Even though society is a place of cooperation, it is also true that the links of collaboration and mutual benefit are not always very clear, hence the threat of somehow breaking them tend to haunt most people; maybe that’s why many people live so worried about what others will say. We are currently living in a divided society. Although more and more people are waking up to the reality of the need to drop the masks and to choose “character over reputation”, the number of people who live ruled by the old paradigm of “reputation above all” overwhelms the first. Our society is undergoing and internal battle between the first and the second group; however due to the level of consumerism that is pushed to us by the media, we still live in a society where competitiveness at all costs is encouraged, as such within our present environment one quickly can have allies who can become our enemies at a price.
The old paradigm which still rules today, places a lot of value on personal image; since it is seen as something that defines us. We are battling between letting go of the old vs being our own selves, developing our individuality while staying connected without depending on the opinion of others. Since learning to let go of old patterns of behavior or erroneous thinking takes time, “image” still rules; as such many people try to create a public version of themselves that can please others, leaving aside their true nature in exchange for false acceptance.
Many of the problems and the psychological distress suffered by people is generated by the attempt to pass ourselves as someone we are not. Social pressure can lead people to try to offer an idealized image of themselves, completely hindering any attempt to behave spontaneously and true to one’s identity.
That’s why many people ask themselves … how can I be myself?. In this article I will try to give a few tips on how to overcome the ill mentality that we have to sacrifice who we really are so that others may like us.
Surround yourself by people who get you and encourage your growth.- Being constantly surrounded by people who judge us negatively at the slightest stridency on our part is a bad decision. More often than not those people do not know us or are threaten by the fact that one is choosing not to live ruled by the opinion of others.
Many people choose to surround themselves by people who like them choose “image” over “character”. More often than not these type of people encourage each other to remain within their comfort zone because they are scare to confront their wounds and their own shortcomings. Most of the time when those people come in contact with someone who lives outside the box, someone who lives life openly and who stands by who they are; they tend to directly or indirectly criticize, judge, or belittle that person.
As I worked on my own self development, as I turned my life around and released myself more and more from the shackles others try to put on me, I have come in contact with people who would rather have me hide in order for them to feel comfortable.
I am one of those people that never really fitted the status quo… as a child I didn’t have much of a voice and others tried through intimidation and abuse to silence that voice. No matter how hard they hit, something in me always fought back; they broke my body not my soul. As I started to heal myself, I started to get my voice back and became more conscious that what threaten others about me was the fact that I refuse to become the cookie cut version people are used to. As I have given myself more and more permission to be me; eccentric me, who can morph from one day to the other from artistic, to nerdy, to sensual, etc.; I have learned that there is nothing wrong with who I am. I am not perfect, I have wounds, I experience anger, I can be opinionated, I stand up for what I believe without fear of what others may think, but I am also open, loving, and I prefer quality over quantity; I am different that is all.
My life experiences were hard but they contributed to the development of abilities in many areas, rather than getting caged in one box. My life experiences have allowed me a greater spectrum of thinking and feeling. My hurts, and getting in touch with them, have allowed me to be more empathetic rather than sympathetic, while also developing a solid back bone. Through it all I have come across people who would rather have me be congenial, to pretend things didn’t happen and who think my openness about who I am and my experiences means I need to learn forgiveness.
I believe in forgiveness but not when it is confuse with hypocrisy. Forgiveness never emanates from a place of denial. Forgiveness is a beautiful thing, and it is the gift you give yourself, but only when you have truly processed things. Forgiveness also should not be confused with continuing to surround yourself with people who hurt you, people who do not show any remorse for the hurt they may have caused you. Recently in conversation I was reminded that in Psychology there is a mature defense mechanism called “sublimation” the taking of something negative you may have experienced and turning it into something positive. In my case my complex PTSD, all the hurts, abuse and my own mistakes are the negative; my writings and talking about those things openly so others may see they are not alone, and that there is light at the end of the tunnel, is the positive.
Surrounding yourself then by people who get you is being surrounded by people who DO know all aspects of your personality. People you can be real with; those are open minded people. People who understand that as humans we have good and bad days; those who know it is not necessary for everyone to be cut by the same pattern. Of course we must every now and then do a check on who we surround ourselves by, to ensure that this type of comfortable friendships do not end up becoming social circles in which everyone thinks the same and holds the same vision of things. That not only is not intellectually stimulating: it makes us less reasonable.
Accept your contradictions.- Nobody has a completely consistent and defined personality. The ambiguities and uncertainty is what makes us not entirely predictable. It is inevitable that certain situations produce tensions in us, that make us doubt about which option best represents us, and that we regret certain past decisions. That does not nullify the fact that we can behave authentically, being true to ourselves.
Embrace assertive communication.- If we constantly hide what we want and what interests us, we will end up enslaving ourselves. It is useless to be oneself when there is no one watching; you have to bet on authenticity practically always.
Rediscover your talents.- We must let our hobbies, physical and intellectual interests develop. The activities that occupy most of our time should not mainly obey what others expect from us, otherwise we will be wasting a lot of potential. In focusing on what others want for us and pushing aside our own calling, we could potentially be throwing away what could be the beginning of a good life. We all have something we are talented on; it may not seem obvious at first because like anything else whether the talent is small or great it will require experience which can only come as a result of effort and constant practice. Although it may not seem like it, activities done for pleasure can enrich us a lot culturally; one doesn’t gain as much when focusing on things or hobbies which one is not excited about or that we may carry or practice out of a sense of duty.
Value honesty.- Being open and honest about who we are with others may cost at first, but it usually generates a chain effect; it encourages those around us to also be honest with us. Therefore betting on honesty generates spaces in which it is much easier to be oneself; in the long run that leads us to be authentic almost without realizing that we are breaking all kinds of limits which in the past chain us to the opinion of others.
Demystify others.- It is never good to seek to be idolized by others; over time living to their expectation can become hard. Moreover when you do make a mistake chances are you will pay greatly for it because you were seen as the ultimate human being. To stop trying to be idealized by others, we must stop idealizing them; no one deserves to make all kinds of sacrifices simply to impress others. To achieve giving up the need to be accepted and idolized by others, one needs to work on one’s self esteem and realize that we are human, we have divine spark but we are experiencing a dual world; as such we will make mistakes from which we can grow.
A person who is constantly trying to please everyone may be popular and accepted but at the end of the day that person is further away from healing than the person who openly accepts their hurts and who day after day tries to work on them while staying true to who they; as Carl Jung mentioned one can not heal that which one denies is within.