“If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” ~Maya Angelou
I’ve been a world-class worrier about what other people would think about me for a long time.
The clothes, the hair, the shoes. The books I read, the movies I liked, the music I listened to. The hobbies, the people I hung out with. The things I liked and the things I disliked.
They all got scrutinized under the “am I doing the right thing?” filter.
Am I being exactly the right amount of cool? Am I being reasonable and responsible? Am I being interesting enough?
It was a full-time job, making sure I was being the “right” version of me.
It was time-consuming. It was energy-consuming. It was draining.
I was going through the motions of living a life that looked great. But without realizing it, I became more and more absent in my own life.
What were the clothes that I really liked? What were the books that I really loved? What were the hobbies that could really make my heart sing and soul soar?
Those became tough questions to answer. Those became questions I forgot to ask myself. Those became questions I stopped asking myself.
Instead, I did the next logical, reasonable thing. Instead, I was busy reading other people’s minds to figure out what they liked. Instead, I did my best to be the flawless perfect version of me.
Because that’s what happens when we believe that we will be happy once everybody likes us. When we believe that everybody will like us once we are perfect. When we believe that it’s possible and vital to our happiness to make everybody like us.
I’ve learned that it doesn’t work like that. It’s not possible to make everybody like us. And it sure is not vital to our happiness. Quite the contrary.
When we believe that we will be happy when everybody likes us, we work hard to make everybody like us.
So we figure out who we think we’re supposed to be. We figure out the “right” things to do and the “right” way of doing things. We figure out the “right” amount of being quiet or outgoing, the “right” amount of being enthusiastic or cool, the “right” amount of being interested or bored. We figure out the “right” things to have and “right” things not to have.
And slowly but inevitably, we turn ourselves into some manufactured version of ourselves. The “right” version. The “perfect” version.
Even that “right” and “perfect” version cannot guarantee everybody liking us. There will still be people thinking we’re too quiet or too outgoing. There will still be people thinking we’re boring and stupid. There will still be people thinking we’re uncool and ridiculous.
And that leaves us feeling scattered and alone, lost and insecure, small and lacking.
Because our only conclusion can be that we’re doing it wrong. That there’s something wrong with us.
So we resolve to work even harder to be flawlessly perfect and to do the “right” thing at the “right” time in the “right” way even better.
The thing is that even that “right” and “perfect” version cannot guarantee everybody liking us…
See the vicious circle coming?
The irony is that even when people do like us, hang out with us, approve of us, we still feel disconnected and alone—because we’ve unknowingly and unwillingly gotten out of touch with ourselves.
We are working hard to hang out with people that don’t get us. We are working hard to do things that we pretend energize us, but that, in truth, drain us. We are working hard to be someone we are not, never sure we’re “doing it right.”
Was I too loud? Too quiet? Too thoughtful? Too outgoing? Too polite? Too harsh?
We’re always second-guessing ourselves, eating away at our confidence.
Not everybody will like us. Accepting that creates space for happiness to come into our lives. Accepting that creates space for us to be who we truly are.
It allows us to hang out with people who get us, because we are willing to alienate people that don’t.
To do things that inspire us and make us feel fulfilled from the inside out, because we are willing to be seen as boring and stupid by people that don’t get what we’re doing.
To connect with people over something that genuinely inspires them and us, because we are willing to be seen as silly and crazy by others who don’t feel the same way about it.
That’s a win for us. And a win for them. Because we both get to spend time with people that are a great fit. And it’s a win for the world.
When we allow ourselves to be who we truly are, we get to share our unique message with the world.
We use our talents instead of hiding them because they’re “not right.”
We use our voice instead of shutting ourselves down because we might say the “wrong” thing.
We use our style instead of copying theirs.
We use our ideas instead of figuring out what they’d think.
We create our own brilliant unique work, which only we can bring into the world.
Not for everyone to like, but to delight some, who will love it. Need it. Crave it. Get inspired by it.
And to delight ourselves, making our heart sing and soul soar.
We thrive and feel fulfilled, from the inside out.
And all that happens because we were willing to upset some.
Who are you willing to upset?