A Tiring Performance

Shruti Rajkumar   |   September 14, 2016 


It’s easy to get lost these days. We are so busy marketing ourselves to the world and to ourselves, I think we can forget who we are and what’s really going on inside. I find myself wearing all sorts of masks for the different roles I ‘play’ and I sometimes wonder if I ever take them off.

I’ve recently realised how much I perform. My identity is rooted in people’s perception of me. I want them to think highly of me and I am constantly defining myself by how well I am received. When I feel like people do not recognise my worth, I am an insecure mess; and when they are full of praise, I am way too confident for my own good.

The many masks we wear

Eldon Taylor in his article, Hiding From Others and From Ourselves says, “We come into the world equipped with honesty and innocence, and we openly express it until we are taught otherwise. At some point, we are told things about ourselves by others that we then begin to hide, sometimes so well we hide it from ourselves.”

Shame is usually what causes us to hide and be in denial of reality. It’s difficult to talk about your past hurts, your struggles in your marriage, or your selfish mistakes when you want people to think well of you. You want them to think that you’re happy, funny, that you’ve got it together, or even that your husband is madly in love with you because you are so perfect.

I remember sharing some of my struggles with my mentor the other day. After our talk, one of my friends asked if I felt better; and the truth was, I really didn’t feel better. Not immediately anyway. What did happen was that I became even more aware of my brokenness. Everything I was in denial of had been brought into the light. It was uncomfortable and slightly unnerving.

Unmasking in a safe community

Now when I look back, I can see how God has been able to do something new in my life because of this step. Since then, my mentor has extended grace to me, empathised with me and shared her own struggles too. This is why I need community. It is here that I am able to come face to face with myself and realise that there really is no need to perform.

My husband, Akshay, and I are constantly grateful for the community that God is building around us. We’re a broken, messed up bunch of people who are learning to be vulnerable with each other.

In his book Abba’s Child, Brennan Manning calls our fake, performing self “the impostor”. He says,

“As we come to grips with our own selfishness and stupidity, we make friends with the impostor and accept that we are impoverished and broken and realise that, if we were not, we would be God. The art of gentleness toward ourselves leads to being gentle with others -- and is a natural prerequisite for our presence to God in prayer.”

Only when I am real about my brokenness can I come to a place of needing God and needing people. Brené Brown, author of Daring Greatly and a researcher on shame, says, “It's hard to practice compassion when we're struggling with our authenticity or when our own worthiness is off-balance.”

True compassion comes with brokenness

Being aware of how messed up I am enables me to genuinely be compassionate towards others. It isn’t  about how I am received by people, but about how I receive them. It isn’t about how much affirmation I have received. Instead, I begin to see people and celebrate their worth.

Being aware of my brokenness can be difficult, but it looks like it’s an essential step. Jesus was broken, so I can be redeemed from my brokenness. He was vulnerable to the point of shame, so I can be rescued from shame and have the courage to be vulnerable. He left His community so that I could become a part of it—not through any performance of my own, but because of what He graciously did for me. He was rejected by His Father, so I can be a daughter of the Most High. I don’t need to perform to receive His approval. He calls me worthy and that’s why I am.



Photo Credit: Unsplash

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Shruti Rajkumar

Shruti Rajkumar lives in the chaotic, beautiful city of New Delhi. She is currently studying to become a family therapist whilst being a mother to a little girl and partnering with her husband in the church they have planted. In her free time she enjoys shopping in Sarojini Market, reading and hanging out with friends.

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One comment on “A Tiring Performance”

  1. Hey shruti, thank you so much for this article. I'm facing something so similar in my life. In a new city, new job. I'm so lost and forgot all about genuineity. Things have been so complicated lately.

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