Have you ever had an experience in life where you were convinced that something was really true, only to find out much later down the road that what actually happened was or may have been much different than you’d expected? 

In our modern world, it’s very easy for people, I believe, to only show certain sides of themselves.  Social media makes this extremely easy.  At the same time, for some people in the public eye, social media also can make it very difficult to hide sides of themselves they’d rather not show in public.

We can think that someone is living a glorious life, posting happy pictures and status updates, but in reality, they may be going through one of the worst times in their life, and we may never know.  Or we can see a person in the spotlight who seems to be one way, only to discover a video or other proof posted that shows them in a very different light. 

I think that all the possibilities for transparency in our world are greatly increasing, yet, it can be just as easy to hide parts of our lives that we don’t want to share. 

It’s not to say that we should share everything about our lives with everyone.  I believe in healthy boundaries and sharing with people who we’ve learned to trust.  Social scientist and bestselling author Brené Brown teaches that it’s healthy to share with those “who have earned the right to hear our story,” especially when we are feeling vulnerable and in a period of needing support from others who can bear the weight of our stories.    

I think, though, that it’s really important to remember that based on what others do share, or what we do know or think we know about anyone and their situation, sometimes, things can be greatly different from what meets the eye.

Things just aren’t always as they seem.

I remember a story I read once, about a person who had committed suicide.  Their last social media post showed them looking extremely happy.  Many people around that person, or especially casual acquaintances, may never have suspected that the person was in such deep internal pain. 

Things aren’t always as they seem.

I also reflect back on my own life experiences.  There was a pivotal time in my life when I myself held in a ton of shame about what I was experiencing.  I had indeed tried to share my story and some of my newly emerging personal growth with those who I thought had earned the right to hear it.  But it seemed to be the case that my story and subsequent growth were too much for those people to bear. 

So I held in shame about having shared some very vulnerable things and not having received adequate support from those I trusted, and even, at times, feeling like I’d been treated like an outcast within my circle of friends.  Yet, no one but my husband knew what I was really going through and feeling about it, until I mustered up the courage to tell another person about all of it months later.    

Things aren’t always as they seem.

Everyone else around me who didn’t know me as well likely could have come to many different conclusions about why I was acting somewhat differently at that time.  Some of them, I found out later, really did do just that.  But no one would have known the full story unless they would have taken time to listen to many perspectives, including my own. 

And even so, they may not have known or even believed the full story if they had any of their own emotional blocks or struggles preventing them from understanding my experiences and feelings more objectively!

Things aren’t always as they seem.

There was another time years ago during my singing journey, when I remember being jealous of a singer I knew.  Later on, I had a chance to hear the singer again, and I could tell that they were visibly struggling with their singing, much more than I’d ever noticed in the past.  I was no longer jealous and instead became even more grateful for my own training as well as very compassionate for their struggles.

Things aren’t always as they seem.

Once, I was at a presentation.  After it was over and people were conversing, a person made what sounded to me like a very ignorant comment.  The comment seemed to undermine the point of the entire presentation, and I personally felt insulted by the comment too.  But later on, I found out that the comment had been made simply due to a lack of understanding about one of the key points in the presentation.  It was never meant to sound ignorant or distasteful.  The person who made it simply had not understood a key part of the topic.

Things aren’t always as they seem.

How often do we let fear cloud our minds and make up stories about entire groups of people, based on the actions we’ve observed about only some humans who may be a part of this group?  How often are these fears connected to tribe, race, and class?  And do we apply these fears equally? 

Are we equally as afraid of someone in our own race or class, as we may be of someone who is a part of a group we may have been taught to fear?  Is it really healthy to fear an entire group of people based on the actions of some in the group?  Can we admit that many people in that group are also just as human as we are, trying their best to live good lives, just like us? 

Things aren’t always as they seem.

How many stories do we hear of celebrities who we perceive to “have it all,” yet, later on, we are surprised and disheartened by some of their personal (yet, often very public) struggles, with regard to money, relationships, or other things?  We may not want to believe they can be just as human as us, because in our culture, we’re taught that money and fame are the supposed cures to all that ails us.  But time and time again, this is proven not to be true.  Why?  Because you can’t take the human out of the celebrity.  And you can’t take the human out of any of us, or any of those around you.

Why do I bring this topic up today?

I think it’s really important for us to be reminded of this idea, for many reasons.  It can be so easy to fall into comparison with others.  We can think their lives are so great, based on what they’ve chosen to share with us.  Or, we can think all sorts of things about them, based on our human tendencies to make up, fill in, listen to, believe, and repeat stories about others—things which may be completely far from the real truth.

But things aren’t always as they seem.

That’s been one of my biggest takeaways in this lesson.  We can’t take the human out of any of us, nor should we!  And by “the human,” I mean everything that makes up our human experience.  Everything.  All that we love, and all that we’ve been taught or have taught ourselves to hate.  It’s all a part of this amazing, complex life.    

So how can we use this lesson to our best advantage?

I find this idea very helpful when I find myself in a situation where I may easily otherwise make a snap judgment about something. 

Let’s say I’m driving, and someone cuts me off.  Of course, my initial reaction is to be angry and annoyed.  But then I try to go deeper.  Maybe that person just had one of the worst days of their lives.  Maybe someone they love just died, and they’re distracted.  Or maybe they simply lost focus for a second.  It doesn’t mean what they did was the best choice.  But I can choose to move into more compassion anyway.

Or, what if I hear through the grapevine that a friend of a friend may have made what sounds like a very poor choice in their lives?  Will I choose to believe it right away?  Will I admit that there may be a lot of sides to the story that I simply don’t know about or understand?  Or will I choose to gossip about this person and their potentially poor choice to others, even if I have no idea what else may be going on?  Of course, the healthier choice is to withhold judgment in the best ways that I can, and choose not to contribute to hurting the person directly or indirectly through gossip. 

What if someone says something very hurtful to me?  Will it be easy to get defensive and say something hurtful back?  Or will it be easy to hold in my feelings and then vent or gossip about them later to someone else?  Of course.  And that’s not to say that we shouldn’t have trusted people to talk with about difficult situations in our lives.  We all need that.  But I can still refrain from continuing the cycle of hurt.  I can choose to treat them kindly even if I haven’t been treated the same.  And I can choose to forgive them after being hurt, and to let the situation go. 

What if I see a person who I think “has it all together?”  I can remember that no one ever “has it all together,” and I can bet that if I were to talk to that person more deeply, they might share some pretty difficult stories with me about some of their own hardships and life experiences.  They’re still human too.

Coming into these frames of mind takes conscious practice.  Every situation in our lives is a new chance to practice.  Aren’t we lucky—we get so many chances to practice! 

And there will be times where we will make a mistake and make a snap judgment, or say something cruel about someone, or want to gossip, or jump to an unfounded conclusion, or be swayed by our own deep fears.  But that’s why the practice of reflection can be so beneficial. 

When we think back on our experiences and our perceptions of them, we can try to remember that things may not always be as they seem.  And this guiding principle can lead us into greater empathy, compassion, and kindness toward ourselves and to others.  We can come to practice all of those values in greater ways, and we can come to be more forgiving of others and of ourselves when we make mistakes. 

Because you can’t take the human out of the human.  We get to experience it all—a full spectrum of what life has to offer.  And all of us are unmistakably, wonderfully human.  Even though it’s a big challenge at times, I know I’m glad to be one.  :)

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I’d love to hear from you!  Shoot me a personal note through my Contact page, or leave a comment below.  Have you experienced a situation when you’ve learned that things weren’t what they may have first seemed to be to you?

Wondering what else about yourself may not always be as it seems right now?  ;) Check out my first book here.  You never know what you may discover!  :)  

No matter what, always remember this:  You are deserving, you are worthy, and you are good enough.  Keep being you, keep shining, and keep growing!

With great love,

Francine

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