When people have an expectation of who they think or want you to be, they have a difficult time I’m accepting when you become something else.
It could be a permanent thing or perhaps you are just going through a phase but either way who you become is your choice. I think we all need to have the space to explore and experiment in order to find ourselves and figure out the kind of person that we want to be.
Unfortunately, sometimes because of the people around you, you end up pushing self-exploration aside. Instead, you’re so focused on what other people think, people pleasing and wanting to feel accepted that you would rather pretend to be someone you’re not.
Being yourself doesn’t even feel like an option.
I think it’s important to remember that being accepted for the person you’re pretending to be isn’t true acceptance. Once you really take that in, you’ll end up realising that it isn’t worth pretending anymore. You may as well just be yourself.
Sometimes we tailor what we say based on how we anticipate that our words will be received.
Sometimes it’s a conscious thing where you will intentionally not say what feels most honest or authentic. Instead you’ll say less, be more neutral and keep the enthusiasm to a minimum.
But perhaps you’re not quite aware that you’re holding back. Often when you’ve been doing something for a long time you take it on as a part of who you are. However, just because something becomes part of your identity, it doesn’t mean that it’s your truest self.
Right now whilst having to stay inside you might find yourself wondering what the best thing is to do with your time.
There’s too much time to lounge around watching movies and shows but at the same time when was the last time you had this much free time, do you really want to spend it working on something.
The easiest way to decide is to check in with yourself, how do you feel?
Do you feel good lounging around? Do you need something to occupy your mind?
You don’t need to start a project or learn a new language but you could choose to read 50 pages a day, try a new recipe each week or read an article a day on a site like The Conversation or The Atlantic.
For many people if they give it some thought they’ll find that a large proportion of their character is based on who they think they are.
Often those opinions are made at a young age without any real judgement. Yet you carry them with you into adulthood without even checking to see if your mind has changed.
It could be something as simple as a food that you don’t eat. Perhaps as a child you weren’t willing to explore with what you ate so you told yourself ‘I’m not the kind of person that eats that kind of food’ or ‘I don’t like to experiment with what I eat, I just like simple food’. Twenty years later you’re still saying the same thing and maybe that’s true but maybe you haven’t changed.
We get so attached to the idea we create of who we think we are that we close ourselves off to anything that challenges that.
Sometimes it takes accidental escapism to remind you of the kind of person you desire to be.
Catch yourself in the moment and ask yourself questions like ‘Am I being myself?’ or ‘Is this truly where I want to be?’ And then answer them openly and vulnerably.
You might find that you’re quite content with the life you’ve created but perhaps you’re yearning for more. Many people believe that dreams are something that we have to grow out or let go of, that they aren’t to be actualized. But what if they are.
Perhaps that’s the reason for your lack of contentment in life.
All you have to do is figure out what you want and then go for it with full gusto.
It’s hard to balance tense and triggered aspects of self with the softer more malleable bits.
My anxiety makes me tense and rigid but it also deeply influences the way I write. But my softer more malleable side deeply influences my writing too.
It is often through writing that my anxieties subside and I am able to go with the flow, follow the words and not worry about the order or things making perfect sense but to instead stay inflow allowing the words to pour.
To be able to follow the flow no matter how brief or specific is something worth cherishing. When you’re tense and rigid or feeling overwhelmed by life it seems impossible that there’s any other way, but there is.
The flow is always there whether you choose that path or not. You can go back to it at any point because the moment you realise that what you’re doing isn’t working or should be different is the moment the solution becomes available.
In the company of one as in you, yourself and um you, there are many valuable lessons to learn.
A significant one being Who am I?
It’s much easier to gain an understanding of yourself when you’re not having to consider others. I think that the aspects of you in solitude should be the aspects of you that show up when you’re in the company of others.
Things like being able to say what you want, contribute opinions, take the lead and just be you.
For example, when you’re doing things alone you have to make decisions, you can’t rely on others to choose for you.
But for some despite how they are when they’re alone, in the company of others they end up being ‘them but less’, perhaps a little passive or even submissive.
You do it because you want to play the peacemaker or not rock the boat, you don’t think you deserve to be heard or perhaps you’re just scared.
Hiding/playing small is difficult to overcome once it’s ingrained in you as a habitual response.
But change is possible, it just takes practice.
It’s easier said than done.
We grow up having people tell us to be more or less of ourselves.
And for many at a young age you follow the words of those older than you. That’s fine when it comes to things like eating a balanced diet, doing your homework and being kind to people.
But on the flip-side when you’re being told to what career path to pursue or who you should be, I think that’s a problem.
How are you ever going to figure out who you are and be yourself if you’re always listening to other people? Sure this person might mean well and think they’re being helpful but they could also be projecting.
You’ll get told not to pursue something creative because it’s risky, to get a job in a particular sector because it’s more stable, to dress in differently… the list goes on. But often this advice has nothing to do with your happiness or life goals, it’s about conformity, a lack of belief, other peoples discomfort or even control.
And if you listen to all these voices and follow along with what you’re told you slowly start being less and less yourself and therefore less happy.
It’s not much fun living your life as an actor and allowing everyone else to direct.
And so in order to ‘simply’ be yourself you have to let go of all that stuff and be okay with other people being frustrated that you won’t do what they say.
In exchange for that, you get to be you.
I think it’s important to get to know yourself. Not just on a surface level but right down deep to the core.
Not just your likes and dislikes but your beliefs and why you do the things you do.
Something I’ve always focused on is behaviour. When you find yourself doing and saying things or feeling like you are making a choice to act a certain way, if you take a step back you might come to realise that you’ve just been falling into a familiar habit loop over and over again.
That you’ve become so accustomed to your past behaviour that you turn to it whenever similar situations occur without actually considering if it’s the best way to respond.
So next time you’re about to get riled up or raise your voice ask yourself ‘Is this something I want to do or am I just doing it because it’s familiar?’
The answer might surprise you.
Just as ‘you’re not you when you’re hungry’ is the same way you’re not you when you’re worried.
A person that worries chronically may end up having sleep problems, self-harming and developing fidget habits like pulling at their hair.
Those kinds of behaviours often end up overshadowing a persons core self and then others fall into thinking that those things are who they are.
But when you remove worry from the equation you feel a sense of freedom. You have room to maneuver, you have room to be.
You’ll feel like a whole new you and begin experience life in a way that is so far from what you’re familiar with.
Life will feel easier or at least much more manageable but it’s not that you’ll never worry again. It’s that the worry will come and pass like the flow of water rather than being something that stays with you long term and ends up being debilitating and reducing your quality of life.
If you have a worry habit, the idea of being without it probably sounds like bliss (with a hint of fear because you’re so familiar with worrying it seems strange to think about being without it.
It might be hard to believe but it is possible to significantly reduce worry and not have it as such a dominant part of your identity, you just have to figure out how.