This post is once again inspired by Megan over at MisAdventures of a Work At Home Mom. It's also inspired by my experiences at the Magazines Canada/Professional Writers Association of Canada annual conference last week. I ran smack dab into other people's perceptions and it left me scratching my head.
Genuine. My grandmother was a genuine person. By that I mean, she was honest, forthright and consistent in her opinions, her beliefs, her foibles and her traits. She loved her family fiercely, loyally, unquestioningly and protectively. That being said, she would not hesitate to comment if she didn't believe our actions were appropriate and she would kick our butts if we were acting like idiots. We knew without a shadow of a doubt that she loved us no matter what, but when grandma laid the smack down on you, you listened. I have met more genuine people in the writers' association than anywhere else in my life.
Honest. I try to always be honest in my dealings with people. Life is too short for backstabbing or game playing. It's probably why I didn't do well in the corporate world and I would be a lousy poker player. People can read my expression. I have had to learn to balance honesty with tact and soften the hard edges. Because I am honest, I expect others to be honest as well, and I have been sorely treated as a result. I have not always lived my honest or true nature, though. For years, I didn't think that people would like the person that I was in reality, and so I became a chameleon, the class clown, the actor who would mask paralyzing shyness and introversion with an excess of extroverted appearance. I still do it when I'm uncomfortable, which is anywhere there are large gatherings of people I don't know. I found out early that I could make people laugh. If people are laughing, they don't usually notice that the clown is not. Humour and wit, and the ability to make people laugh have always been my armour against insecurity and shyness.
I thought I'd gotten over it for the most part, but I found myself slipping into old habits at the conference last week. Instead of humour, I used my music and my singing, but the result was the same. I wrapped myself in protective armour, and felt a fraud as a result. I have probably been more honest in my relationships with the writers than I have in any other profession, but in person, the latent fear that they wouldn't like me in person, as opposed to my writing, resurfaced. By hiding in my music, I was once again the chameleon. This time, however, I was aware of it, and distressed by it, but powerless to stop. I have a ways to go.
Integrity. I think this is one of the most important character traits to have. My professional and personal integrity are vital to who I am as a person, and I am incapable of actions that challenge my sense of justice and integrity. I just won't go there and I will be very nasty if you expect otherwise.
Persona. I have many personae. There is the introverted, terrified person who dons masks and disguises to protect her from her expected rejection of the person she is. There is the mother, the wife, the writer, the singer, the daughter, the friend. There is the funny extrovert, the witty fraud masking terror with wit and humour.
And according to my professional colleagues in the Writers' Association, there is the competent, well-groomed, always put together person who is recognizable across the room, or from the back because of the posture, the grooming and the confident air. One of the writers said she knew me instantly because my hair was perfectly groomed as always ,and my outfit was perfectly put together. I looked at her like she was speaking ancient Greek. Surely she wasn't talking about me? Me, with the bangs that needed a trim and I didn't make it before the conference, the frumpy sandals because of two broken toes and the clothes in a size that I cry when I look at? Surely that wasn't the person she meant? Turns out, it was. It's not how I see myself, but it is how many others see me. I suppose that's a good thing, I just have trouble believing, especially these days, that when they refer to the competent, talented, well-groomed, put together person, that they mean me. I don't see it. I don't feel it and I have trouble believing it.