I saw this tweet the other day and it got me thinking.
Our regular social moorings have rusted away under the corrosive atmosphere brought to us by the coronavirus. Typically we depend on our interactions with people we come in contact with on a daily basis to inform our public image. There is a silent social contract we all live under. It restrains our baser nature and allows us to form relationships that benefit ourselves and our communities. We agree to greet each other, make small talk, listen to our co-workers talk about their newborn’s sleep schedule 100 times over. We don’t yell at all the people we would like to yell at in a day. We don’t tell off all the people we would like to tell off in a day. We don’t spit judgment at acquaintances and we don’t tear down random strangers for whatever offenses we may perceived to have come from them.
But we’re in a crisis now and those moorings no longer anchor us. We’ve been driven inside and online. The people we’re sheltered with are most likely the closest people in our lives. They’ve seen us at our worst. We don’t put on many airs for them. That means we’re all just kind of free to be…us. The heat of this life-changing event has burned away so much of our pretense. Our tweeter was right – a crisis reveals who we really are and for many of us that isn’t pretty. With the moorings dissolved there are no more restraints.
You can see snippets of it online. Some people you may have thought were surly but reasonable now seem unhinged and cannot be reasoned with. Perhaps they were never really that reasonable, they only played the “reasonable” card as a tool of persuasion. The “real” them was someone who has always thought they were smarter than everyone else.
Some people you thought were humble now seem seem needy and insecure. Our social contract had restrained their self-loathing but the reality of life in a crisis just enhanced what was behind the humility – an extremely insecure person who needs the validation that comes with being considered “humble” and down-to-earth.
Some people you thought were confident and successful now seem arrogant.
I’m seeing it in my personal relationships as well. There are some women around me who have projected the “super mom” air for as long as I’ve known them. Now without schedules and activities and days filled with tasks it is becoming apparent that they weren’t necessarily super moms, they were just busy.
I’ve seen men who have the reputation of being good providers for their families become inflexible and selfish in the home while their wives are trying to deal with work and kids and schooling. As it turns out, some of those “good providers” were just men who preferred to be away from the chaos of home life.
We are all becoming a more refined version of ourselves during this crisis and perhaps we all need to start paying attention to who exactly our “real selves” are. The bad news is that for most of us the realizations will sting. You may have always described yourself proudly as “just a really sarcastic person” but when the opportunities for daily sarcasm burn away you realize you’re mostly just an angry person who didn’t really think others deserved the pleasure of your genuine communications.
You may have always been an extrovert, but now you’re discovering you’re actually just terribly insecure and need the validation of others as much as possible in order to feel normal.
You may have told yourself you were just a social drinker who happens to socialize a lot, but now you realize you’re just a drinker who depends on alcohol to smooth out the rough edges in your life.
But there is good news. The good news is that some of us are seeing our real selves for the first time and even if we think we hate that self, we can be grateful for the opportunity to gaze at her or him in the first place. There are no more filters. There are no societal norms that you have to adhere to in your living room. For the first time maybe in your whole life, the person staring back at you in the mirror is really you. And more good news…that person staring back at you gets to be whoever you decide. Now that you’ve seen the real you, you can be more deliberate about making the real you a better you. That takes practice, but you don’t get to the big leagues without knowing what you need to work on in the first place.
Who are you right now? Who do you want to be? When the next crisis in your life comes, which version of you will face it? These are decisions we can make for ourselves right now, and we can start preparing ourselves right now.
I know that I want my “real” me to be kind and compassionate. I want to be the person who makes sacrifices for others. I want to be a teacher and an encourager. I want to be a woman who turns to prayer first, always first. I want to be a mother, not just to my own children but to those who need one. I want to be a partner who is dependable and sensitive. I want to be intellectually honest, the type of woman people can count on to be consistent…a straight shooter.
I want to be that person and it means admitting that I’m not that person right now. But I believe we get to decide who to be if we’re brave enough to face that mirror…and sometimes social media is that mirror. So look at your timelines, see what consumes you most. Pay attention to how you respond to people and the tones you take. Good or bad, it will tell you something about yourself and give you a place to start.
So…who are you?