1:23 PM

Impressing vs. Expressing?

Posted by Prosy Delacruz

“Our humanity comes to its fullest bloom in giving. We become beautiful people when we give whatever we can give: a smile, a handshake, a kiss, an embrace, a word of love, a present, a part of our life….all of our life. “ - Henri Nouwen

I have been fortunate in being able to live in the public fronts of community, regulatory agency, professional associations, activist events, and now writing for Asian Journal. It is a life’s journey with many folks to meet, so many friends, and foes to learn from, but few amongst thousands stood out.

Few stood out because they had aligned their lives to match their values and their actions reflected in their enduring principles of serving humanity. Like Helen Toribio. Long after she is gone, we still share stories of how she made us feel, how she helped clarify our vision, particularly when we were so much in chaos. Or NVM Gonzales, whom I daresay was fulfilled not because of the money in his pockets, but because he loved his family. He had an affair with written words, and mentored others to live a life of meaning, not for themselves, and influenced many to write and keep writing. Some are still alive and when you ask them, they are happy, from living simply and helping out folks, like Tony Meloto.

Some still have growth spurts in their businesses that become moments of hell. These hellish moments become their sources of wisdom as these challenges transform them. These moments of hell are their spiritual challenges: do they give in to popular demand or do they transform their lives to reflect their true character and cherish their true selves? Do they succumb to avoid the conflict within and become someone impressing others?

Impressing others
I had a discussion with a friend, X, about life after 50. She felt free to be who she was, to claim her true self. While at work for decades, she learned to subsume her true self. She smiled and cracked jokes, even when she felt no longer joyful. What a performance that must be, a false mask that one takes off when one gets home just to feel real again.
It reminded me of Y, who confided that as a defense mechanism, he always smiles. He smiles when he agrees, he smiles when he disagrees, and he smiles even when he can no longer stand the person he is talking to. He smiles even when he feels like he can't anymore and by doing so, he keeps himself out of trouble. What a strain that must create from within: when he gets home and is mad, he screams, just to lose his mask of false smiles, just to be sure he is still living his reality.

Smiles and jokes for X and Y became their survival skills to protect themselves and consequently -- to impress. For them, the value in being not themselves means sparing themselves from conflicts and wounds, and so they go along to be popular, to be liked at all times.

They live to impress others, but inside, they feel awkward -- not at home, nor cherished, nor valued. They cannot honor their true selves, their true worth remains hidden, undiscovered even to themselves and unshared for others to learn from. So when they are invited to friends’ parties and soirees, a non-ending array of invitations, they go even when they do not feel like going anymore. They are called ‘sosyal’ -- a social butterfly. Why? Because their lives revolved around impressing others.

In impressing others, they make precise decisions of who will be part of their circle or not. They take great care in perfecting their small circle, tailored to make sure that everyone is marching to the same drum. In their mission to impress, everyone has the same look and fashion. It makes for a sosyal-fitting world of impressing one another and conveying the look of a very impressive group of people.

But what about their conflict from within? The human spirit has been clobbered, so we find many demonstrations of angst: folks needing to soothe their inner wounds, but they look for external ways to soothe these inner wounds, without considering the ways they can be of service to others. No one has examined the body of thoughts that got us thinking mostly for ourselves. How do we relate so that we are not impressing others, but instead, expressing the deepest yearnings of our soul?

Furthermore, how do we live so that we can stop comparing ourselves to others? What type of outfit is that? Doesn’t she look too flamboyant in that outfit? Doesn't it look like her seams are overly stretched to fit her sausage body? Upon hearing that from people living a life to impress, I started my own journey of looking within. I simply wanted to help out community folks, and at times, I get invited to public events where the rich and famous are invited. But now, am I living this life to impress?

What exactly is the essence of one’s character? Character is what a person becomes when confronted with a crisis or a challenge. Do they retain their true selves or do they impress others to convey a new image: remove the inconvenience, the anxiety, the turmoil they are going through, by being who they are not? Or do they respond with gracious dignity, reflect on the lessons of their spiritual challenge. What exactly was their personal share in that conflict, and if so, what can they change? Can they continue to express their spirituality in their actions to live their truth, aligned with their true self?

I want to live a life to express. What are we living our lives for? Look around us: the wasted efforts from wars, from unrequited aspirations...instead, how about living our lives in a higher sacred space? A positive space where we displace old wounds from ourselves, giving them away to the Universe. Then, after ridding our wounds and hurts, we can replace them with good lessons to learn from and thinking of how to be considerate to ourselves, to our needs that we have long forgotten because we keep living lives to impress others.

Grace Lee Boggs has two new questions for us to answer if we are going to turn this world around: “What time is it in the world now?" and "What would you do as majority in the world?" Let us start with those two questions, link them to answers from all perspectives, and install a process of finding our dwendes, helping us discover the essence of our humanity. What do we leave as our legacy to the next generation, as children displaced by a life of artificiality? Do we really want to live a life to impress or a life to express?

End Note: Dwendes, like little elves, dwarfs are each person's creative spirit, imagination, sense of playfulness.

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