I don't think it's done on purpose, at least not at first. But I firmly believe that most people show the world a skewed view of who they are and what their life is really like.
I've been on the inside track of peoples lives for decades. I have cared for people in their gravest hours, attended the bedsides of the dying, listened to the fears and uncertainties of parents, and stood by countless women and men as they watched their lives reel out of control through economic devastation, divorce, or a terminal illness. After all of this witnessing I am certain of one thing. NO ONE gets through life without major struggles. None of us really has it all together. Not even close. People who look like they live the perfect life, family, or marriage probably don't. How and why do they make such a good show of it?
We like to think of life as a story with a good ending - a sort of fairy tale existence where we are the star player. We don't want to have to struggle - but we all do. Even so, struggle isn't what we like to show. We like to show a happy and strong face to the world. It's a bit like a masquerade party - we dress up, go out, and play at being something we're not. And that's not necessarily a bad thing - we move on and sometimes benefit from forgetting for a while (forgetting about the bad news, terrible turn of events, or relationship struggle).
But it doesn't serve us well when we leave the mask on for too long. Or if we wear the mask all the time, in front of everyone. When we pretend like our lives are perfect and that we have it all in control, we are not being honest with the people we are close to. When we are HONEST with those people, what we usually hear back from them is this, "Me too!"
Me too? What does that mean? It means they are struggling too. When we break through the masks and the masquerade - we find out that we're not that different from everyone else. Each of us has a different story to tell. Each story is filled with mystery, wonder, struggle, good AND bad. That's the way life is.
When we pretend that we are untouched by the unfortunate, the difficult, or the tragedies that befall all of us - we are living a lie. And when our kids grow up seeing or thinking that everyone else has it all figured out and that everyone else lives perfect lives (because that's all we let them see) - it's dangerous. It's dangerous because a kid who grows up thinking that life is supposed to be perfect is going to realize pretty early on that he/she is NOT perfect. Self-acceptance is impossible - and then the inevitable will occur. The child will grow into an unhappy and troubled teen.
The teen years are not too late. They are actually an ideal time to highlight for your kids that life is imperfect. That life hurts. And that in imperfection and hurt lie all sorts of moments of mystery and potential goodness - even happiness. The truth is - it is the simple moments of joy and happiness that are the most powerful. And those simple moments - those gems of joy - are often surrounded by ordinary and even uncomfortable moments.
Me, I grew up in a family where secrets were kept and shame was a daily practice. I learned to show only the positive to my parents - that's what they wanted to see. I pretended that I was ALWAYS good. I told them what they wanted to hear. I did work hard - to get good grades and to be seen as the "good girl" my parents wanted me to be. I lived a masquerade. Because I wasn't always good. I just pretended to be. I grew out of it in college. When I went to nursing school, I sat at the bedsides of people with serious illness. I helped families prepare for and then recover from life-altering diagnoses. I learned in my early twenties that none of us has it easy. And I learned that it was OK that I was imperfect too. Just like you.
I urge you take a chance today or tomorrow. Tell someone you are close to about something you are struggling with. Just tell them. Be honest. You don't have to dump everything. Just admit to an imperfection. See what happens. I think you might be surprised - in a good way.
(Hint - it will make you closer, make the other person feel better about the things they struggle with. And in the end - you will both realize that being human is pretty good -especially when you admit to it in the company of others.)