Everybody's Faking It

Monday, July 17, 2017

There are many things I like about reality. Like Icy Poles on hot days, the smell of rain on dirt, and when the public transportation system runs on time.

There are other things that I don’t like about reality, like the flu, and poverty, and paper cuts. One of the things I like least about being a real person in reality (which I’m fairly sure I am, though it is entirely possible we are all just in the Matrix right now) is that you are always stuck in your own head. Unless, that is, you are a ghost who has the ability to possess others. Unfortunately, I’m not (to the best of my knowledge), though that would be super awesome (and slightly immoral).

This is one of the reasons why I love stories – the ability to escape your own head for a little while and examine the world from someone else’s point of view. I’m fascinated by what the internal realities of other people’s lives are like, and am always trying to work them out. In this way, I think, stories teach us empathy. Writing allows us ways to explore other worlds and new experiences that we wouldn’t otherwise have. Stories make our world limitless.

But the trouble with always being in your own head is that you have no idea what’s going on in anyone else’s head. You probably guess at it all the time, but unless you’re Edward Cullen (I really hope you’re not), you’re likely just basing all of your guesses on external signs.

So it’s easy to see other people succeeding in life and assume that everything is wonderful for them; that they have boundless confidence and travel through the world with ease. And then freak out, because you find life pretty challenging, and they’re obviously totally fearless, and you’ll never be that excellent.

Of course this is all rubbish. We live in a society where everyone is faking it, all the time. Displaying vulnerability and letting people know that you struggle and maybe saying ‘hey, I could use some help’ is generally frowned upon. You’ve got to keep up appearances. And that’s unfortunate. Because everyone is struggling. Life is a tricky and confusing thing to navigate.

Just because your logical mind is aware that everyone is at least a little bit insecure and neurotic – that the way people present to the world is not necessarily representative of how they’re feeling – doesn’t really stop your irrational mind from continuing to freak out. It’s something you need to remind yourself of over and over again.

When I was younger I believed for a very long time that grown-ups were somehow inherently whole – that I would hit 18 and metamorphose into an Adult who Knew About Stuff and possess incredible self-assurance. I got a little bit older and realised that no-one is ever absolutely sure of themselves – that I’ll probably still be trying to work it all out for the rest of my life. And that’s okay, although disappointing to figure out after a childhood of believing in the infallibility of adults.

Unless you are a super Level 10 extrovert (in which case, good on you! Be nice to us introverted weirdo types), parties are probably a prime time for being neurotic, and assuming that you are the only person there feeling awkward and out of place because other people are smiling and obviously having a great time. I guarantee you that 9 out of 10 people in the room are entertaining a similar thought process.

Remind yourself that everyone’s too caught up feeling awkward to notice your perceived awkwardness. People are like icebergs, or socially awkward penguins. I don’t know; I’m bad at similes.

I’m great at projecting the appearance of having my act together when I’m freaking out, though, and I think it’s reassuring to be reminded: hey, even people who appear successful struggle. You’re not an outlier. Everybody’s faking it.

Originally published on Birdee Mag.
Proudly designed by Mlekoshi playground