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Who are you when nobody’s looking?

Updated: Dec 31, 2021

This is something that I have said to my own children so many times. The lecture typically went something like this:

“It’s great when kids are polite and sweet when they’re in front of adults or other people, but what really counts is what you think and what you do when nobody else is watching. Will you still make those same good choices? Would you be the same person that you show everyone else?”

I was trying really hard to get my kids to recognize that their true self must be the one that they portray all the time. Knowing several kids of the Eddie Haskell character, this became even more important as they got older. We wanted them to make responsible decisions, be polite and kind even when there wasn’t an adult around to monitor their behavior because we wanted those qualities to actually be a part of them. Not just an act they put on for people.

I have always wanted to be a WYSIWYG type person. I don’t want to portray myself as someone I’m not. Therefore, if I want people around me to see me as a friendly, kind, compassionate, helpful person, I want to be that way in “real” life. I don’t want to be someone in front of certain people, like people I don’t know, for example, and then be completely different to my friends. I recently told a friend of mine that I want people to believe I have valid opinions and a strong knowledge base, but much more importantly, I really want people to say, “Oh, you need help? Talk to Mandy. I don’t know if she’ll know the answer, but she will definitely assist you in the best way she knows how”. My goal is to be the person who would help, not just give the impression that I will.

I had this similar conversation with my friend, Tara Martin. She often talks about the REAL…the side of people that is truly them. I think that there is a spectrum of how close people actually reside to their real. I’ve had friends and known people who are one person to their friends and another to the public. While I understand the need to do this to a point, I can’t even imagine how much work that would be. Conjuring an act for people just because your real person isn’t something you want to show would be exhausting. Even more so if you need to keep it up on a regular basis. It also begs the question: What is so terrible about your real self that not everyone can see it?

As leaders and educators, when creating personal or professional relationships with people, I feel like the closer you live to your real side in all aspects initiates a trust factor that you don’t get if your personality suddenly changes depending on who you’re around. When people know that what they see is what they will always get, they will rarely be surprised by decisions or reactions. Because I try so hard to be myself all the time, I find it unsettling and unnerving when I am working with someone when I don’t know what side of them I’m about to get. I feel like I can be a better leader, friend, and person when I stay as close to my real as possible.

tara martin



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