“. . . sometimes one feels freer speaking to a stranger than to people one knows. Why is that?”
“Probably because a stranger sees us the way we are, not as he wishes to think we are.”
― Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind
Confiding your greatest pain or perhaps some of your secrets to a stranger is an exhilarating experience and liberating as well. I find comfort in the idea that a stranger can offer you the most genuine emotions of sympathy, amazement, appreciation or wonderment from the stories that you chose to share and also because they do not judge your character the way we judged ourselves but the way they see from what we have intimately unraveled to them. The play of emotions from their eyes will tell you that they see you completely different from how YOU and other people from your surroundings judge you. True, we ourselves are our worst critic. One advertisement from Dove encouraged finding confidence in your own skin through describing one’s physical attributes to an artist and it clearly depicted our typical judgmental nature. The women were asked to describe their physical features – hair, birth marks, wrinkles, scars, eye shape, facial contour and everybody shapes while the artist furiously drew their description of themselves. Then, the women were tasked to take turns describing each other’s features as the artist was drawing what was being described to him. The drawings were pinned on the wall side by side with the woman’s self description and how she was seen by others. There was a clear surprise on their faces and some even became emotional because they never thought that they possess a certain kind of beauty in them. Lesson learned? People see things differently in you. And when you open up and share some intimate details of yourself to someone you haven’t known very well, you will be surprised as to how they see you as an individual.
I have always regarded myself as a strong, self sacrificing and sometimes selfish person. And at some point, I saw myself as a failure and a victor altogether.
I had a chance to share a part of myself to a complete stranger I barely met. For what it was worth, it was one of the best validating experience of having someone unintentionally assure you that you are a completely different character from how you saw yourself and how others, through relationships – may it be friendship, familial or fleeting love affairs have judged you and expected you to behave in a conforming society. Over intoxicating clouds of smoke, tiny goose bumps from the cold blow of the air conditioner, coffee, apples and my seemingly unquenchable thirst over water, a stranger to a stranger conversation lasted for over a long time. It was way too long knowing that one is allowing a stranger into the deepest recesses of one’s subconscious, of repressed memories of hurt, shame, betrayal and profound love for family and way too long to finally give in to the urge to allow someone I barely knew see my greatest insecurities and the scar I bore that nearly cost me my life.
Unconsciously, bit by bit, like a therapist to a client with frequent swapping of roles, I became a client to this pseudo- therapist and this stranger became a patient to me as well, sharing stories we would normally never open to people we don’t know for fear of judgment, diagnosing each other’s psychological behaviors in a comical manner, and finally in self admittance, I know that we have come to realize how blessed we are and how we are totally different from how we perceived ourselves. In my end, I have came to see that this happy, easy going individual whose facade is quite attractive to the opposite gender possesses a grateful and humble spirit.
Those shared conversations will shortly be forgotten. In this current social environment we are in, we meet different people and for sure have swapped some little details of ourselves to others. I never expect to see the stranger again. But what will remain to me was the sincere appreciation that I saw in this stranger’s beautiful sea blue eyes, and how this stranger saw me as someone stronger despite my tiny physique. As I concede that this stranger is physically beautiful, I was also given an appreciation that I am beautiful despite the physical disfigurement. It is indeed true that the superficial appearance becomes more beautiful when we get to see and know the person better. I felt beautiful because I was allowed by this stranger to walk with me in my journey for over half a day and experienced my failures and triumphs, pain and joy, anger and struggles and simple happiness from watching the rain pour over the verdant lush greeneries amidst the beautiful architectures and watching eagles flew freely above. I don’t know how did our conversation affected the stranger, neither know if it helped the stranger in retrospect to evaluate the blessings, the extreme luck and the wonderful experiences that happened in that stranger’s life.
Yesterday, I saw myself as a plain Jane. Today, I smile at the mirror because someone saw me as colorful, crazy, and complex yet beautiful. I know I have used the word “beautiful” several times. And that’s exactly what I feel. Inside and out.