.