Somebody from my real life pointed out to me that the last two weeks I’ve mostly been writing about my shortcomings. It was an interesting observation and one I confirmed when I looked at the last 15 or so entries. A lot of them are critical of myself. Maybe I work out my issues here or don’t want to try to hide my foibles anymore. I don’t know. Either way, here we go again…
Since I joined LinkedIn, and now have hundreds of connections to the professional mental health field, I’ve learned that many of these people love to post short videos of people doing brave, risky, daring, amazing things, almost always with some positive message of hope or social justice behind it.
I watched one the other day that featured a woman who appeared to be in her early 20s. She took a chair, a pair of scissors, hair clippers and a sign that said something to effect of “Cut My Hair to Prove Beauty is Only Skin Deep” to Times Square and sat down.
At first, the crowd gathered around her is confused. This looks like your typical girl with long hair you’d walk past on any street, but here she is, wearing a blindfold, asking for them to cut her hair to make a statement. It takes a little while, but then someone approaches her and snips a little with the scissors. Then another, and another. Half her hair is gone before someone takes the clippers and starts shaving away.
In the end, she’s being cheered and people are hugging her. Several women make testimonials statements about how brave she is and what an important message she’s sending.
A few days earlier, I saw another video, this one was from Australia, captured in one of the places where the horrible wildfires have been raging. In the video, you first see a koala bear, running around that has been burned and is clearly disoriented. After a few moments a man and a woman happen upon the scene and rescue the burned koala bear that seemed like it was on death’s door.
They take the beautiful animal out of the burning forest to the side of their car, where they pour water on it to cool and clean its wounds, I assume. There’s a message that the koala was taken to a nearby animal refuge facility to be cared for once the video ended.
As I watched the first video I thought to myself, “These people are acting this way because a camera is there,” “How can the foreign tourists appreciate what is happening if they can’t read her sign?” and “This seems so much more dramatic because it’s edited down to three minutes, has inspirational music and block-letter captioning.”
When I watched the second video I thought to myself, “Who didn’t put down the camera and help the poor koala? Why did he wait for the man and woman? What’s that guy’s story? Does he really know the bear went to a refuge facility or does it just make a nice ending? What are the odds that koala is dead now?”
I find I’ve always had this jaded streak of doubt and pessimism. You can present something nice to me, but I’ll come up with questions to try and debunk just how nice it is.
Maybe this comes from the fact I struggle with imposter syndrome, which I only learned about recently. Go read the first blog I did about it so I don’t have to recap here. Despite doing many, many things in my life that were seen as caring and despite many of the altruistic endeavors my professional life tried to assist, I always felt there was a level of phoniness to it all.
Sure, in 2011, I once raised $300 singing Daydream Believer off-key to a dinner crowd that paid to have me shut up. We were raising money for middle school teacher grants, but I wasn’t doing it just for the money. I was mostly doing it because I like the song and I like performing and I was able to manipulate a situation where it looked like I was playing the fool for a good cause. In reality, I just can’t sing. When I told people afterward I was probably one of the best paid musicians in town that night, it sounded like self-deprecating irony, but that’s only because I knew how to say it out loud to get away with it.
Am I still that bad of a person? Good Lord, no. I have learned to reel it in, both with recovery and I think just maturing over the last decade. But there’s still that piece of me who thinks everything is a manipulated hoax of sorts. Why couldn’t that girl just make her hair cutting statement without a professional production team in tow?
I like magic. I like pro wrestling. I like CGI. They’re all cons. But they’re all honest cons. I know someone is trying to make me believe one set of circumstances when another is true. I think that may be my default setting. I always assume a manipulative con is on. I can relax when people are forthright about it.
Maybe it goes back to the creation of my coping skills and defense mechanisms. You can never be the sucker if you never believe anything. I’m not going to be the old person fleeced into giving my life savings away. I was the kid who went around high school explaining to my much smarter friends how the Who’s Who book industry was a scam to play on their ego. They didn’t like to hear that.
I have matured to the point that I didn’t write these kinds of pessimistic statements under the videos that were posted. If they are 1000% genuine in their content and intent, they are great. But I just don’t believe very much I’m presented on the surface and I really hope that I can grow to be more trusting and less cynical as I continue to recover and get older.