Typically the hook isn’t so prominently displayed. The give away not so obvious. And that’s how advertisers get us. The message, the product, the pitch, it sounds so good. Too good, even. But we’re sucked in quickly because – at the end of the day – we’re all good consumers. Our disappointment isn’t fully realized until the thing we bought doesn’t work, look, taste, or feel like they said it would. It so often happens this way that I find myself surprised when an item is as good as advertised. I’m used to being ripped off. And this is so much a part of our culture that I think it’s become a part of who we are. More to the point, it’s become a part of who I am.
I don’t know when it happens, or if a switch is flipped after so many infomercials, but somewhere in the in between we learn to market ourselves. We pitch our value to new people we’d like to be friends with. We market ourselves to prospective mates based on whatever criteria we think they have, then reel them in. We itemize our list of accomplishments for employers with hopes of nailing the interview and landing the dream job. And none of these things is intrinsically bad. The problem is that in every scenario exists the potential for some serious false advertising.
It’s like this: if the thought of having kids causes you to have a panic attack, launching into your best Mr. Mom impersonation on the first date is – at a minimum – insincere. You’re the chamois towel that can absorb a five gallon bucket of water. If you’re running for elected office and you weren’t offered a full scholarship to West Point, claiming that you were is going to backfire. You’re the vacuum cleaner that can pick up a bowling ball. Or the knife that can cut through Coke cans and still peel tomatoes. It all seems wonderful at first, but it just doesn’t hold up.
Full disclosure: I’ve done this. Not these specific examples, necessarily, but I have been the chamois towel, the vacuum, and the knife. I have purposefully tried to appear better than I am. I want to seem confident, competent, and in control. Often I am none of these things. Frequently I am none of these things simultaneously. And eventually this becomes evident to everyone involved. Whatever shine was there to begin with fades and what’s left is the me that I was afraid couldn’t cut it or didn’t believe was good enough. What I’ve been learning, however, is that there’s more to be gained by owning who I am right from the start – and really owning it, not with false modesty but with gut-wrenching honesty – than in building a persona or playing a dangerous game of fake it ’til you make it. Making it never happens like that. That’s the truly bad news.
Here’s the sort-of bad news: not everyone is cool with this kind of full disclosure. It makes people uncomfortable. Hell, it makes me uncomfortable. But I’m discovering that in the awkwardness of owning my own brokeness there’s a peace that I’m not familiar with. It’s the opposite of what you’d expect. It’s actually better than advertised.