I had a teacher who said it best.
You don’t know who someone is until you see them under pressure.
It is when we are under pressure that our true colors come out, when the ego’s ass is put to the fire and we become the gateway between our survival self and doing what is humane and expressing integrity.
If you think about it, it is really easy to be a nice person when there is no pressure in your life. It is easy to give money to those in need when you have it in your wallet. It is easy to smile when you’re already laughing. It is easy to dance when you are in love with someone or with life itself. You don’t mind donating money or doing extra favors when you have the time. Even arguing is ok when you are feeling fine otherwise.
But, put some pressure on the same person and you may be face to face with a demon.
It happens to all of us. And it’s humbling to see where we really are in relation to life.
By what they choose to do in their free time.
There is popular belief that ‘true colours’ of a person are revealed under situations of stress and pressure and how they behave therein. However I am inclined to disagree. Look at nature itself – a rabbit is overall a harmless, furry little animal that minds its own business and nibbles on carrots. But if provoked, or attacked rabbits have been known to lunge, bite and scratch. If you had to write a behavioural report on the species would you highlight their nature basis their day-to-day patterns or outright judge on instances when they are cornered?
Stress and pressure make base survival instincts kick in – and the result is not pretty. Different people have different coping mechanisms; and though some people may deal with bad situations more gracefully than others I don’t think that should be the yardstick of measuring anyone. People might sulk, withdraw, scream, cry or maintain nonchalance – but I believe all that is momentary and in the situational context. It does not mean that those people are not nice. On the other hand, the people who are able to deal with pressure situations too well, are either very experienced in this regard or maybe apathetic or unemotional in general. I am sure all great leaders show this trait. They consciously learn it because they can’t be losing their heads as this would demoralize their teams. People who lead armies into war are especially trained in maintaining calm in tough situations. Does this tell anything about how they are as people? Probably not.
Similarly, on the other end of the spectrum, one cannot tell much about the nature when a person is very happy. The true nature would be masked behind glowing smiles and exceptionally good conduct. This too is momentary and needs to be viewed in the situational context.
I think the true nature of a person is revealed in life-as-usual circumstances when a person is not on an atypical emotional curve. These times make up for statistical majority in an average human’s life, and hence should be taken as the background when assessing the personality. How do you behave at the dinner table every evening? How do you spend your Sunday afternoons? How often do you meet and talk to friends and family? What do you usually talk about? How do you feel on your commute to work and back? Do you make way for someone who is in a rush? Are you a natural critique or someone who compliments easily?
Out of all these, I feel a good insight to a person can be had by knowing what they do with their free time. It’s very telling what a person chooses to do with time that is truly theirs.
The simplest thing: their social media activity. I’ve analyzed the behavioral patterns of people over time by going over their personal social profiles. I didn’t do it on purpose but over time starting from my close circle of friends I managed to connect the dots between one’s personality and one’s social activity.
If you are a person that’s NOT being paid to constantly upload pictures, share tweets or snaps for a living aka modelling, business promotion, travel blogger or something that is connected with you bringing awareness to a bigger issue, then I hate to break it down to you: you are suffering from a deep sense of lack.
Here are a few examples:
Couples sharing pictures with their wedding or newborn baby. Although it is normal and cute to a certain extent. Oversharing a whole album on your Facebook and Instagram portrays a certain need for validation:
“Look at us, despite all our insecurities and doubts if we are actually right for one another here is an album of 276 pictures of us on our wedding day. Please acknowledge my relationship! Please say we are looking so good together ”
“Our romantic lives have reached a stale point. Here are 183 pictures of our newborn baby I just posted online. Isn’t he cute? Acknowledge me! Give me the hearts and likes I deserve. Oh yes! 83 reactions, 50 comments… Aaaah I feel so much more at ease now”
Bodybuilders ( again if you are not making a living out of this ) that post a flexing mirror selfie each day to show their progress:
“Oh look at me! Deep down inside I’m insecure and I lack a lot of confidence and personality but daaaamn… look at these guns! Bam! Bam!”
“I’m afraid of what people think of me. There are bigger dudes than me out there. I still lack that killer confidence! Yeah sure their superior bench press might intimidate me but I’m still bigger than the average guy. I’m alpha! Acknowledge my alphaness please! I’ll buy more protein tomorrow. Soon…”
“Oh look at all these people ‘mirin. Yes! It’s OK. I feel calmer now. I am the man, I got this, I am alpha”
Beautiful women (again not contract models, but I would even argue that although they get paid for it, this just feeds their insecurities more and more with age). You see this hot girl posting this beautiful artistic picture in a dreamy environment, the hot selfie right after a workout session or that Friday night snapchat “In my PJ’s, no boyfriend, no worries”. While you think she is a flawless goddesses that you can’t even reach at her feet this what she is actually thinking is:
“It took me 38 selfies to get this right angle. Please acknowledge how gorgeous I am and how I can have any man I want.”
“My instagram has 100 consecutive pictures of the same face just from a slightly different angle, all within the last week. I hope they don’t notice that my nose is a bit off. Does my left eye have more eyelashes than my right? Oh god please just comment how gorgeous I am so I can see that nobody notices my imperfections”
“Look at me in this sexy schoolgirl outfit I’m wearing inside my house. I don’t actually go out like this but am I not the sweetest schoolgirl ever? Acknowledge me!”
“I don’t have a boyfriend! I want a boyfriend! Where is he?”
The wantrepreneurs: These are the people that haven’t really started any business in their lives so far but post pictures all day on their profiles from networking events they go to and inspirational quotes, always missing that one important part, actually starting something:
“This is a picture of me at X event. Such inspirational talks LOL. So motivated right now”
“This is a picture of me talking in front of my classmates.” *Insert Steve Jobs quote below*
“Check out the daily articles I share about other people and their achievements. This is the kind of things I read everyday. I’m so smart. After I read enough maybe one day I will actually start something. In the meantime, have you checked <10 habits successful people do every morning?”
Now of course all these thing are just fine, if done in moderation. Maybe the cases above are too extreme just to prove a point. But even in moderation you can sense something is up, if the switch is too sudden. For example:
I had a friend who never had any social media activity. After breaking up from a long distance relationship her social activity started exploding. I noticed this because she was never present before in my news feed. All of a sudden I was overwhelmed with check-ins at different places, videos shares and posts about “being strong, following your dreams etc”, her profile picture changed after 2 years of having the same on, group pictures with all sorts of diverse people. Then I asked one of her close friends if she had broken up with her boyfriend. I hit the jackpot. As strong as you want to be, guy or woman, breaking up with someone takes a toll on you, big or small, and that was her way of coping with her lack, of showing she is strong.
Myself. I met this girl a while ago in one of my visits abroad and we clicked. After coming back home she added me on Facebook. Although I live a pretty exciting life sometimes travelling the world, pursuing my interests, being a public speaker and working in interesting projects I take care of not over sharing everything with the world, because some days I live a pretty boring existence surrounded by monotony and work that I just do for the sake of doing. Nobody wants to share that. So after this girl added me, I noticed that all of sudden I was concerned with what I was sharing, the storyline my pictures were creating and I was actively being careful to share only what made me look good compared to before when I was just being random. All of a sudden I felt lack.
In conclusion, from my own experiences, the happiest, most grounded and successful people rarely spend time on social media creating this “idealistic” picture of themselves. The entrepreneurs are down in the trenches working on exciting stuff, the most confident business women are too preoccupied with fighting for gender equality or creating an impact bigger than themselves, the happiest couples are reclusive and keep their love for themselves instead of taunting it in front of everyone. They don’t lack, and even if they do, they actively work on healing it instead of just “treating the symptoms.”