Josh Irby

Live from Sarajevo

An honest life (the power of reality)

[This is the third post in series, Plan2Change, about the possibility and process of personal growth. Check out part 1 and 2]

According to legend, Gregory Potemkin went to extravagant lengths to impress Russia’s Catherine the Great. When she visited the lands he governed he built mobile villages along her river route and populated them with actors to hide the poverty of the region. When the Empress’ boat pulled to shore, she marveled at the health and happiness of the “local” people. Then, when she left, Potemkin’s men packed up the village and moved it up river to prepare for her next stop.

It was an elaborate facade.

While the story is mostly myth, the name stuck around. A Potemkin village, according to Webster, is “an impressive facade or show designed to hide an undesirable fact or condition.”

Too often, it describes more than the work of an over-exuberant governor—it describes our lives.

Allen Skyy (Creative Commons)

Allen Skyy (Creative Commons)

In the last two posts of the series, we addressed the questions “Who do you want to be?” and “Where do you want to go?” But we can change there is a third important question, “Who/Where am I now?”

As long as we hide behind a Potemkin Village, lying to ourselves and others, we cannot really change. Without an honest assessment of our current location, we can never reach our desired destination.

[tweet_quote hashtags=”#Plan2Change” ]To accomplish your dreams, you need to face reality.[/tweet_quote]

For most people, this is the hardest part of the change process—looking clearly at themselves without losing hope.

A mirror is a great example.

The purpose of a mirror is to show us reality. However, it is often a source of judgement.
“You are too fat.”
“You nose is too big.”
“You don’t meet the standard.”

A mirror can also distort reality. Have you ever caught yourself (perhaps after a new haircut) glancing into every reflective surface you pass? Do you ever stare at your blemishes in the mirror? Research shows, the more we look at our reflection, the less happy we are.

To avoid this phenomenon, some people give up looking in the mirror at all.

I found a conversation about mirrors on a college discussion board. The introductory post said the following;

“So I went a week without a mirror or a reflection of myself. I actually feel a lot more confident. I didn’t have to care what I look like because I didn’t know what I look like. All the imperfection is ‘gone’ because I just felt like I didn’t have any.”

Is blindness to our faults any kind of solution? While we don’t need to obsess about our imperfections, knowing them is helpful.

Perhaps the problem is the standard with which we are judging.

When we look in the mirror, we judge ourselves against the airbrushed, magazine-cover perception of beauty. Since mirrors don’t come with a Photoshop function, we don’t measure up to the standard of New York post-production. We leave our reflection disappointed and depressed.

We need a way to look into the mirror and see reality. We need to get a clear picture of our Real Self—who we are today.  Because without reality, we can’t become who we are meant to be.

We need honest helpful introspection.

My son was recently pre-diagnosed with celiac disease. For the past two years he has suffered various ailments: stomach pain, skin rashes, frequent sickness, loss of energy. We have seen numerous doctors and tried countless treatments, with no success. We saw the symptoms but were unaware of the reality behind it.

His diagnose came as a shock and a relief. We were (and are) overwhelmed with the life-changes necessary to accommodate his allergy to gluten. However, we would accept ten times worse for the joy of knowing the root cause of his suffering. After only two weeks of his new diet, he has more energy, his skin has cleared up and he is hungry all the time.

Reality is our friend. [tweet_quote]Hiding from reality may make you feel better in the short-term, but will hurt you over time.[/tweet_quote]

Who is your Real Self?

Before you can choose areas for growth, you need a clear picture of your current reality. However, as we saw earlier with the mirrors, the standard you use is very important.

Don’t compare yourself to someone else.
Don’t compare yourself to someone else’s plan for your life.
Don’t compare yourself to perfection.
Don’t compare yourself with society’s standard.

Compare who you are now with who you want to be. How far am I today from where I want to be tomorrow.

If you want to be an entrepreneur, judge yourself against that goal. How far are you from that destination? In what ways must you grow to get there?

Look back at your mission statement. Glance at the picture of your Ideal Self. What areas need most growth?

Take a minute and write down 2 or 3 areas where you want to grow.

There are two main reasons we resort to building Potemkin Villages: we don’t believe true change is possible or change is not coming fast enough. Ironically, [tweet_quote]as long as our energy is focused on hiding reality, we will not have strength left to change reality.[/tweet_quote]

Do you have the courage to look honestly in the mirror?

“Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.”
Augustine of Hippo (354-430)

Open Letter Cover 2

If you liked this post, then consider joining the community here at JoshIrby[dot]com. Just for joining, I will give you my recent visual manifesto, An Open Letter for You from the Rest of the World, for FREE.

Plus, you will receive regular blog updates and exclusive newsletter content.

"I love Josh's writing. Big things to come from him." —Jeff Goins

About Josh

  • Good, solid advice and thoughts that greeted me on a Monday morning….thanks for getting the thinking spurred!

    • Joshua Irby

      Thanks my friend.

  • troy mc laughlin

    Thanks Josh. Great story on how to face our reality and not become victim of comparing it to others but letting it be rooted in truth. Your so right if we focus on the wrong things we cannot focus and change the right things in our lives.

    • Josh

      it is about victimhood, isn’t it. If we see a victim in the mirror, it will be hard to change.

  • Well said. I have a lot to consider. Now to go back and read part one and part two.

    • Josh

      Let me know what you think when you do. 🙂

  • Sandra Sharp

    I recently read this article about telling small lies:

    http://boss.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/03/11/the-surprisingly-large-cost-of-telling-small-lies/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_php=true&_type=blogs&smid=tw-nytimes&_r=1&

    Basically, unless you’re willing and able to face the reality you have no hope of ever changing anything. I liked this:

    “Peter maintains that telling lies is the No. 1 reason entrepreneurs fail. Not because telling lies makes you a bad person but because the act of lying plucks you from the present, preventing you from facing what is really going on in your world. Every time you overreport a metric, underreport a cost, are less than honest with a client or a member of your team, you create a false reality and you start living in it.”

    Creating false reality prevents us from ever tackling true reality!

    • Josh

      Great article. I need to explore this idea of “lying to oneself” more. It has a lot of angles and applications.

  • My son has a song called UGLY with Hello Industry. Check out the song and lyrics. Your post reminded me of it.

    http://helloindustry.bandcamp.com/track/ugly

    • Josh

      I like the song. Your son is talented.

  • deairby

    Taking a reality check instead of faking a reality is the only way to move forward! Great article.

    • Josh

      Thanks!

  • Pingback: Cru New York City()

  • Pingback: 5 Life Lessons from Good Stories()