Who are you when nobody else is watching? When there is no scope for any Instagram likes, nobody to comment on how nice you look or how nice your house is; when the only real critic that exists around you is the one whose eyes meet your own whenever you look into a mirror…
We all robotically recite the mantra that it is what’s on the inside that counts. We claim we are all living authentic lives; all our profile picture smiles are real and our families are just perfect.
But who are we behind closed doors? And whom do we become as soon as they are open?
We may decorate outer shells as much as we may please. We can wear our makeup beautifully; talk about our delightful travels at length; keep an entire room laughing, laughing, laughing…
But whom do our spouses know us to be – and our children – and the men and women we see in the mirror? They all know of us what is most true.
We are not pictures in art galleries. We are not celebrities – idols, as they are sometimes alternatively referred to. We cannot fill our souls with fake smiles and with partying and with projecting an image of ourselves and of our lives that is incongruous with reality.
Reality is almost always messy. People argue; children make mistakes; there are bouts of boredom and anger and insecurity that we must all experience.
But essence will always matter more than appearances; the ‘real thing’ over mere photographs. Is it not better to be messy but real than to be ‘picture-perfect’ but insincere?
Real love – between husband and wife, between parents and child, between friend and friend – is always a little bit frayed around the edges. Time does this to things. Real love is not to be found in roses, nor in presents wrapped up in bows, nor in what other people may say about you and yours. Real love does not care. It does not care if you have spilt some milk in the kitchen, nor if you are not making a ‘good impression’ to others.
Real love lets you be. It lets you be weird or talkative or quiet or a know-it-all. It is not proud; it does not boast. It does not belittle; it does not thrive on how others may perceive it.
It fills the inside – the soul – and cares little for the skins that may sit upon it.
Sadia Ahmed, 2020