The wrong question…
Be me, 100%, fully authentic, in every situation, no matter who is there with me… I think that goal is at the top of my to do list. Glad to say: I am making progress, I had a long way to travel… and I know I am not alone on this road. We might not be in high school any more, we all still succumb to peer pressure sometimes. Who doesn’t want to be liked?
I can be a real chameleon if I choose to. If there is one thing I managed to perfect, it is adjusting to the background. Why did I ever start that behavior, I asked myself. Is it because in my sophomore year I got bullied (with my German teacher leading the charge)? I learned that being noticed could be dangerous and that acting as “they” expected of me was the best strategy to survive. Or is it that during my years as a journalist blending in became an job requirement: fly on the wall style. Early on, during my apprenticeships, I received the feedback that my appearance needed to be more “chameleonic”. I obliged. Does it even matter why I started this behavior?
These thoughts all circled in my head when I was reading the book “Strong starts in the mind“, from American author Lisbeth Darsh. One of her essays touched me. Or better said: hit me. With a rock. In the face. This is it:
That last sentence… “You better get going on that”… that is key. But where to start? It should be easy, right: be yourself… for some of us it’s not. I worked on it a few years back during a online course with Brene Brown. My top insights from that course, come down to these 4 tips :
1. Know you are enough
Everybody fears “not being enough” when they are ‘just’ themselves. Not skinny enough, beautiful enough, rich enough, smart enough, athletic enough. We wish we were more sociable, lived in a nicer house, had a shinier car, had a better job.
The truth is that you don’t need those things feel valuable. Because you are valuable. Now, at this moment, even if you are reading this in washed out pajama pants.
Your age, your weight, your pay check… it doesn’t matter, at all.
Let go of the thought that you will be more valuable when you have reached your “target weight”, if you would have managed to make that funny remark at the right moment, or whatever you are thinking of right now.
You are enough. Now. Here. As you are.
2. Tame your fear and dare
The fear for criticism, rejection, judgment of others… It still hits me over the head sometimes. (Like right now writing this blog).
Key here is that you have no influence over other people’s thoughts and judgments. So: the biggest step I can take in this, is cleaning up my own head. A Dutch proverb that helps me in this: “The innkeeper trust his guest to behave, like he would behave himself”. I used to judge everybody pretty harshly and for all I knew, they were judging me back evenly harsh. That made me fear what people thought about me. Now that my head is a way more peaceful place, that fear has reduced immensely.
If it’s not other people’s possible thoughts about you, but your own tendency to think in disastrous outcomes that is keeping you down, try this one: go for a worst case scenario in your head. The worst things that can happen if you dare and be you, vulnarable and all. Write it down and compare the real outcome. You’ll see reality is hardly ever as bad as you imagination.
3. Mantra it out
When fear is creeping up on me and the thought that somethings cannot or should not be as it is… I turn to a mantra in my head. A thought you intentionally repeat in your head. It is often used in meditation, to focus. Now you use the same technique to tame fear and chase away unhelpful thoughts. Repeating “I have got this” or “It’s just scary, nothing more” or “be brave now”, are thoughts you can use for this. Than you can focus on what you want: being you. Brene Brown works with ‘permission slips’, notes with mantras she sticks in her pocket to remind herself to be goofy, vulnerable, daring, scared… herself.
Sounds like living loony bin? Just know that heaps of people do this while exercising: “Come on, only 1 minute left… you have got this for one more minute”. I bet even elite athletes have these thoughts during the last meters of a marathon or the last minute of the CrossFit Games final.
4. Surround yourself with people who love you for you
When you surround yourself with people that love you no matter what, makes it easier to be yourself. They will love you no matter if you dye your hair purple (or make a tiger print in it), when you decide to resurrect grunge/punk/gabber starting with you, when I decide to leave your secure job to pursue a whole different career.
Not everyone will like the ‘new’ you, or rather the ‘real’ you. That is ok. If you change who you are to suit other people, chances are you won’t like you… and that is way worse.
The right people will love you when you give them the chance to love the real you. You will attract people that compliment you, respect you and love you… and that creates more and more opportunity to show up and be seen.