I ran across a phrase I’ve often used, suddenly seeing it in a different light. Then I ran across it elsewhere in an expanded and more intriguing form. Here’s what I discovered.
“Come as you are” is a pleasant invitation, an indication that you’re welcome to be yourself (with no expectations of special attire or formality), and there’s no need to hide the truth of who you are (or the imperfections that we all live with). These are words suggesting an open door, a relaxed reception, a comfortable environment.
I was curious to see the variety of references to “come as you are.” There are many.
Come As You Are… Means What?
Apparently, Kurt Cobain wrote a song, “Come As You Are,” for the band Nirvana. That was in the early 1990s. I also discovered references to the expression as biblical, though that origin is disputed.
There’s no disagreement that when we say “come as you are” in the context of a gathering, we refer to casual dress. When we use those same words in more generalized fashion, aren’t we implying that we may let go of our public faces, let down our guard, and feel no requirement to be someone other than who we are?
We don’t surrender our aspirations to be bigger, better, brighter, braver – or live a different sort of life of self or even to project our best selves, but come as you are may become a way of life as we grow older, as we envision of a state of interaction with other people that takes us as we are – at our insistence.
Can We Ever “Come As We Are?”
Who doesn’t daydream about being something “more?” How many of us would gladly – and do – work toward a better self? Who wouldn’t like to be received as someone special, at least in specific situations that are important to us?
Then again, we all have days when a little invisibility enabling us to “be” and observe is just what the doctor ordered.
As for coming as we are, there are those who never do pick up the requisite social veneer that eases interpersonal relationships, and they may stick out like a sore thumb – the proverbial squeaky wheel, or frankly, awkward and irritating, though we still deal with them and even love them.
For most of us? Do we entirely leave guile, artifice, or our smoothest social skins at home? Do we only shed them under the influence, or when we find ourselves in non-threatening familial environments, or in our closest relationships?
Are you able to “come as you are” with your partners? More so perhaps – with your children?
Finding Identity in Wishful Thinking, and More
Here is the expanded phrase I came across. It struck a chord:
Come as you are… Wait. Come as you want to be.
Better yet… Come as I want you to be.
While not the precise wording, these thoughts reflect a transition that is refined by stages – first outward and in a generous way, and then inward as we return ourselves to primary in the equation. Isn’t this how we relate to most people? Wishful thinking or otherwise, wanting friends, lovers, spouses, parents, siblings, children to be who and what we imagine?
We’re conflicted. We want the people who are important to us to be themselves, to be comfortable with us as themselves. Yet if we were most truthful, we might first pass through an idealized stage of wanting those we care about to be their “best” selves, but ultimately, that may not be the case.
We Want What We Want
We want those in our lives to be their best selves as we imagine them:
- The perpetually romantic or surprising lover – loyal, but never boring, there whenever we need him or her, and magically able to read our moods – and our minds.
- The child who startles us with his or her process of becoming what we hope he would be, headed toward the future we might have envisioned when he was a child or teenager.
- The parent who loves us unconditionally, compassionate and generous when we need her most, allowing us to make our own choices when that is what we need and accepting of all of it – with a dash of wisdom thrown in.
- The friend who does us proud, in whose glow we can bask without being diminished.
For that matter, wouldn’t we choose the boss who values us consistently, and feels no threat in our achievements? Wouldn’t we choose to be the boss, and never feel threatened or insecure?
Be Yourself? Not So Simple
We pretend for ourselves, adhering to “fake it til you make it,” which can be an effective mantra in some scenarios – and a disastrous formula in others.
As for coming as we are – bringing our most “natural” selves to the party – we know that we can’t view all situations as the same. Boundaries exist for a reason, as do conventions and even etiquette. Who hasn’t seen abuse of the casual invitation, or what happens when good judgment is suspended as one interprets “come as you are” to be free license?
Inappropriate behaviors – regardless of invitations to the contrary – are almost always counterproductive.
Extending the Welcome Mat
Sure, we’d like to extend the welcome mat to friends and strangers alike, and if possible, in a way that would suit them.
But we don’t necessarily mean it – not when we dig deeper, consider the consequences, and are more honest with ourselves. There’s nothing wrong in this; it’s natural that we want both what is best for others and what suits our view of the world. If it reflects well on us, too? Even better.
But what if we’re refusing to see others for who they really are? What if that hurts us? What if it hurts them?
We also know our own foibles and faiblesses – we’d like to think that we’re free to come as we are – to sit at the table and participate in the parties and debates of our choice, without fear and without judgment, evolving as we all do, and feeling valued.
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