“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
– Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird
Truer words were never spoken. But what about those of us who have spent our whole lives walking around in other people’s skins, trying over and over again to find one that fits, a skin that others will like and approve of? So easily swayed by the thoughts and opinions of others as to who we should be, we move from one skin to the next and in the process we move further and further away from ourselves.
If you’re thinking ‘oh my god that sounds like me!’ right now then know that you are not alone my friend. For 35 years I have struggled to project out in to the world the person I have always known myself to be. I have allowed others to tell me I’m too sensitive, too emotional, too deep a thinker and I have allowed myself to be ashamed of that. I have kept quiet instead of speaking up, I’ve said yes when I wanted to say no, I’ve done things I don’t want to do and haven’t done things I want to do. I have tried desperately to not rock the boat, to keep the peace, to please others. In wanting others to like me I have paid the ultimate sacrifice – in constantly silencing my own inner knowing, my authenticity, my values and beliefs, and what I know to be true, I have lost who I am.
My reason for writing all of this in the present and not past tense is because I don’t ever want this blog to be about showing you the shiny veneer of someone who has it all together or who thinks they’ve learned their life lessons and all the hard work of growing is behind them. I want to show you someone who is real, raw, and vulnerable, somebody you can relate to. So if you’re going through this process right now of trying to figure out who you are or how to project who you are out in to the world then know that I am right there beside you.
The problem with not owning who we are is we spend our lives in relationships and it doesn’t matter who these relationships are with – be it parents, siblings, colleagues, partners, friends – our lives are made up of relationships, some as short as a brief interaction and some as long as a 60 year marriage. When we don’t know who we are we confuse not only ourselves but also other people. When we don’t value ourselves, when we don’t praise ourselves, when we don’t love ourselves, when we don’t support ourselves, when we’re not generous or kind to ourselves, we will look to others to give us those things and when they don’t we will be confused or hurt or disappointed or angry or resentful – heck, maybe we’ll be all of those things!
This is the most disempowering situation we can put ourselves in, needing the validation of others in order to be okay, needing others to tell us who we are. I want you to join me in making a promise that what we’ve been doing up until this point stops today. I want us to take back our power and step in to the full essence of who we are and I want us to start that NOW!
It’s going to be uncomfortable: Believe me I have spent my life trying to figure out how to be myself while at the same time ensuring I don’t ruffle any feathers and everyone still likes me. As a serial people pleaser you can imagine my shock and disappointment when it dawned on me recently that this cannot be done. Trust me, I’ve played this out from every angle and it really, really can’t be done! There are going to be people that don’t like me, there are going to be people that hate this blog but I am going to paraphrase something a friend said to me recently and that is: “the problem with always being nice and never rocking the boat is that people come away from meeting you and they think ‘meh’. You don’t evoke much feeling in them either way, you’re forgettable. At least when you generate some strong feeling of like or dislike in someone they’ll remember you because you’re being real.” Those words have really stuck with me because at the end of the day wouldn’t we rather people dislike who we are than like who we’re pretending to be? Bottom line – it’s going to be uncomfortable for a while but like any skill, the skill of showing up in the world as your real self will get easier so hang in there!
Stop comparing yourself to other people: Believe me, the idea that other people have life figured out, that they have it all together, is a lie. That highlight reel we see on social media? You know the one, where it’s all holidays and loved up relationships and a million hashtags about loving life and being blessed? That is just one side of the story. Repeat that last bit for me because it’s really important….THAT IS JUST ONE SIDE OF THE STORY!! Everyone struggles, everyone grieves, everyone has hard days, relationship breakups, holidays where the airline loses their luggage or the hotel misplaces their reservation, first dates where they get stung by a wasp and their foot blows up the size of a balloon (ok so that one might just be me!) or the cake they’ve made a hundred times collapses coming out the oven on the one day they need it to be perfect. These sorts of things happen every day to all of us, we just don’t share them with the world but that doesn’t mean they’re not happening! No matter who we are we all have moments of feeling like we don’t belong, of feeling awkward and misunderstood so we need to stop comparing ourselves to other people because at the end of the day nobody has it all figured out, we’re all just doing the best we can.
Spend some time getting to know yourself: You must absolutely stop this minute being a chameleon and trying to morph in to whomever you think others want you to be. I mean it….stop it, this minute!! Instead you need to start figuring out who you are. What do YOU believe? What brings YOU joy? What do YOU value? What do YOU think? How do YOU want to spend your time? The first step is figuring all of that out, the second step is having the courage to go out in to the world and be that person. I know this is not going to be easy but please do not waste another moment suppressing who you are because you do not want to get to the end of your life realising you lived it for other people.
You may lose some people along the way: This is often inevitable when we start being our real selves. There are going to be people in your life who won’t like the changes you make but that’s okay. It’s better to have fewer relationships that are based on truth than a whole lot that are built on lies. The right people will stay and hey, the ones that leave? While it might feel painful for a while try and think of it like this – them leaving creates space in your life for people who are going to cheer you on and love you for who you are.
You know that saying about how everything you’ve ever wanted waits on the other side of your fear? It’s true. The best things in my life have happened when I’ve been brave enough to say goodbye to my old life and jump in to a new one. I believe in you and I believe in me, we can do this so let’s jump together.