“Don’t change so people will like you; be yourself and the right people will love you.” ~Unknown
I’ve always felt the pressure to fit in. There’s always been a gap between what I want to be and what I think the world thinks I should be.
I was a tomboy growing up. I climbed trees when other girls played with dolls, I played soccer in my teenage years when other girls wore dresses and went to parties, and even as an adult I preferred to watch the Saturday afternoon game rather than go shopping.
But the pressure to fit in and be liked turned me into a social chameleon. I tried to be the person I felt I should be so I’d blend in with those around me, whether that meant spending a Friday night at the pub or attending a corporate meeting at the head office.
Psychologist William James said, “A man has as many social selves as there are distinct groups of persons about whose opinion he cares. He generally shows a different side of himself to each of these different groups.”
I’ve spent my life trying to fit in. I’ve always wanted to please people, to make my parents proud, and to receive approval from anyone and everyone—my family, friends, partners, bosses, and teachers.
So without even realizing it I would change myself, my desires, and sometimes even my opinions to fit into whatever mold was required at the time. But if you’re constantly trying to prove your worth to people, it may be true that you’ve already forgotten your value.
Last year I quit my corporate career to pursue my dream of being a writer and yoga teacher, but it took many years to get to that point. For so long I’d had these dreams in my heart, but the logic of my head overruled.
There was always a difference between what I wanted and what I thought I should want—my opinion and the norm of society somehow differed—and I’d always assumed I must be the one off beam.
This leads to a life of sacrificing ourselves to please others, living their dreams at the expense of our own.
I found the more I listened to, abided by, and fuelled these stereotypes, the more I was defined by them—defined by my career, the clothes I wore, where I was from, how much money I had, and what kind of car I drove. But none of this was really me, so why was I letting it define me?
We live in a world where we are surrounded by ideals. The media presents us with better versions of just about everything, creating a mindset that we should be striving for more. There’s no wonder so many of us feel like we’re not enough.
We need to be richer, slimmer, fitter, happier, nicer, different in some way. The point is, we are all different and there is no right or wrong.
To find true happiness we must be true to ourselves, live our own dreams, and be proud of what makes us unique instead of feeling the pressure to follow the crowd.
It’s easier said than done, I know. It helped me to ask myself: What makes life worth living? How would you like to be remembered? What do you admire about others?
It may also help to reflect on what you wanted to do when you were a kid. Often this holds the key to what we held dear before we were influenced by what other people think.
Take a moment to consider what your strengths are and be clear on your core values. It also helps to seek out like-minded people. Not only do we feel at ease with them, they also help us grow and flourish in accordance with our true selves.
Remember, everyone has their own version of ‘normal,’ and none of us are right or wrong. We should not expect ourselves to all be alike, but rather respect our differences and value our skills despite them being different.
When we are comfortable in our own skin, we are not fighting against or with anyone, as we’ve discovered our own true nature and are living in accordance with it. We are courageous enough to live our own truth.
Unfortunately, there will always be someone more beautiful, clever, talented, or stronger than you, but the reverse is also true. There will always be people less than you in all of these areas.
So instead of comparing yourself to others, look to see if you’re fulfilling your own potential to the best of your ability. As a nation we seem obsessed with comparing ourselves, but rather than thinking about what you should be like, try just being you. Simply be—as you are.
You don’t see a sparrow comparing itself with a pigeon, and although we put different prices on timber, none of the trees feel inferior or superior.
In nature everything is needed and it all has its place. It all fits together and is equal. Whether you’re a blade of grass or a mighty oak tree. it doesn’t matter; you are needed and you have your place in the world.
The ancient meaning of the word courage is “tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.”
It is all about being true to yourself.
Let go of who you think you should be and be who you are. Everyone is coming out of their own closet, emerging to be the person they really are, their true self, and worried about what others may think and if they’ll be accepted.
That’s why it’s so important to connect with authenticity and compassion, but you can’t be compassionate to others without being compassionate to yourself first. Don’t change so people will like you, be yourself and the right people will love you.
Stand out from the crowd image via Shutterstock