There are layers to all of us. We forget this about others because we only see what’s on the surface, the top layer. This layer is the most superficial. It signifies everything we think others want us to be or what we want others to think of us. Even if you think this façade isn’t true for you, others still don’t see what’s underneath that top layer of yours if they forget to look underneath the surface.
In my experience, the people who appear to have it all together are the ones who have the most layers. They are held together by a thin string, waiting for it to burst; they are often hoping for it to burst, because then maybe someone would care to see what is underneath. I am one of these people.
I look and act like I have it all together. An outsider could take one glance at my life and think I had it all: a great apartment, a fulfilling career, supportive friends and family, and a passion for learning. What they don’t see is what I purposefully keep hidden under my layers, and since my top layer is so convincing to the unsuspecting eye that I have it all together, most people just take me at face value.
So how do we uncover these layers in others? How do we dig deeper to find the essence of a person that she keeps hidden because of the delicacy of her layers? How do we bring these layers to the surface? The answer: We inquire. We take an interest. We respectfully prod until she is comfortable enough to open up and trust us to look at her layers.
In exposing these deeper layers, we make ourselves vulnerable to the person who dares to learn more about us. We divulge our weaknesses, fears, and shortcomings. We share our deepest hopes and the dreams we are too embarrassed to admit out-right. In letting someone in, we run the risk of being let down. On the bright side, with each person to whom we expose our layers, these layers become lighter in us. We feel the proverbial weight lifted off of our shoulders in having someone share in what we try so hard to hide.
However, when that person deceives you, when he decides he no longer cares about your layers or has any interest to dig deeper, then the entire burden he carried for you is thrust back and sent deeper than where it was before. We feel heavier than when we started sharing ourselves, which is the true mark of love lost.
So how do we avoid the feeling of a heavier burden? Can we simply advise ourselves against showing anyone our layers so we avoid all risk of being hurt? Is it worth it to go on each day letting everyone think you are the sum total of what they see? Does subjecting ourselves to vulnerability for the sake of love and understanding produce a greater detriment than reward?
I don’t have the answers. I don’t know whether I believe it’s better to let someone in close enough to see all of you than it is to shield everyone and save your soul from heartache.
One way to approach the answers to these questions is to think about the fact that there is something to be said about a legacy. Take into consideration the saying, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around, does it make a sound?” I fear that by not sharing who we really are with at least one person, it brings to the surface the question of if we were even ever here at all. To not let anyone see our layers would mean taking these layers to the grave with us.
If this thought prevailed, I’d say the answer is easy: share yourself with others and love others, to give your life meaning once you’re gone.
However, I’ve tried this. I’ve peeled back my layers and let someone in. At first, I was liberated. Sharing myself with someone who understood me, someone like-minded. He made me believe I wasn’t alone. He lead me to feel that I would live forever simply because I shared the burden of my layers. The more we became comfortable with each other, the more he let me in to see his layers, too.
What I didn’t understand then, and what I still don’t understand now, is how he had a much larger effect on me than I had on him. At least I can only assume this to be true because he then made no attempts to continue our efforts at peeling back each other’s layers. He became more withdrawn and blamed a busy life for his inability to share more.
People come in and out of our lives for different and unknown reasons. He came into my life just as someone of great importance to me left. I clung to the hope he could replace that person, and I fear now that I was the one to push him away. Regardless, I will never uncover the truth; however, I will have a constant reminder of his presence as it is now the newest and deepest of my layers waiting inside of me, until I’m willing to share its contents with another brave soul.