I’m a bit of a chameleon, and can adapt easily to different settings and groups of people. You probably are too. You have your work persona, your home persona and then your social persona. Each a slightly remixed version of yourself; each complete with an underlying desire to meet approval and be accepted. All that “fitting in” can, at times, leave you disconnected to the core of who you really are.
So much of relating well to others involves relating well to yourself – really understanding who you are as an individual, loving all of it, and striving to become a better you every day. Over the past few months, I’ve undergone my own process of intense reflection and questioning. I have been asking myself, who am I, and how do I want to be known by others? I’d sit down to write an answer and found that the “story of me” had so many twists and turns and so many characters that I could hardly follow the plot. I had spent so much time living up to the expectations of others, working hard not to disappoint, offend, or step out of line that when I had a blank canvas before me and the opportunity to create myself, I really didn’t know where to start. I kept thinking, and honestly, I’m still thinking today, but here are three things that I have learned so far:
1. Believe that you are a loving, compassionate, and good person.
We enter this world with an innate desire to connect, feel, give and love. Somewhere along the way, someone or something disappoints, frustrates or hurts us leading to a belief that it’s better to keep to ourselves, suppress certain emotions, to put our needs and wants before those of others, and to resist providing unconditional love. It becomes easier for us to disconnect instead of connecting, it becomes more comfortable to avoid rather than to experience the full range of our emotions, it becomes natural to withhold instead of to give, and it feels safer to be bitter instead of loving. However, the moment we are able to break down those walls and reconnect to our genuine character is the moment we can tap into who we really are. Ask yourself, “am I really___________ (fill in the blank…insecure, selfish, mean), or am I just acting this way to cover up something else I can’t deal with right now?” Once you truly believe only good things about yourself (that you are capable, kind, worthy, and empowered), you’ll experience a sense of peace and comfort in your own skin. And being comfortable in your own skin will enable you to express the real you.
2. Accept all that’s true about yourself.
All of us have qualities that serve us well in certain settings. I’ve often been told that I’m very poised, well spoken and organized. I crave structure and am always in the midst of planning something. These qualities have served me well professionally, and at the same time, in more casual and social settings, these qualities have sometimes been received as a little off-putting. I’m sure you can think of your own examples. So, what I’ll offer is that whenever you receive feedback about the way you are being perceived, pay close attention to how you react. Instead of shutting out what you may not want to hear, and instead of becoming defensive, try to ask yourself “is it true?” If it is, then accept that truth and decide if that is that how you want and intend to be. If it is, and you are not deliberately hurting someone else, choose to embrace that aspect of your personality. Then you won’t be as tempted to change yourself based on the opinion of others.
3. Give people permission not to like you.
This is extremely liberating. I learned this from Master Coach Instructor Brooke Castillo. I started listening to her podcasts in the wee hours of the morning when I was up feeding my newborn. This thinking has had a huge impact on my life. We hear it all the time, but really believing that everyone is not going to like you and truly being okay with that makes some uphill battles not worth climbing. Brooke used the term, “finding my people.” We should all weed through to find our people – those people who love and enjoy you in all of your imperfections. So you talk too much, are often running late, have a hard time making a decision, and are a little impatient. With your people, that’s ok. It’s not to say you couldn’t consider improving upon certain things, it just means that your people won’t spend hours complaining and trying to get you to be anything other that who you are. On the flip side, there are some people who will never like you, no matter what you do. That is their right and choice. Being okay with the fact that you are not for everyone can immediately increase your self-confidence and help you avoid feeding the insatiable need to be liked by everyone. That’s an impossible task anyway.
So, that’s all I want to say about that…at least for now. For some of you, nothing I’ve offered is new. For others, these points may be great reminders. And for yet another group, these points may represent a completely new way of thinking. Either way, that’s great! I wanted to come to this space just to share what I’m up to – my challenges, my successes, and helpful strategies I’ve learned along the way. I hope you’ll come back for more, and that we can all do the work of relating well, together.