Have you ever done or said something and immediately thought to yourself, “Hmmm. Why did I just do (or say) that? That’s not me!”? And how many times have you found yourself trying to talk or act more like someone else, just so you could impress someone or “fit in” with the crowd? I’m reminded of the classic movie scene in which someone attends a high school reunion or a first date and they embellish their personal narrative with a few mild exaggerations or outright “untruths” only to have them backfire on them later.
As I recall similar moments in my life, I see that I was trying to hide behind a mask—a mask that I thought others would prefer to my own true personality or identity. I also see that I allowed my own self-doubts to convince me that I wasn’t successful, interesting, or loveable enough to present myself as I truly was. Finally, it became quite obvious that I didn’t appreciate my own uniqueness, character, or personality enough to put forth a true and honest picture of myself.
In some situations, I suppose it may have been a case of wishful thinking. I must have felt inadequate in some areas and merely wanted to be more like the person I was pretending to be. In retrospect, this really isn’t such a bad thing. If someone feels a lack of confidence, for example, it’s perfectly acceptable for them to act more confidently as a way of actually integrating that characteristic, improving themselves, and overcoming their own limitations. The phrase, “fake it ‘till you make it” comes to mind and it describes this process perfectly.
In other cases however, it was more of an outright rejection or suppression of my true personality—one through which I put forth thoughts, words, and sometimes even deeds that weren’t at all consistent with my own true character. I thought about the times I’d behaved in such a manner and most seemed to be during times when I’d been introduced to a new person or group and I felt alone or singled out. The first day in a new class, a large party where I knew very few people, or the first day in a new school immediately came to mind as situations where I’d felt the most ill at ease. At those moments, I so desperately wanted to fit in that I would try to build myself up—if not in the minds of others, then most certainly in my own.
As I looked back at the ways I denied myself over the years, I wondered, how on earth did that happen? How could I have cared so little about myself that I would exaggerate or even fabricate things—all for the sake of trying to look better to others? After a great deal of thought, I found that many of the unkind things others said contributed to my feelings of being different and somehow less than they were. At the time, I didn’t understand that they were trying to deal with their own insecurities by belittling me. At times, even those I trusted the most might say the wrong things—even though they were trying to be helpful. I know they were doing the best they could of course, but I can’t help but feel that I might have been much better served had they simply said, “You’re wonderful and we love you. Just be yourself!”
In any case, it’s taken me quite a long time to realize that I don’t need anyone else’s approval, attention, or admiration to be whole, happy, and self-satisfied. I’ve reached a point where I’m comfortable with the “perfectly imperfect” human being that I AM. I still feel the familiar pangs of inadequacy every now and then, but now I simply acknowledge them, appreciate them for the lessons they’ve taught me, and let them go. I’ve learned that everyone feels that way from time to time.
A very kind teacher of mine once wrote a profound statement in my junior high school yearbook that I’ve since taken to heart. I’ve recalled her and her encouragement quite fondly over the years. She wrote that I would “catch fire someday” and that she hoped I would not “hide my light under a bushel”. I’d like to share that sentiment with you—and anyone else who might find themselves reading this post. Embrace and appreciate every last aspect of who you are, reach for your dreams, then go out and share all the Light that is you with the world! No one can do it better.
Oh—and one more thing. Always remember that you’re wonderful and you’re loved. Just be yourself!
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