I’ve talked a lot about the importance of being yourself. In fact, “Be me” is one of my personal commandments that I strive to live by. It helps me live my life, not the life that I think others want me to live so that I can please people who I really don’t need to be worrying about.
Many Reclaimers struggle with this concept of “being you”/”being yourself”.
People and relationships unfold, which means that you unfold too.
If you engage in people pleasing and look for validation, and in fact, try to suppress who you are so that people don’t form an opinion about you that might cause them to leave or dislike you, you’re not being you.
Our experiences teach us a lot about ourselves, who we really are, what we like/don’t like, and what we need. When we’re willing to listen, observe, and be on a low Bullshit Diet where we don’t make what everyone else does about us, we can get a sense of who we are or whether what’s happening vibes with our own values and needs, and then act accordingly.
Often, we don’t recognise this when we’re in the moment/situation. As a result, a lot of the insights we gain from the on-the-job training of life happen with the benefit of the 20:20 vision of hindsight.
Of course, it’s very easy to focus on another person’s behaviour and practically get a PhD in it, but this is just a distraction activity keeping us on the path of least resistance. Focusing on others often ensures we tell ourselves a story that caters to unhealthy beliefs we hold about ourselves, life, and relationships.
We get to understand our needs, expectations and desires, including where we need to “be ourselves” and step up and meet these ourselves.
It’s not up to others to tell you who you are; it’s up to you to use your time here on earth to discover who you are. This means that you will also discover who you are by discovering who you’re not.
Discovering and understanding who I wasn’t comfortable being, but putting my energy into finding out what was more befitting of me, is what’s fueled this blog.
Being you is an ongoing journey, and you will always be making discoveries and evolving. It’s a journey, not a destination.
I had a light-bulb moment yesterday while sitting in traffic discussing the uncomfortable Boxing Day call with my father.. After a six-and-a-half month silence, he called on Christmas Day. I’d briefly felt anxious about returning the call. Aside from reminding myself not to make “drama”, Em suggested I “be cool” and not fawn around him. I’ve been regarded by family and even Em as being too easygoing, ironically with my family, and finally, by being me in this call, I understand what they meant.
In times gone by, I might have intended to be cool and then quickly slipped into being jovial and conciliatory because, you know, I’m the person who is supposed to forget and make things easy. The call was awkward, but aside from the fact that it should be, it wasn’t awkward because I wasn’t brown-nosing and acting as if nothing had ever happened. It was, however, awkward because I wasn’t putting in the bulk of the effort.
As we sat there in traffic, it suddenly hit me: Yes, it wasn’t an easy conversation but just like when I was honest with him in those awful discussions before my wedding, I truly felt like me.
I’m not truly comfortable being a people pleaser who papers over her feelings and presses the Reset Button. That’s not me. I’m not a fluffer there to make other people feel comfortable about who they are and their own behaviour. I spent the years before Baggage Reclaim pretending that I don’t ‘do’ getting angry and doing my best to ignore my feelings until they hurt less–this just doesn’t fly for me. I didn’t like who I was.
It’s up to me to be me; it’s up to you to be you; and it’s up to others to be who they are.
If you don’t like who you are when you do inauthentic stuff, it’s because you’re not being you.
Being me is not leaping in there and trying to hypothesise about what someone’s thoughts, feelings, and intentions are and then attempting to preempt it with good (read: pleasing) behaviour.
People and situations unfold.
You cannot possibly discover what the hell “unfolding” means if you assume a role in each situation. You might be making incorrect assumptions, plus you’re not being yourself. Unless who you are is someone who’s an actor, facilitator, mask wearer, or even doormat.
I saw my amnesia-based behaviour with my father so clearly replicated in my past romantic relationships.
It’s why I dated (and I use that term loosely) someone for four years who would vanish, call up out of the blue after a few months, we’d go on an “amazing” date, and then the Phantom would be gone again. I didn’t want to ruin the call by asking about the absence. Then I didn’t want to ruin the moment or the date. I also feared looking like a “difficult” person and was afraid of “missing out” on the phantom relationship. So I stuffed down my feelings and concerns and ended up feeling and looking like a doormat.
This isn’t to take away from other people’s behaviour, but it’s difficult for me to argue the case for people not walking over my feelings if I’m going to do that.
That’s what being you involves: owning your own. When you understand what you accept, even if it’s in a passive way, you can better represent yourself by making more conscious choices about what you do and don’t accept or do in future.
It’s up to you to discover what you’re comfortable with and to discover what “being you” looks and feels like.
Sometimes you have to make a choice.
I had a few pangs after that call with my father. However, aside from validating what I did, I also recognised that my response was from the pleaser within me, and it passed.
Fast. I’ve done my grieving over these past few months, and I feel truly unburdened now. I’m sure, also, that there will be more grieving to come, such is the nature of life. The truth [of my father and the family’s behaviour] hurt at the time. It devasted me. But it’s also liberated me from a lifetime of what essentially amounts to sucking up and pretending. Why would I do this when I don’t act this way with others?
Yeah, you might be like me and get a pang about not rolling out the people-pleasing red carpet. Still, you have to consider whether you truly want that alternative.
Is selling yourself short and walking over your feelings a preferable alternative?
Go on a people-pleasing diet by identifying your people-pleasing habits of thinking and behaviour and reducing/replacing/eliminating them. You’d be surprised how much more you approve of yourself when you’re not putting yourself on a people-pleasing street corner day after day.
“Being you” means letting people be who they are and allowing situations to unfold instead of trying to orchestrate and influence with people pleasing. Suppressing and repressing your needs, desires, expectations, feelings, and opinions harms you and your relationships.
When you get caught up in being you and living your life authentically anyway, you’d be amazed at how much happier you feel. You will also notice how much clearer you are on the things and people that matter–and you’ll apportion your energies in the right places.
Ready to reclaim yourself from the cycle of people pleasing and any patterns that reinforce feelings of low self-worth? My new book, The Joy of Saying No: A Simple Plan to Stop People Pleasing, Reclaim Boundaries, and Say Yes to the Life You Want (HarperCollins/Harper Horizon), is out now.