Strength is a pretense based on one's ability to manipulate perceptions. It is the ultimate in prestidigitation. For instance, throughout my life people have consistently commented on my toughness. This image always peaked my interest, because then I lived a very guarded life. I always used misdirection as a way to conceal the real me. Beneath my hard exterior was a ball of insecurity-- a fear of being rejected. However, I had succeeded at keeping everyone at arm's length. Their idea of me was, without a doubt, created from a facade. Perhaps my greatest trick was convincing most of my cynicism.
Certainly, if my pessimistic persona didn't sell the image, then my credentials were sure to close the deal. My upbringing is no secret; I am from South Central, LA. In the past, I wielded my hometown like a magic wand. Essentially, it was another layer of the illusion. When interacting with people, my wand revealed people's own assumptions about "hood-life". In other words, when people heard of my background, they'd automatically associate me with what they had already presumed about others like me. Though deceptive, the benefit was two-fold: first, I didn't have to be transparent; and second, people didn't have to invest time into really getting to know me, since their superficial understanding of who I was sufficed. Still, the charade became an expertise.
If practice makes perfect, then I guess you could have called me a consummate illusionist, and my persona became the illusion. Over time, my act evolved to include my empty childhood. I exploited my own pain as a means of adding more depth to everyone else's perceptions. It was as though the darkness of my adolescence sprouted tiny tassels with which to cloak me-- a fitting front for a master magician. All the while, the real me laid hidden just beneath the cloak, beyond the smoke and the mirrors waiting to emerge from houdini's hat.
Unfortunately, the tangled web of deception entombed me and eventually, my voice was buried (but then again, which of the great magicians wouldn't risk death in order to sell a stunt). For strength, true strength, is emboldened through vulnerability. I had forgotten what it was to be vulnerable, and (having isolated myself from the world) at the end of the day all I really had was my hocus-pocus. I didn't know what it meant to really live.
Recently, I made a commitment to be known. The irony is that I credit death to my rebirth. Hopefully, with my background as an illusionist, this post will help some to recognize the techniques of the magician. I don't wish to become a crusader against the art of pretense, rather a sounding board of awareness and a bastion of empathy.