Tiny Wisdom: On Being Openly You

“What I am is good enough if I would only be it openly.” -Carl Rogers

When I was in high school, it was trendy to be “alternative.” It was a time of Green Day, grunge, and wallet chains, and everyone and their brother did their best to blend in by pledging nonconformity.

It was an ironic time for self-expression–we were unified by our mutual declaration of individuality, underscored by an unspoken need to belong.

Though it’s been a long time since I wore a thermal shirt with self-cut thumb holes, I still feel tempted on occasion to shapeshift to please people. Generally, the change is subtle–more of a gloss than a mask. Still, it’s a choice that reinforces that I need to be something other than what I am.

I suspect that if we’re honoring our authentic selves, we will occasionally, and maybe even often, feel rejected.

We will sense that some people don’t get, understand, or appreciate us for who we really are. It’s inevitable when we’re being our true selves that some people will dislike what they see and judge.

Perhaps the key to accepting ourselves is accepting that it’s perfectly OK if other people have negative opinions.

In fact, it’s actually a positive choice to allow other people to think what they will, knowing there are plenty of people who love you, just as you are–and that you are one of those people.

Today if you feel tempted to censor yourself for fear of not being accepted, remember: It’s better to be judged for something you are than to be accepted for something you’re not.

Photo by beggs

About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha and Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. Her latest bookTiny Buddha’s Gratitude Journal, which includes 15 coloring pages, is now available for purchase. For daily wisdom, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram..

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  • “It’s better to be judged for something you are than to be accepted for something you’re not.”

    You are so right. It is so easy to put on a different mask for every occassion.
    To try and be what you think people want.
    If you do, you always end up hurting yourself in some way.
    You never feel completely safe if you cannot be yourself.

  • Pingback: Being Openly (Awkwardly) Me » Declaration of Interdependence()

  • Jennifer

    I always found that to be particularily funny – we’re all going to rebel against the norm and create another one.  That bit of nostalgia was fun, thanks!  I find it extremely frightening to be myself because it is often lonely – so many people are very willing to say “You’re wrong!” when you express yourself.  But at the same time, pretending to be something else isn’t a life I’d want to live either.  But then when you find someone who is genuinely interested in diversity, it’s a great feeling.

  • Blsm9c

    I try my hardest to wear all purple outfits that I believe suit me better than normal clothes. Great post.

  • Jana

    This was a good post. I’ve been struggling recently with the nature of being a people pleaser after hearing my CEO refer negatively about that personality type (and knowing that I am one). The usual result is the person that is usually least pleased is myself. 
    However I also try to put myself out there, ‘this is me, think what you want.’ But as I’ve come to watch others who don’t like the true me fade from my life it has been disheartening. So I’m currently very conflicted on which approach is better (or less painful at least) to interpersonal communications, the people pleaser or the strong individual. Having trouble finding a good balance. 
    Anyway, I’ve REALLY enjoyed this site. Please keep it up.

  • Tim

    Hysterical… I experienced the same thing in high school. All of my friends were busy being “non-conformists” by dressing like Robert Smith (e.g., a murder of crows). I did me, and found I stood out more than anyone else.

    In my later life, being authentically myself became both a trial and and affirmation. Being gay in the South, there was strong cultural pressure to maintain a low profile, especially among extended family and friends. It was a hard way to live, not the least of all because it seemed dishonest, and a self-betrayal, but it seemed harder to making the leap to living authentically.

    But when I did make the leap, it was an awaking. Those who truly cared about me, stood by me. Those who didn’t eventually took their travelling drama show out of my life. And those I met being my authentic self, liked me for me. It allowed me to build beneficial relationships from a place of honesty.

    I wouldn’t trade my journey for anything, though. It has taught me compassion, understanding, and given me the chance to understand other ideas, even when they oppose my own.

  • Organikchic

    I really needed to read this today, this morning I was talked down to by my office manager because I had placed a sign up sheet for my daughters walk a thon in a central part of the office and had asked her if that was ok to do, her response was that I should make sure not to expect anyone to participate in pledging because I don’t attend any lunch hour bridal or baby showers that are given for people in other departments. I’ve been carrying hurt and anger over this since this morning but in a round a bout way your blog has allowed me to live and let live. Im not terribly social and that is ok, it’s who I am and this does not make me any “less”. Thank you!

  • MonicaH

    That’s what I’ve been screaming – relax – be yourself!  Sometimes easier said than done.  Reminds me of one of my favorite quotes: “There is only one you in all time, this expression is unique.  And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost.”  ~ Martha Graham
    Honestly, when I think about it, the response from people when I’m being my authentic self is almost always better than the time I spend worrying about it.

  • Most importantly, no one can be truly happy while pretending to be someone or something he/she is not.

  • Kellenwilder

    How very timely. I needed that today, more than ever. Thank you so much.

  • Cheryl

    “Those who didn’t eventually took their traveling drama show out of my life”
    I love this. I have found that once you decide to stop participating in drama, it will just go away. Everything could be dramatic if you make it so. Letting people deal with the issues they have with you (which mostly turn out to be issues they actually have with themselves) and not letting that make you feel any less about yourself is something I need to work on. I am looking forward to seeing the drama show pack up and move on.

  • Mefulloflove

    I needed this today. absolutely needed it. here’s to being true to ourselves with love.

  • Daniel Alexandre

    TThe relational life imposes on us a constant test of “just be social. ” Live with differences is the great merit.

  • Tim

    I agree: I found that most people who would inject “drama” into situations to manipulate my emotions to their advantage, whether to prove a point or get their way, lost interest when I refused to participate.

    I still have to struggle with it, but I ask myself when I feel that first bite of negativity, if it is worth spending one of the precious 31,536,000 minutes I may have left in this world on increased suffering. I acknowledge my feelings as “things”, and put them on the shelf for later examination. 

  • Q.

    This is very inspirational since I often wonder to myself as to whether I’m living according to my authentic self or subtly changing who I am to be acceptable to others.  

  • ooooeeee, that will be my new favorite quote for a while: “It’s better to be judged for something you are than to be accepted for something you’re not.”

    It’s funny how in school we either want to conform to the norm in order to be accepted, or want to be “ourselves”, which we see as non-conformist, but then end up conforming to the ways of the non-conformists instead. I wonder if anybody in high school really knows enough about who they really are to go ahead and just be who they are.

    Somehow in school I made my own way and was never part of a clique or group, was pretty much considered a weird loner. I ended up making my own way without worrying too much about what others thought of me. I just wish I knew what my parents did to make it possible, what were their magic parenting tricks that enabled me to just be Me every step of the way. And to find who “Me” was during those awkward years of youth.

    I tried to raise my sons to have strong independent natures, to ignore peer pressure. I like who they are as adults and I’m pretty sure they do too.

    So what are the results of conforming, of going with peer pressure, of not seeking or finding our true individuality until later when we’re adults? We can still find it, right?

  • Simon Nilsson

    I really appreciate this article, thank you Lori! I also quoted you in my latest article. Check out my website if you want;

  • Nancyaccinno

    What?! This “office manager” sounds like she should be focusing on her managerial skills. Goes back to the drama posting above. I feel for you, and would have felt the same. Know that you are not alone, and let those bad feelings float away! 🙂 they aren’t worth it, they can’t hold you down! 🙂

  • Research show that the second biggest fear that humans have is the the fear of being rejected – arachnophobia: the fear of spiders is the No. 1 fear. Yet, we’re only born with two fears, the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises; all other fears are picked up from other people as we grow up. 

    Its worth remembering that what other people think of us is really none of our business!  

  • Annalisse Mayer

    I want to be me.   For instance, I don’t like dying my hair, but I fear that people are discriminating against me in hiring because my hair is grey.

  • It sounds like you’ve had an amazing journey. I know so many people who have hidden their sexuality, and it’s really eaten away at their sense of self. I’ve done a lot of pretending in my time, and I’ve felt that same sense of self-betrayal. I really feel for younger people these days–especially since they’re always connected to their (sometimes cruel) peers through technology–because it really is a lot harder when we’re younger to fully embrace who we are.

  • You’re welcome! I know what you mean about it being lonely. Validation can be a very powerful thing, but nothing compares to that feeling of being accepted for who you really are.

  • Yes, exactly! It’s like you’re not exactly sure who to be. I was actually thinking about this the other day while watching SNL. Lady Gaga was the musical guest, but they put her in a couple skits. Though she has a wonderful message of self-acceptance, it seems clear that she hides behind her costumes, wigs, and persona. In one sketch, she had to play herself, and it was very awkward to watch. It almost looked like she wasn’t sure how to be–like she didn’t know who to be when it wasn’t an act. It reminded me of how important it is to know who I am and honor it.

  • What a wonderful quote. Thank you for sharing it!

  • You’re most welcome! I love your insight about not being “less.” I think sometimes we assume that one way is the right way to be. I know I have thought that before. But why should that have to be the case? It takes all kinds of people to make the world go ’round. =)

    And I concur with Nancy, here. It seems like your office manager was out of line!

  • I remember reading that more people are afraid of public speaking (rejection) than death. I think it was a comedian who said most of us would rather be in the casket than reading the eulogy!

    I appreciate your note at the bottom. I find myself thinking about other people’s thoughts from time to time, and it’s helpful to remember that they are plain and simply not my concern.

  • You’re most welcome! I will be happy to take a look at your site. =)

  • Hi Jana,

    I can relate to a lot of what you wrote. It’s so difficult to see people consciously choose that they don’t want to be around you–and it can easily cause you to question whether it’s worth it to be yourself. I have been there! I suspect we all struggle with this. Connection is one our deepest needs, and it’s a survival instinct to fight to preserve that. I can’t say I am always 100% authentic, but I work at being authentic more often than not. We’re all works-in-progress!


  • You are most welcome. =)

  • Sometimes feeling immense pressure to conform as a kid leads you to create a website as an adult that focuses highly on authenticity. At least that’s been my experience. =)

    I was a bit of a weird loner, too–it’s just that I failed to embrace it. I used to work at an after school program for kids when I was in high school, and I remember one of the instructors there asking me if all my friends were so deep. I was a thinker, a writer, and an artist, and these are the things that have turned out to be my greatest gifts in adulthood. Yet as a teenager, all I wanted was to snuff out everything that made me feel alone.

    It sounds like you’ve been a wonderful mother to your children. I hope that someday when I’m a parent I can instill those same values in my children.

  • Ah, ok, so we were very similar as teenagers. The difference you define is whether or not we EMBRACE who we are, embrace our gifts, even embrace feeling ‘alone’ and different, even at that early age. But it also seems like that difference doesn’t necessarily affect our resulting adult personality. It does, however, give me some insight into what my parents may have done — they certainly helped me embrace my differences, encouraged them in fact. Mostly, accepted me for who I was.

    I have no doubt at all, Lori, that you will be an amazing parent.

  • Keep up the great work Lori.

    Your blog reaches parts that other blogs don’t!

  • Thanks so much Sunil. =)

  • Moosheyb

    In all of my life, I had never been subjected to instant dislike until I met my inlaws. Throughout the past 17 years, the relationship has ebbed and flowed. Most often, I feel like I should make nice, so I apologize for how I am, and it placates for a while. Recently, the drama has become very thick with passive aggressive, manipulative actions that I just cannot stomach. I finally stood up for what I believed in, and it was not received well. I hate it when people don’t like me, but I like that you mention it is okay for people to not like you. I agree that it is better to be judged for who I am. Your piece really hit home. Thank you for sharing it!