“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” Marianne Williamson
What Are You Afraid Of?
Why is it so hard for us to be ourselves? What are we so afraid of? We’re afraid:
- people won’t accept us as we are
- people won’t like us
- that we’re not good enough
- that we’re not enough.
Who are you trying so hard to please and why is that important to you?
If you’re a writer or artist who waters down your art to appeal to the masses, do you honestly think that everyone will like what you create? Do you like everything that everyone creates? Whose art do you like and why? Your answer to ‘why’ probably has something to do with how the artist expresses him/herself in a unique and genuine way that doesn’t appeal to the masses.
If you work in a corporate environment, you probably work hard to please your boss. Do you do this by doing what you’re told, keeping your head down and blending in? Or do you consciously think about how you can be different from everyone else? If you’re looking for a promotion, would your boss want to promote the person he/she can’t differentiate from anyone else in the department? Or the person who pushes the boundaries and does something different and amazing that helps the company?
If you’re in a service industry, you want to please your customers. Do you do this by doing what you think the customer expects and nothing more? Or do you deliver your services in a completely different and unique way? Which experience will that customer remember? Will every customer appreciate your alternative methods of delivering your service? No, but the ones that do won’t leave and will spread the good word for you. And you’re better off letting the rest go.
In your interactions with friends and family, do you go with the flow and do what others around you are doing or what you think they expect of you? Or do you do things your own way because you know it’s a better expression of who you are? If you’re doing life the way that others expect you to, how happy are you? You may be accepted and liked but what are you giving up for that? Do you want to be like your friends or do you want something different? If you want something different, it may be time to find new friends who will support you in being yourself.
Being Liked Is a No-Win Game
Humans are social creatures who thrive in groups. We’re naturally drawn to people like us. With seven billion unique individuals on this planet, no one will ever be liked by everyone. Not even Mother Theresa. We’re liked by other people in our groups and the smaller the group, the more meaningful the connections and levels of acceptance.
Working to have someone like you means giving up your version of your life to follow a script written by the other person. When they don’t like or accept you or say that they’re disappointed in you, it’s because you’re not meeting their expectations. You didn’t write their rules but you’re making sacrifices to adhere to them.
When we pretend to be someone other than ourselves or purposely hide our true selves, we rob ourselves of the ability to connect deeply with others. And it’s these connections that make life so meaningful. Brené Brown has done extensive research on how being open , vulnerable, courageous and uniquely you allows these connections to enhance our lives. Check out her amazing TED talk here.
Rather than tip-toeing around in fear of that one person who won’t like you (they will always be out there), open your eyes to the group of people who love who you are and what you do. Play to that group in your own unique way and watch yourself and that group grow.
Banish the Demons
Next, let’s address the internal demons of ‘not enough’ and ‘not good enough.’ Where the hell did these come from anyway? In my opinion, most of it comes from our school systems that expect everyone to be the same, learn the same things in the same ways and have the same results. And because our parents want us to do well in school, those same expectations are reinforced at home. How utterly impossible is that!
We’re judged as “not good enough” if we don’t meet all the standardized expectations. Standards are based on massive generalizations of people who, individually, don’t meet the standards. They’re either above or below them. By default, 99% of us aren’t “good enough.”
Good enough for what or who? What is enough and who decided it? Who wants to play that game?
The system tells us that our grades in subjects that are irrelevant to us and our future must be good enough to get a “good job” doing something that we’ll hate in a couple years. Then we’re judged as failures if we want to do something completely different.
As kids we internalize “getting good enough grades” as “being good enough.” Our society teaches us that what we do is who we are. We take these beliefs into adulthood without realizing it and beat ourselves up for not being like other people.
A New Beginning
What if we did what we loved from the beginning, without being compared to others and standards? What if we could use our own unique strengths and passions to create a life that’s uniquely ours? Our focus would be on how we could best contribute to others by offering our unique gifts.
There would be no fears of lack of acceptance or being “enough” because we wouldn’t compare ourselves to anyone. If everyone did their best at being their best, there would be a lot more happy people in this world.
Let’s work together to give our children this new beginning.
- Identify where you’re playing small in your life or where you’re not being yourself: relationships, work, personal expression, etc.
- Take some time to write, in infinite detail, all the ways you think, things you do, ways you limit yourself or censor yourself in each of these areas. Know that you’re limiting yourself if you’re not getting the results you’re after.
- Write how you feel about that.
- In each area, write how you would do your life differently if no one ever judged you. Go into as much detail as possible as if you’re writing the script for a movie. Don’t write about what you wouldn’t do or what you would avoid. Write in the present tense how you would do things and how you would think.
- Write how you feel about that.
- Find one, small aspect of what you wrote in step 4 and implement it today. It may be an action or a way of thinking. For example, if you have been thinking about taking an action but haven’t because you’re not sure how it will be received, do it today and release the judgment.
- Every few days, refer back to your movie script and implement one more aspect of it into your life. Make sure the actions are small (unless you’re ready for a big leap, then more power to ya!).
- Every six months, repeat all of the above steps.
All you have is the present moment. The past is gone and can’t be changed so forget it. What you think and do right now is creating your future. What can you do, who can you be, right now to create the life you want?
Acknowledge your awesomeness! [Tweet this]
Enter your name and email below to receive The Mindful Living Guide and the latest from the blog. You know your life will be better for it.
Having trouble focusing? Here are my secrets and those of 36 other very smart and focused people: 99 Smart Ideas: How to Focus: 37 Experts Reveal Their Best Tips.
Hear the story of my life on the Join Up Dots podcast! http://bit.ly/jud-465
David and I discuss what was going on in my head when I left a great job in Boston to venture west and into the unknown to create the life of my dreams. We also discuss my approach to life that anyone can adopt that keeps me happy. Check it out HERE!
Find out how to easily (and happily) manage your weight and improve your health with mindfulness using the Mindful Body Program.