I am not in the business of doing movie reviews, but our family has a number of favorite movies, our own cult classics, so to speak. One is the film, What About Bob? It stars Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss, and if you haven’t seen it, you should add it to your Netflix queue, or better yet, go buy it on Amazon. It is inexpensive enough.
The movie is a comedy, and it is the story of Bob, played by Bill Murray, who is a man with a number of phobias that have him nearly crippled. Bob is bounced from one psychiatrist to another, because he is so high needs, until he becomes a client of Dr. Leo Marvin, played by Dreyfuss. Dr. Marvin sees Bob for the first time just as his new book, Baby Steps, is released at the day before he and his family are set to go on a month long vacation in New Hampshire. Bob is very upset at the idea of going an entire month without seeing Dr. Marvin, and leaves his appointment, book in hand, distraught. I am not going to tell you the entire movie plot, but Bob follows the family to New Hampshire, much to the chagrin of Dr. Marvin, but to the delight of Dr. Marvin’s family, because as they get to know Bob, as flawed as he is, they find out what a treasure he is as a human being.
Why is Bob such a treasure amidst his giant ball of fears and phobias, and with his absolute lack of boundaries? He is such a delight because he is genuine, and honest, and extremely transparent. Bob is who he is, warts and all, and he’s not ashamed of that. This blatant personal honesty about his many quirks and shortcomings seems to draw people to him like a magnet. Bob gives people the gift of allowing them to admit to their own fears and imperfections and he accepts them unconditionally.
As the movie progresses, Bob begins to take some giant steps forward in facing, and removing his fears, and he begins to deliver another gift to the people around him–the willingness and courage to face their own fears. As Bob heals himself, quite publicly, openly, comically, and with no apologies for who he is, others begin to see that they to can be who they are, speak about what scares them, and erase their fears, too. Bob becomes a beacon of hope to the people he meets. It’s a hope that they can be genuine, and flawed, and courageous, and in the end, still be loved and accepted.
I wonder what would happen if we were all more like Bob? If we did not build elaborate facades to hide our true selves, and our flaws, and our fears? What is we were trusting enough, and willing enough, and courageous enough to just be who we are, each and every day, with no apologies needed. What if you showed your own fears, and imperfections, and vulnerabilities, and quirks fearlessly? What if you were genuine? What would that look like for you?
Why do we so often fear being who we really are, and work so hard to hide our flawed beauty? I suspect the answers are as unique as their are people, but there is a commonality in there. We have all been hurt, or felt “less than,” or been told that we are not enough as we are. We relentlessly compare ourselves to others instead of looking in the mirror and working on that one person. We are afraid that no one will like us, let alone love us, if they really knew our thoughts and feeling and fears, so we pretend. It doesn’t have to be that way, and it takes far too much work to maintain the facade.
We all have areas that need work, or where we need help, but if we do not face them, or admit to them, there will be no change. If we are not genuine with the people in our lives, how can we expect them to really know us, or know what we really need? At the same time, how can we expect to have honest relationships if we are not who we genuinely are in public, or in private? So many of us are terrified of being human. What will people think if I am not perfect? If I do not hold it together all of the time, what will become of me? What if people find out that…fill in the blank.
Generally speaking, I think we would find out that we are all more a like than we are different. I think we would all enjoy our lives more if we were “real” with ourselves, and with others. Of course, if we dropped the facades and exposed the areas where we need work and fine tuning we would have to have the courage to do that work, but we wouldn’t be alone in doing so. In the film, Bob is not a victim. He is a person who strives to become better, then he becomes a survivor, and in the end, he thrives, surrounded by people who love him, and celebrate his uniqueness.
What is the key here? Is it the willingness, or the honesty, or the courage? It is a combination of those attributes along with a healthy sense of humor, and a lot of hope. I believe we all hold those keys within us. They are the keys that turn us from people pretending to live into genuine people who are not just surviving, but are sincerely thriving. Don’t be afraid to use your keys. The door is waiting to be opened.