It sucks not to be able to be yourself around other people. It’s tiring and painful because you are literally killing yourself while at the same time feeding an identity that’s made not by you, but by judgments and fear.
Morphing, again and again, each time you are with a different person. Leaving the eternally and unquestionably more important inner values, like courage or authenticity, unattended. And instead, we focus on what we ignorantly think is more valuable, like praise or approval.
“Until we have begun to go without them, we fail to realize how unnecessary many things are. We’ve been using them not because we needed them but because we had them.”
― Lucius Annaeus Seneca
The solution is simple. It’s a realization. One which tells you that what is truly likable and looked upon in you is not your constant search and want for approval, a search that morphs you abnormal and weird, but the sun rays that only your true personality can shine.
Yesterday I felt just how it feels to hide yourself behind something. I went climbing Nevado de Toluca, a big mountain near Mexico City. It was a Sunday, so the mountain was packed with tourists or, for you to understand better, people that don’t go often to the mountains. They dress in jeans and I’ve even seen once a girl in high heels up there, that was funny.
Anyways, if you want to get to the trail-head fast, you need to hire some old trucks that the locals rent to get you up. They fill the trucks with as many people as they can and charge you for the trip. I’m a guide at that mountain and was taking a client to the summit, which meant that, in comparison to other people, we were fully equipped with cool jackets and other mountain equipment that set us apart from the other tourists, that just went there to have a Sunday walk.
Some of the tourists were looking at us with admiration but did not dare to ask a question. It felt… good, I guess? To be admired? But to be admired for what? As we began to go up on the old cracking truck, I pondered about the situation. I began to question my feelings of me feeling good about people admiring me for how I looked. I mean, nor the jacket, nor the brand on that jacket is… me, right?.
I have to confess I’m guilty of bragging about some of the cool stuff that I do. But why do I need to brag? What is it that I’m looking for, really? Who do I need to assure me I’m cool?
I realized that, like everyone else, I just want to be liked and loved. But not feeling deserving of it, and insecure, I sometimes hide behind attitudes or stuff that I do to gain respect and approval. We all do this in different degrees and in different circumstances.
That’s why I sometimes act in weird ways trying to show “how cool I am”, and I just end up shooting myself in the foot. Because when you do this, you just look pathetic. It’s pathetic because it shows just how insecure you are. In the need of looks, money or a car to feel good about yourself.
Bear in mind that…
A lion does not try to act “dangerous” around a Gazelle. He doesn’ need to do so, he knows he can rip it off with one claw. He knows he is dangerous.
What’s your ideal self? Think about this for a minute. In fact, think instead about your funeral. Think about the speeches of the people you love. What are they saying?
Putting myself as an example. I would certainly not like to be remembered as the person that had an awesome Patagonia jacket. I would rather be remembered as a great mountaineer and as a great friend.
You see, those two last are completely within my control and acting on them now, feels great and empowering, it feels lasting, impactful even. It’s liberating as well because my only concern is to actually be the person I think provides the most value to myself and others. This is key. I went from lacking value, and asking for it, in the sense of wanting approval, to giving it. Did you notice?
It’s liberating as well because I’m not competing with other people anymore, putting myself below or above. I’m doing my thing instead, I’m being the best version of me and I’m trying to reflect what I would like to see in the world.
I’m not sucking the energy out of the world in the form of approval and validation, instead, I’m giving it to everyone else. I’m shining.
Paradoxically, once you begin to shine, you’ll receive more approval and validation than you can imagine. It’s ok to receive it, but it will taste the sweeter, knowing that you don’t need it.
Everything that is in any way beautiful is beautiful of itself and complete in itself, and praise has no part in it; for nothing comes to be better or worse for being praised…Which of these is beautiful because it is praised, or becomes any less so if criticized? Does an emerald become any worse if nobody praises it? Or gold, ivory, purple, a lyre, a sword, a blossom, or a bush?
When you stop worrying about people liking or not liking you, something completely outside your control, you can begin to interact with persons as persons and not sources of validation you can suck from.
First. You will never find a better source of approval and respect than from inside yourself. Approve and respect of yourself first, that’s the most important.
Second. Recognize that trying to be liked is not an effective strategy. Don’t try to be liked, focus instead on being likable by being you. Attraction is not a choice.
Third and last. Being yourself feels fucking good and liberating. No acting, no identity morphing. You define what’s important to you and what you’d like to see in the world and you focus on that.
Now go and shine on, you crazy diamond.
Thanks for reading,
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