I’ve been studying this for years because I really find it fascinating! I find it fascinating because I’m aware that it impacts on my life and my decisions (I’m definitely a recovering people pleasing perfectionist) so I really had to dig deep into it!
Another way of describing being real or true to yourself is being “authentic” and there is an amazing quote from the expert in this field, Brene Brown. She defines authenticity as ‘the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are’
Think about that for a moment- a daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.
Why is it a daily practice?
Well, because it’s really hard!
Never mind having to psyche yourself up to do it on a daily basis, sometimes you have to psyche yourself up to do it on an hourly basis! It’s hard because we’ve been raised with an idea/a notion of who we’re supposed to be- it’s all around us, it’s been programmed into our minds since childhood- expectation and pressure is rife and that can be difficult to overcome. That’s the letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be side of things but the 2nd part of being authentic is embracing who we are. That’s equally as challenging, as for many of us, we don’t actually know who we are! How can we embrace who we are if we don’t know who she is- or if we think she is weak/flawed in some way.
So, where does the whole worrying what other people think come from? Well, it’s seeped into our lives gradually! When you were a kid, the answers to the question “what do you want to be when you grow up?” were limitless and varied. My future career plans included being a pilot, an astronaut, the president of Ireland, a writer, a teacher and a supermarket checkout clerk because I liked the sound of the beeps (a desire which has been satisfied since the introduction of self-scan!) Your answers may have been similarly ambitious or bizarre – but there were at least focused on things you were passionate about as a child.
When we were kids, we didn’t worry about things like getting a mortgage, eating sensible meals, promotions or biological clocks! We saw adulthood as a place of amazing freedom: when you’re an adult, you can cross the road on your own, buy as many toys as you like, go to Disneyland by yourself and eat cake for breakfast.
But somehow by the time we reach our early twenties, this world of vast possibilities has completely narrowed. We go to college, because that’s what everyone else is doing. Then we look for a sensible, entry-level job, because that’s what everyone else is doing. Pretty soon, we think about buying a house, getting a better car, working towards a promotion, watching crap on TV … because that’s what everyone else is doing!
What Happened to our Amazing Life?
Life isn’t supposed to be a dull, day-in-day-out routine where work is just about bearable and evenings are spent going through the motions: eating dinner, watching TV, surfing the net … waiting for it to be time to go to bed, sleep, get up and repeat.
Life can be an adventure, it can be fun, it can have you at the edge of your seat in anticipation sometimes, it can be a leap into the unknown, a chance to grow, and an opportunity to do something that makes a difference after you’ve gone. This is what you wanted at one point in your life! What went wrong? The answer is that you started to care what other people think!
Some people have no problems with “peer pressure”: they’re self-declared rebels who have forged their own path since they were two years old without any worries about what their parents, siblings or friends might think!
The rest of us though, find that other people’s expectations and opinions can begin to rule and run our lives. In some ways, this isn’t surprising at all.
As humans, we’re social creatures and if we behave in a way that raising a lot of eyebrows and causes disapproval amongst our social group, we risk being excluded or rejected by our community.
An extra factor in this is that girls especially have been raised to be people pleasers: as children, we delighted in praise from parents and teachers, and we continue seeking this as adults.
So, tell me! Does the voice in your head go something like this?
• I really don’t want to go out to the pub tonight, but the girls will think I’m no fun if I stay home and they’ll be talking about me when I’m not there.
• I’m under pressure and struggling with my workload already but I can’t say no when someone asks me to do a favour as they might think I’m mean, a bitch or that I’m struggling with my workload!
• I know that this relationship isn’t working, but how can I say that to Tom? He’ll hate me. I’ll go with the flow for another month and see what happens.
If it was your best friend saying something like the above comments to you, you would give her a swift kick up the ass; tell her to cop on to herself and to do what she wanted and what would make her happy. “Who cares what other people think!” you would say.
Remember, no-one else in the world knows what is going on inside your head (thank god says you); you can’t read minds and know what’s going on in their heads either. It really is a waste of time to worry what other people will be thinking: more than likely we will be wrong and we end up dramatising everything into gargantuan proportions! Even if other people are thinking negatively about you, what real impact do other people’s negative thoughts have on your life?
I’ve often worried what people will think and I used to hold myself back to a huge degree. I’m self employed and I really struggled to put myself out there when I set out on my own – I was terrified of ‘being exposed’ to a mass of strangers. I had no idea how people would react to a nervous 27 year old giving a seminar on ‘Self Esteem’ and I would dramatise it in my head, playing out different scenarios, each one worse than the last. (In my mind dramas, no-one threw anything at me, but many people muttered under their breath and walked out mid-seminar). If I had allowed worrying what other people thought of me to run my life, I would not be where I am right now. I would probably be living a miserable life always wondering ‘What if?’
“Criticism is something you can easily avoid by saying nothing, doing nothing, being nothing” Aristotle
You are not here because you want to say, do and be nothing! On the contrary, you want to say what you want to say, do what you want to do and be who you really are! So, you may well experience some criticism! I’d love to just say, ‘fuck it, do what you want to do, be who you want to be and say what you want to say! Who cares what other people think!’ but in reality I know it’s not that easy! This is a process and is something that will take some time! I’ll just quickly talk you through some of what you’ll be working on!
1. Cultivate self-acceptance.
The first step in letting go of what other people think is to strengthen your core foundation so that you feel strong enough to go with what feels right for you. By feeling strong within yourself about your own decisions and choice, you will no longer feel the need to look to others for their input or approval.
Start a self-appreciation journal and on a daily basis acknowledge the things you’re most proud of about yourself: decisions you’ve made, times you practiced self love and respect, insights you’ve learned, things you like about yourself, situations that you’ve stayed true to yourself, or whatever feels right for you.
2. Stop looking for validation from other people.
Secondly, you need stop looking for validation from other people about the decisions that you have made and more importantly, for who you are.
This means noticing when you you’re seeking approval and wanting someone else to say you’re ok, that you made the right choice, or that you did the right thing. It takes a while to be able to catch this but in your journal you can note down your triggers!
Instead, give yourself the thumbs up! When you do make a decision, check in with yourself first that it feels right and remind yourself that it is your decision to make! This is your life and you are living it for you, not for someone else.
3. Surround Yourself with a Supportive Tribe
It is not just you. There is nothing wrong with you and you do not need to be fixed! What can be invaluable is having a supportive tribe who get you and who have your back. That’s why I’ve created the ‘I Am More Than Enough’ private group which is a safe space for you to show up, practice being real, being brave and we will have your back! Plus, we have a 7 Day Confidence Boost Challenge starting next week! And it’s all FREE!
I hope you enjoyed this blog!
See you in the group!