Have you ever felt like you had to act a certain way to fit in?
I know I used to feel that way all the time. People thought I was confident because I was often the loudest person in the room, but in hindsight I reminded myself of the insecure chihuahua who barks their best bark in hopes that no one knows how truly frightened they are.
For me, I only let a few people see the "real me”: the person who was flawed, average and quite boring at times. You know that feeling when you're surrounded by people you can trust? Your guard is down, you can be yourself, and you know that these people love you for all that you truly are, not what you pretend to be sometimes.
But why do we do it? Why do we hustle for approval? Why do we sometimes sell ourselves out for that ever important approval of people we barely know?
The truth is we all have a fundamental need for acceptance. Back in the “tribe” days, if we weren't accepted into the group it meant we were on our own in the woods, and would inevitably be attacked by a wild animal or perhaps another group of humans. Acceptance and a sense of belonging used to be the difference between life and death.
Fast forward to today, and realizing that living a life that is authentic is essential to our fulfillment and happiness brings us to an uncomfortable conflict. Do we follow what is comfortable, ensuring that we belong, or do we go out on our own and do what we know in our hearts is right for us?
This was a scary endeavour for me. I have always been especially desperate for acceptance. I would achieve straight A’s and play competitive sports to make sure my family loved me. I would act like one of the guys and chew tobacco so my men’s hockey team would accept me. I would be sweet and personable so my boss would approve. I would be a party animal so my friends thought I was fun. With all these hats I juggled, it is no wonder I was left totally confused about who I was authentically by the time I reached the age of 25.
When I asked myself “who are you and what do you like to do?” I honestly couldn’t tell myself. I started running through all the “right answers” that I had conditioned myself to consider and it wasn’t until I thought all the way back to age 8 that I recall loving art.
Pulling these memories of doing something just for the sake of my own bliss was painfully difficult. It was like I had completely forgotten who I was. Have you ever felt like that?
You meet someone and fall in love, you get married, you start raising a family. You’re a “Super Mom”: PTA meetings, bake sales, volunteer at school, assistant coach of the kid’s baseball team, but WHO are you besides a Mom? <crickets chirping>
Have you ever asked yourself that? Do you have any hobbies that you used to do when you were younger that brought you ridiculous amounts of joy? Not because you were good, but because you were creatively fulfilled and it just felt good?
We often drown out the busy-ness of life by disconnecting completely, which brings us even further from our authentic self. Social media, TV, and chores all keep us very busy, much to busy to ponder things like “what legacy do I want to leave behind?” or “what have I done lately for myself?” or “who do I aspire to be?”
For myself, these questions hit me like a 2 ton Mac Truck. I had no idea, and that upset me. I had lost touch with myself because I was busy trying to be what I thought I “should” be. When in reality the only person we should be, is who we are (who we really are).
Then the questions began to roll in like “what will people think if I change now?” and “will they still like me?” I can tell you first-hand that people will ask questions. They will think something is wrong with you. Some will wish you would change back to the old inauthentic you, because it was easier for them. Of course it would be, you crafted that persona based on what they would like. But how does it leave you feeling when people only love mirages of you that you have created to be lovable?
The truth is you are lovable at your worst. You are lovable simply because you are who you are. Every quirk and flaw is but a piece of the puzzle that makes you unique and wonderful.
People don’t want perfect, they want real. No one on this planet is perfect. People may not like your authentic self, and that is okay too. I would much rather have someone dislike my authentic self, than love an inauthentic version of myself. That does nothing to boost my self-love and self-acceptance. How could it?
Being authentic is being vulnerable. And being vulnerable is scary at times. But nothing is more scary than living an entire lifetime wondering who we truly are, or even worse, knowing who we are but not being that person for fear that it isn’t good enough. It is good enough. You are good enough.
Share your authentic, weird, imperfect light with the world today, and as you shine bright, you will give others permission to do the same.
Sending love, light and the courage to shine your weird light,