"No matter how big, inflated, or different the image I try to portray, being myself is most important"

TM & 1995 Dr. Seuss Enterprises, L.P. 

Secret Art Collection, Museum of Science and Industry

“A Dr. Seuss {a.k.a. Ted Geisel} drawing suggesting that no matter how big, inflated or different the image we try to portray, being ourselves is most important.” (The Secret Art of Dr. Seuss). Check out everything Seuss at Seussville.

This happened.

So, we’re all dressed up standing in front of a restaurant. That would be Terry and me. We’re meeting friends for a special occasion dinner.

A visiting scholar from another university with an impressive history of accomplishment is being celebrated after a week-long workshop. Since we aren’t part of the workshop, the organizer of the dinner, with an intention to inform and welcome us, includes the scholar’s 32-page paper and 30-minute video in the email dinner invitation.

Our friend drives up and and drops the scholar off before looking for a parking space. We smile and wave.

The guest walks up and I say, “Hi, nice to meet you” and something like “we read your paper.” Terry without hesitation says, "No we didn't." Then I have to say “I lied,” that “I browsed it and it’s nice to meet you.”


A victory is that I took responsibility for my behavior. I didn't jump on the victim triangle and rescue myself by persecuting Terry. Terry was taking care of himself. He later said to me that he didn't want to be in a situation of having to answer questions about that paper he had not read. I was even a little grateful (not a lot) that I'm catching (hah! another fib, he caught it) my little (hah! again) exaggeration foible. I'm a fibber. Trying not to be, though.

What happened?

In a feeling of insecurity and nervousness, I sometimes fall back on an old behavior. I exaggerate to please. Pleasing. I people-please because I want to be liked. Ugh.

I know I’m people-pleasing, well…especially when Terry claims his truth! Seriously, I know I’m pleasing when I act out of an unmet personal need rather than from my heart, and with no attachment to results. You see, I’m trying to get you to like me. To think more of me.

I do this because an inner part of me feels inadequate and imagines that if you really knew me, you wouldn’t be interested. You wouldn’t like me.
Now the good part.

My antidote is turning that outward gaze inward.  I stop seeking approval and validation from others and strive to develop my own inner supply of peace, approval, well-being, and self-esteem.

The old me would have obsessed during dinner about how I met my feeling of inadequacy by exaggerating. Fibbing.

The old me would resent Terry (at least in my thoughts) for brash insensitivity rather than see that he took care of himself.

The old me would have rescued Terry by making up excuses for his blatant honesty.

The old me would have felt like a victim—poor me, wallow wallow, for being made to look like a fibber.

I think about Joan Didion’s books. Her non-fiction. Specifically, in her book Slouching Towards Bethlehem. The title references a line in a W. B. Yeat's poem. She writes, “Character—the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life is the source from which self-respect springs.”  I linger there.



  1. This is not a contradiction of your image, that people-pleasing looks outward. It does, seeking affirmation. But that's because we're looking inward, self-conscious, you could say. Wanting ourself to be affirmed.

    A nice story, though. I completely understand why Terry said what he did, but damn him!

  2. I love you for this, and see so much of myself in your story. I don't fib with words so much, but I do see myself As dishonest in the way I present myself to the world sometimes. A lie of omission so to speak. I am working on this too <3

  3. Thanks for sharing this Susan. We often lie to hide our vulnerability, and all it does it feed the ego and block our connections with others. How brave of you own up to a lie and share some honest reflections.... We can all learn from this.

  4. Jeanne, that self-conscious seeking is what I'm talking about. When I'm needy it's icky. Thanks for sharing this.

    Yes, that damn sweetheart! When we walked into the restaurant, Terry whispered in my ear with a tender hug, "Sorry to contradict you, Susan." I knew exactly his reason for speaking up without his telling me. His direct honesty is something I admire, even like about him. Did I like that it showed up then? Not so much.

    The evening turned out wonderful. Maybe starting with someone messing up like that cracks the ice in a let-the-light-in way.

  5. Tressie, your comment is soooooo comforting. Thanks for saying you love me for this. Nothing feels nicer than to be loved when I'm my lesser self AND hearing that I'm not the only one working on personal aspects such as this. <3

  6. Sarah! Yes, yes, yes. There are so many not so hot behaviors I can resort to when I'm vulnerable. Thanks for seeing the owing as brave and appreciating it as something others can benefit from. I sure hope so. Hitting that post button on this one was hard.

  7. Susan how brave of you to share your evolution with us. The knowing that there is an old and new you, that past behaviours you no longer wish to continue can be left in the past, there can be a newer version of you. People pleasing can be tricky to let go of be continue to be kind to yourself. Love the image and all things Seuss.

  8. Oh Karen, many thanks for your visit and comment. Here's to all things Seuss, what a teacher.

    I love that thought of an old and new me, and encouragement to continue kindness. xo