“Sometimes I feel like the biggest fake in the world.”
“I feel like an actor playing a part. It wears me out so much I can hardly wait to get home and just be me.”
“If they had known what was going on inside my head they wouldn’t have been so impressed.”
“I feel like a hypocrite when I’m coaching employees, because it sounds like I have my act together, but I know I don’t. In fact, in some ways they’re doing a better job than I am.”
Each of those people were seemingly successful, well-adjusted, happy and confident–but their conversation certainly was not. They felt unequal to tasks they were being given, undeserving of praise and unimpressive. They didn’t seem to be afraid they would be found out–they just disliked feeling phony.
Walt Whitman’s poem, “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” has lines that fit all of us who sometimes wonder if everyone else is so full of self-doubt (sometimes self-loathing) as we are, and so full of unpleasant thoughts and impulses.
“It is not upon you alone the dark patches fall,
The dark threw its patches down upon me also.
The best I had done seem’d to me blank and suspicious,
My great thoughts as I supposed them, were they not in reality, meager?”
Nor is it you alone who know what it is to be evil,
I am he who knew what it was to be evil,
I too knitted the old knot of contrariety,
Blabbed, blushed, resented, lied, stole, grudged,
Had guile, anger, lust, hot wishes I dared not speak,
Was wayward, vain, greedy, shallow, sly, cowardly, malignant,
The wolf, the snake, the hog, not wanting in me,
The cheating look, the frivolous word, the adulterous wish, not wanting,
Refusals, hates, postponements, meanness, laziness, none of these wanting,
Lived the same life with the rest, the same old laughing, gnawing, sleeping,
Played the part that still looks back on the actor or actress,
The same old role, that role that is what we make it, as great as we like,
Or as small as we like, or both great and small.”
Or, as my friend, Jeff Adams, pastor of Graceway Church in Kansas City, Missouri, says: “We’re all pretty much big messes.” Walt Whitman would agree.
What about you? Do you sometimes feel like a phony or a fake, or as though the view that others have of you is much better than the view you have of yourself?