People can be like a stick bug, appearing to be one thing when, in fact, they’re another. Generally, as a society we hate it when someone is “fake,” and, perhaps because of this, there is growing demand that you reveal everything there is about yourself on social media. Posted online are your likes and dislikes, your background, movie and book interests, favorite television shows, games, foods, your political leanings, your religious faith, your every moment of every day. Yet, a stick bug can teach you an important life skill – if you want a safer, happier life, don’t be too quick to reveal the true you.
Consider the remarkable stick bug. There are several varieties, and all of them have evolved physical characteristics that allow them to blend seamlessly into their surroundings. Not only do they look like twigs, they act like twigs. They sway their bodies back and forth as if they were swaying in the wind. As much as these copy-cats resemble what they are not, a stick bug is not a “fake.” It does, in fact, look the way it looks and act the way it acts, giving it an edge over hungry predators who would eat it if they could see the truth. All its “fake” traits are genuine. Other stick bugs can recognize it just fine. It’s only “fake” to its enemies.
Generally, we jump all over “fake”people. We want everyone to be genuine, to be the real you, to be honest with your feelings and opinions. Yet, being open and honest can get you hurt or rejected. Have you known the pain of trusting someone who presses you to disclose “the truth” about yourself, stressing that they can’t stand people who aren’t being themselves, only to then be honest with them and end up judged and rejected? The drive to be honest about who you are should be driven by you, on your terms, in your timeframe, and under circumstances where you know you’ll be safe.
That being said, we can also learn from the stick bug the value of blending into our surroundings. There is so much emphasis these days on being unique that we forget there is a very real survival benefit to blending in. If your house is the only house on the street where the lawn isn’t mowed, chances are you’re going to alienate your neighbors. If at work, you never attend co-worker birthday parties, baby showers, or retirement send-offs, you’re seen as a snob and not a member of the team. If you never attend family functions, sit off by yourself reading a book at a picnic, or do anything else that separates you from the group at what is a group-oriented activity or event, you set yourself up for resentment and rejection. Yes, we each should embrace our individuality, but it is just as important to create harmony with the other people in your environment. Depending upon where and when you assert your individuality, you could be asking for trouble.
On a final note, a stick bug also teaches that you may not be who you think you are, either. It’s a natural knee-jerk reaction to be suspicious of someone you discover has been pretending to be something they’re not around you, but do you take a moment to consider if they’re camouflaging themselves, because they don’t feel safe to reveal their true self to you? We hate it when people aren’t who we think they are, because we feel cheated or tricked, but sometimes we’ve no one to blame but ourselves. In your attempts to get to know a person, are you a pal or a predator? Are you being receptive or secretly critical? If you want people to be real around you, you have to be ready and willing to accept what is real about them and not judge.
Sort out the stick bug moments of your life. Are you just blindly revealing yourself to anyone and everyone expecting to be loved for your distinctions? Are you conscious of your surroundings and making an effort to harmonize with the group where you can, so as to blend in and not alienate others unnecessarily? Are you willing to not be so quick to condemn someone for camouflaging their true self and take some time to consider what it is about you that makes them feel too threatened to trust you with their truth?