In 1998, The Truman Show hit theaters. The plot centers around Jim Carrey’s character, Truman Burbank, who has unwittingly lived his entire life — starting with his birth — in front of millions of people.
As soon as the credits rolled, I started spotting ideal hiding spots for cameras. I studied the people around me, looking for clues that gave them away as actors.
I was the real-life Truman Burbank. I could feel it.
My Fans Needed a Positive Role Model
I was the unwitting star of the world’s most popular reality TV show. The responsibility weighed heavily on me. I was a role model now.
The world was a very different place for me post-Truman. My decisions held new significance.
Would the kids watching at home be damaged by my decisions? If I smoked pot or shoplifted, would I be responsible for ushering in a generation of criminals on a Robocopian scale?
What would my fans think?
Was I a good role model like Matt Damon? Or was I a highly-publicized disaster like Amanda Bynes?
I started to assume that every action — from losing my virginity to flossing my teeth — was on record. Secrets were not an option; anyone who doubted me could check the tape.
How Would You Feel Watching the Replay of This Decision?
My life became a carefully considered performance. I had to make sure I wasn’t building a case against myself.
Do I want to watch the replay of myself doing this later?
The phrase “no one will ever know” disappeared from my rhetoric. I was living in public.
Later, I learned this is called integrity; I called it playing to my audience.
Meanwhile, Back in Reality, Actual Lessons Were Learned
I did realize, eventually, that I was not the subject of a secretly-filmed reality series. But for all its absurdity, living my life “on camera” resulted — circuitously — in a valuable life lesson:
Integrity is living every moment like it will be screened for your mom, your lover, and all your Facebook friends.
But, Seriously: I Really Am Living on Camera
Hidden cameras or not, I’m always in front of an audience of at least one.
Blow off going to the gym and make an excuse to watch garbage TV and eat pizza instead? My friends may never find out, but I know I did it. I’ll feel worse about myself privately, which is going to impact how people perceive me publicly.
The opposite is true as well: if my apartment is trashed and I force myself to clean, I feel a small sense of accomplishment and pride. This starts a small snowball of making good decisions that helps throughout my day; that internal momentum improves outward appearances.
Every decision is a new scene; I watch myself become a little bit better, or a little bit worse.
I don’t always get it right, but I make an effort to live my life the way I’d like to watch someone live on film.