Do You Give People Power Over You?
I'm not afraid to acknowledge (most of) my flaws. My adult life has been plagued by one flaw in particular - giving people too much control. My flaw manifests itself as a preoccupation with whether I've pissed someone off or whether someone doesn't like me. I've wasted many a day and dollar (#therapy) on figuring out these mini-dramas in my head and at some point I just got exhausted. And then I decided to make it my business to stop.
The concept of "likability" is one that I've struggled with my whole life. As the chubby kid on the playground, I quickly persuaded myself that by being charming and nice it would take the pressure off of me being fat. Being "likable" was always a way of coping for me. Smile and they will forgot all the other flaws...so I thought. Likability quickly became a mask for so many little insecurities.
I had a rude awakening my freshman year in college. Coming off of a great run in high school where I had ALL the friends and ALL the memories and ALL the success, I found myself in uncharted territory. Suddenly, people weren't so easily persuaded and I wasn't as likable as I once was. It was a whole new world and I didn't feel brave or confident or happy. I felt suffocated by people's opinions of me. Now admittedly, I probably exacerbated these things, but other folks' opinions dominated my psyche. And so I found a way to cope again - make myself smaller so others felt big. Yep - I struggled with self esteem in a huge way throughout college. I will never forget my best friend telling me through tears on the eve of our graduation that if only I could see myself the way she saw me that I could move mountains. It was humbling to hear this, but it didn't sink in until much later.
Things didn't get better during the "early adulting" part of life. More freedoms and free will led to a series of questionable decisions and burned bridges - all of which kept me up nights. Instead of squashing the issues immediately, I allowed them to fester and in turn drove myself nuts. Then the thirties came about and slowly and slowly, I reached my wit's end.
Author and noted feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (of Beyonce' "Flawless" fame) recently waxed poetic in a Washington Post article to promote her new book by saying, “It’s not your job to be likable. It’s your job to be yourself...[s]omeone will like you anyway.” So much power and truth in such a simple quote. Too often, many of us sacrifice the truest expression of ourselves because we are trying not to rock the boat or in my case, trying to be a people pleaser. At the end of the day, you can't make everyone happy and you can't allow what others think of you to alter your own course. Take it from me - that's a waste. Why put any weight on whether other people like you? Like yourself instead and KEEP.IT.MOVING.
The moment I realized that I didn't have to always be the one to smile or say yes or be the conveniently "there" friend was a novel one for me. All of those years of worrying about others and what they thought about me was really a waste of something more valuable than my time - it was a waste of my own power. By fighting to be likable, I forgot to be myself. And that's not something I'm willing to do anymore. So here's to giving less of a damn today than you did yesterday; and here's to reclaiming your own power!
Extra Credit: A Social Hiatus