We are often given the advice to just "Be you!”or “Be yourself!” and Instagram is loaded with endless posts on #authenticity. It seems like our culture is craving to see realness and uncurated lives, yet so much of what we see/experience is still edited to look or appear a certain way. This applies to a perfectly posed kitchen #shelfie as well as your own personality. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this the last couple of years, so I thought today for The Monday Muse I would go a bit deeper into my journey of learning to be happy with my personality and just being “me.”
I’ve thought a lot about who I am and if I am living in a way that is authentic and real, and not influenced by who I think I should be. In high school, I was desperate to fit in with a group or clique, and I tried several. I tried getting in with the hippie kids by writing poetry and listening to the Beatles. I tried to fit in with punk rock kids by wearing band T-shirts and Converse. I usually could get one foot in, but one foot was always out, and it never truly clicked because it wasn’t real. It’s interesting how I could trick myself into liking things that I really didn’t just so that I could feel like I belonged to something. I continued to do this through college (though to a much lesser degree, the process of being comfortable with myself really started here!), but I still felt like I was never “enough” of one group, and rather than figuring out how to be comfortable with who I actually was, I just kept trying to be someone that could fit in.
I did this with boys and dating, too. I didn’t take the time to think if another person and I actually were good together, or if it was just a crush or a passing flirtation. Instead, I would run with even the slightest hint of love and companionship to feel like I belonged to something (or someone) and to find an identity in that and, in turn, try to morph my personality to fit it. Some of this can be chalked up to youth, but looking back, I can see how it’s played a role in my journey of figuring out who I actually am and what I really do like.
The older I get, the more exhausting it has become to pretend I like things I don’t or not be honest with how I feel. I think a big influence for me was my husband. Because he is just so profoundly himself, it was refreshing and made me relax and be able to be comfortable just being myself (which, fortunately, he really likes!). It was the first time when I really felt like I wasn’t trying to be someone other than myself, and it was an immense relief. After realizing how great that was, I also began to realize that this doesn’t just have to apply to a romantic relationship but to every relationship. So I started to relax more with other people in my life and eventually started to be comfortable with just being me, regardless if people liked me or not. The results of this have been finding some really close friends, feeling more secure in social situations, being okay saying no to things or honest that I don’t like something (e.g., hiking, sports, pickles), and embracing hobbies and interests I’ve always wanted to pursue.
A great way to get started with becoming comfortable with who you are is looking at some simple areas of life you can practice this. For example, I went back and forth with blogging for a long time. I would start one and stop, feeling like I should feel shame because what I was doing or writing about wasn’t interesting or cool enough. But, in reality, my attitude should have been who cares? If you enjoy it and it makes you happy, just do it.
I also know that a lot of people don’t like Disney or thinks the parks are lame and a waste of money, so I felt shame for a while for liking it so much. But now, I honestly don’t care if someone does or does not like Disney, and it really doesn’t matter if they think it’s lame that I do. I love Disney — the parks, the movies, and the music and have REALLY stepped into this love. I now don’t dance around the fact that I love it so much and freely admit it if it comes up.
I also love things that are absurdly cute, especially stationtionary, knick-knacks, and artwork. My desk at work could easily be a seven-year-old’s rather than a 27-year-old’s. In the past, Pinterest or Instagram made me feel like I needed to have a beautiful curated desk with only photo-friendly items. But now, I just set up all the stuff I like and what makes me happy or reminds me of home, friends, and my husband. I get a lot of questions and people laugh at the wide array of cute animal sticky notes I use, but it gives others a glimpse at my personality, it’s a conversation starter, and it’s just much more genuine than if I had tried to align my desk with a curated assortment of succulents or stickies with inspiring messages and every accessory looking like white marble (which is fine if this is what you DO like!).
A controversial one: I think sports are so boring — watching, reading, playing — essentially any form. The idea of spending an evening watching a game on TV sounds like literally the most boring way to spend your time. But others love sports, and it couldn’t matter less that I don’t. I can go to bars and watch games or buy tickets to a game so I can spend time with friends who do, but it still doesn’t mean it's something I have to pretend I am into, so I don’t (but you also should NOT act pouty or miserable when doing stuff you don’t like, but that is a post for another day).
We all have different beliefs, interests, and taste — whether it’s movies, hobbies, music, or food. Sometimes the things you like, other people think are stupid. I probably think some of the stuff you like is stupid, but it honestly just doesn’t matter and I don’t care if you think Disney or my blog is stupid. If you like it, you should. If you feel a certain way, that is your prerogative. Your likes, interests, and even choices and decisions are solely your own. At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing, thinking, or even directly says to you. I have gotten eye rolls for liking Disney, but I now just let it go because it really doesn’t matter if that person thinks its dumb because I don’t.
The more I have embraced this truth, the more secure I have become in who I am and the more honest I have become with others. I don’t feel a need to dance around my interests, hobbies, or what TV shows I like or think are dumb. I can admit when I like something that is objectively bad and feel fine that I like it. I can express when I think a show that everyone loves is boring and feel fine that I feel that way. And vice versa.
I promise you, if you allow yourself to just be you, you’ll experience a lot more freedom and less anxiety. Of course, it’s not a cure-all for problems in your life, but it's definitely one stressor you can take off the table if you just let you be you. There are still a few areas of my life that I am still working on to embrace and implement this mentality, but I know it’s possible since I’ve already done it with much simpler things. This is also a long and continuous journey as you grow and change. I’m looking forward to the next few years as my personality continues to develop with time and experiences.
I hope a glimpse into my journey of self-love and acceptance inspires you on your own or releases you from the fear of telling your coworkers that you don’t like Game of Thrones or that you don’t understand the appeal of a cronut.
Have a great week,