“The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.” ~Anna Quindlen
Being yourself seems like it would be an easy thing, right? Just be! But when you’re someone who has lived their life seeking the approval of others constantly, it’s not such an easy thing.
You have to attempt to move past years of trying to appear this way, wondering if people will judge you if do that, or doing your best not to cause waves and avoid conflict.
When you don’t fully understand who your “self” is, it’s pretty much impossible to actually be that person.
I didn’t realize just how deep my desire to please others went until very recently, after a couple of very deep soul searching years.
I saw how automatic it had become for me to try to be what everyone else wanted me to be. Even when I “liked” a page on Facebook, I thought twice about it and wondered if people would judge me for it.
I wanted to appear a certain way to people. I wanted to appear like I had it all together, that I was “perfect.” Most importantly, though, I didn’t want to appear disabled.
If I liked all of the “right” things, if I was cool, if I was funny, if I was pretty, and wore the most stylish clothes or had my makeup done just right, then maybe people would notice all of that instead of my muscular dystrophy and the limp that came with it.
Maybe they wouldn’t notice the difficulty I had going up stairs. If I fell, maybe they wouldn’t judge me because they would see I was awesome in so many other ways.
Trying to be everything to everyone is one of the most exhausting things. It feels like that toy that a lot of us used to play with when you try to fit the shaped blocks into the correct corresponding hole.
I was the triangle constantly trying to fit in the square hole.
I honestly don’t know how I even functioned sometimes in my twenty-plus years on earth with the weight of that on my shoulders. Worrying so much about what people thought or hoping they liked me and having no real sense of my own self.
From friends to coworkers, to dates or boyfriends, I was always trying to please everyone else but never thought to try please myself first or embrace who I really was.
It never even occurred to me that it was okay if some people didn’t like me, or if I didn’t have all the right clothes or that I wasn’t physically able to do all the same things that my peers could.
I didn’t realize that it didn’t make me any less worthy or valuable of a person if someone didn’t like me or if I wasn’t “perfect.”
That if a guy wasn’t interested or someone didn’t want to be my friend, that it didn’t mean I was ugly or worthless or needed to fix something about myself.
I didn’t realize that trying to fit myself into everyone else’s perceptions and society’s perception of “normal” was denying everyone and the world of all my gifts and who I really was. That my disability made me special and gave me a platform to try and help others all over the world with disabilities too.
That it gave me such a deep capacity for love and empathy that I wouldn’t trade for anything.
I couldn’t see that people don’t love each other because they’re perfect. They love each other for everything, including the flaws.
In fact, I think we love each other in large part because of our flaws. Because we are all human. Because we make mistakes.
Our imperfections and our differences are what set us apart and make us unique. When have you ever heard someone say, “I really like that Jackie. She’s just so perfect!”?
Not caring what other people think and just being is something we all struggle with in one way or another.
Something I’ve found to be very helpful for connecting with myself and just being is a kind of a brief meditation. Whether I’m driving, at work, on vacation, or just sitting at home, I try to take a few moments each day where I just sit, stop what I’m doing, take a deep breath in, and silence my mind.
I focus on the blood flowing through my veins or the way my breath feels when I exhale. I just let myself sit there in silence for a few minutes and just enjoy being in my skin, my body, and my spirit. As small as it may seem, it really helps to calm me and get me refocused on myself.
Learning to embrace yourself and shut out the need to people please or be what everyone else might want us to be is hard and it’s not something that can be an overnight change.
But learning to accept all of the parts of yourself, including the ones you may not like, is not only the greatest gift you can give to yourself, it’s the greatest gift you can give to the world around you too.
When you stop caring so much about what everyone else thinks of you and start becoming you, it’s then that you can truly offer the world the most.
You offer it you in all of your wonderful and unique glory!
Photo by Jason Rogers