Who Are You When No One’s Looking?

girl hiding her face, who are you, identity, be yourself
Courtney Clayton

Who are you when no one’s looking? I remember my mother reading this quote to me when I was little. For some reason, it’s stayed with me all these years. Maybe because as a child I was scared if I messed up, Santa would be right there watching, and so there was this push to always make the ‘Nice List’ come Christmas time. Or maybe I didn’t want to disappoint my late grandmother who was looking down on me from the sky. Or maybe it was the simple fact that those words spoke so much truth to me, even as I was young—be yourself, all the time.

We’re all different people when we’re alone, aren’t we? We dance around in our underwear, mumble under our breath, sing in the shower. Sure, maybe we have the same habits, same quirks. Or maybe we’re just as weird in the comfort of our home then when we’re with our significant others (honestly, isn’t that the dream?!). Maybe we work hard to be transparent, to show the realest parts of ourselves whether we’re in our bedroom doodling, or live on a social media feed.

But besides walking around in our underwear at home, I think there’s so much truth to that quote—to the idea that when we’re alone, when no one’s watching, when we’re not asked to be accountable to anyone for anything we’re doing—that’s when our character speaks the loudest.

When no one’s looking, do we still make the right decision? Do we still live unselfishly, or love with our whole hearts? When no one’s looking, do we put our needs first, or do we ignore everything that doesn’t pertain to us?

When no one’s looking, do we return the money in the wallet to the stranger that dropped it on the bus? Do we leave a positive anonymous comment? Do we speak with kindness about a friend?

When no one’s looking are we still shining, still loving, still being the best version of ourselves? Or are we falling into bad habits, making poor choices, quitting—all because there’s no one here to say that we can’t?

Who we are when no one’s looking—that speaks the most truth about us.

When we’re by ourselves, we have to make decisions for ourselves without influence. We have to figure out how to handle certain situations. We have to let our inner conscience guide us, trust our moral compass to put us on the right path.

We have to rely on ourselves—not outside influence, not other perspectives, not thoughts and beliefs and opinions that continually shift what we really think.

When we’re alone, our feelings are our own. And so, when it comes time to speak, to decide, to make a choice—who we are when no one’s looking—that’s our truest self.

So who are you when there isn’t someone breathing down your neck? When there’s no one to watch you make the right or wrong choice? When there isn’t necessarily a consequence to your decision?

Are you still yourself?
Or are you unrecognizable? TC mark

Marisa Donnelly

Marisa is a writer, poet, & editor. She is the author of Somewhere On A Highway, a poetry collection on self-discovery, growth, love, loss and the challenges of becoming.

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The cover and theme for my newest book was inspired by the concept of kintsugi. All that is dark or cracked within us has the capacity to be fixed, to be filled with light. We are never broken. We are always becoming. 

“Live a life that is driven; not by fear, but by love.” — Bianca Sparacino

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