As someone who works from home and often on the phone, I’m not normally that concerned about my appearance. I can wear pajamas all day or do coaching calls in my cozy, ratty t-shirt and shorts. I don’t have to wear makeup, so I rarely do, and my hair is often greasy.
Last week I had to make a couple videos: one for an upcoming speaking event and another for a Tedx application. On those days, I took a shower, put on makeup, curled my hair. I thought about the clothes I’d be wearing, because I wanted to know, Would they give off the vibe I wanted to share? I wanted the whole ensemble to say, “I’m knowledgeable, insightful, and entertaining.”
When I’m putting a lot of thought into my look, I’d like to believe that I’m thinking of others: making them feel comfortable, showing them respect, and helping them feel confident about hiring me. But if I’m honest, I have to admit that there’s another motive at play, and that motive is me. Darn it.
In those moments I’m seeking to influence their opinion of me. I want them to see certain things in me like intelligence, stage presence and a snappy sense of style. Oh boy. I want to seem professional and polished. Fresh and friendly. I want to appear likeable and creditable. And much, much more. Sheesh.
When I am this concerned about how I appear, I’m at risk of losing my authenticity.
IMPRESSING IS NOT AUTHENTIC
It’s not authentic to want to impress.
Impact, you bet.
But impress, no.
Impressing someone is about manipulating their idea of you. It’s about crafting a specific image that is seen by others.
- Maybe you want to be seen as intelligent. That’s always been one of mine. I remember wearing some glasses in 5thgrade that didn’t have any lenses in them. I don’t even know where I found them, but I loved them because I thought they made me look smart. That is, until some girl noticed, stuck her finger into the frame and right into my eye. I hated that kid. She ruined my image.
- Maybe you want to be seen as skilled and competent. I like that one too. No one wants to work with an idiot.
- Maybe you want to be seen as kind and understanding. Or dynamic and fun. Or strong and confident. Or creative and compassionate. The list goes on and on.
We are likely to want to impress others in the area of our personal insecurities. It’s as if we need to prove to ourselves and other people that we have these qualities. If we can convince someone, anyone, that they are there, then that will make it more likely to be true.
Another word for my attitude is pretense.
Pretense is an attempt to make something that is not the case appear to be true. Now, I didn’t actively think on the morning of the recording, “I’m not knowledgeable, insightful, or entertaining.” I wasn’t beating myself up or doubting my overall worth and value. It was actually a pretty good day. But, I didn’t feel secure enough in those three areas, that I could just let the chips fall where they may. I wanted to make a certain impression.
But here is what’s really important: Pretense and impressing others is not about being a certain way, but rather been seen a certain way.
In her book, Without Rival, Lisa Bevere asks the question, as she says, for this generation.
“Is how we look more important than what we are?”
To which I want to scream, NOOOOOO!!!
Although there I am, in my bathroom, trying to make a good impression.
Just because we are seen for certain qualities, does not make them true. Just because others miss things about us, does not mean they are not there either.
The only way to know what is true is to look into your heart.
“For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7
God sees our authentic self when He looks at our heart. He sees the strengths that He gave us and the way that we reflect Him best (The Beginning of an Authentic Life). He sees the weaknesses that beset us and keep us dependent on His grace (The Hardest Part of an Authentic Life). He sees the values that He has formed in us through the experiences of our lives (The Hidden Part of an Authentic Life). He sees the emotions He has given us that that we don’t often recognize (The Emotional Part of an Authentic Life).
God sees us just as we are and we never need to impress Him. We are secure in His love.
“Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him,
for he shields him all day long,
and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders.” Deuteronomy 33:12
In fact, when we become more interested in expressing what is true vs. making a good impression, we can finally start working on becoming the people we would like to appear to be. God can and will change us more into His knowledgeable, insightful, and entertaining likeness if only we will stop settling for looking knowledgeable, insightful, and entertaining.
And when He does, we will have nothing to prove.
A FEW THOUGHTS TO CONSIDER
What if we put our reputation into God’s hands?
What if we let Him be responsible for how others see us and what they think about us?
What if we spent more time becoming the person we wanted to be rather than trying to appear that way?
I think it’s going to be a lot easier to get dressed tomorrow. How about you?