The Mortifying Ordeal of Being Known

Tim Kreider on the disorientation that results from accidentally discovering what people think of you:

Hearing other people’s uncensored opinions of you is an unpleasant reminder that you’re just another person in the world, and everyone else does not always view you in the forgiving light that you hope they do, making all allowances, always on your side. There’s something existentially alarming about finding out how little room we occupy, and how little allegiance we command, in other people’s heads.

Or, if you’re like me, you struggle with a contradiction: yes, wanting to be thought of, but terrified of the tenor of those thoughts. Are those folks laughing over there because they’re making fun of me? Is such and such a person angry because of something I did?

We all make fun of one another behind one another’s backs, even the people we love. Of course we do — they’re ridiculous. Anyone worth knowing is inevitably also going to be exasperating . . .

If this is true, then I am certainly worth knowing, if only for the exasperation I cause my wife. 

[I]f we want the rewards of being loved we have to submit to the mortifying ordeal of being known.

Sometimes I take a chance and bank on this: If I reveal just enough my own weirdness, it will be sympathetic. Look at Paul and his quirks, he can’t help it! But that’s not the way to the rewards of being loved, that’s being humored out of politeness or pity. 

Being truly open, true to oneself and accepting of oneself, is an ordeal, at the very least. 

 
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