I know how many people are tired of hearing folks talk about being your "authentic" self. But much like people getting sick of the bullying talks, I think the topic always has, and always will have, merit. I used to have a sticker on my car that said, "It is better to be hated for who you are, than loved for who you are not." Now, I hate lofty bumper sticker quotes as much as the next person, but that statement rings more true to me than almost any quote I've ever heard.
The vast majority of people I have come across in life are people pleasers. They live in fear that if they say what they really think, or dress how they really feel comfortable dressing, the repercussions will be great. I argue that if you do things to please others, to the detriment of being yourself, the repercussions are far greater.
I used to live a life where I hid my true self. I acted dumber, I acted calmer, I acted like what the normal kids were doing interested me, I toned down my sense of humor so I wasn't funnier than anyone else, and I did many other things that led me to a life where I was always ashamed. That shame caused me to do many self destructive things.
I am not saying all people who hide who they really are go in to a shame spiral, but you can totally tell who they are when you go out because they seem a little less sure of themselves. They nervously laugh only after everyone else has started laughing so they have the okay that, "Yes, that was really funny." They hold themselves awkwardly and rarely make eye contact. I feel really sorry for them. Some people go through their whole lives like that.
I have completely stopped spending time with any and all people pleasers because they are the ones that will turn on you in a heartbeat. They will listen if someone else tells them they should think a certain way about a religion, a food product, a person, or a store. They don't have the strength to think for themselves. They are totally swayable about the latest fad and are the first ones to have teased you for black nail polish in high school, but then spend 20 dollars on a high end black nail polish 'cause they saw an actor wear it.
My mom is a people pleaser. I spent my whole life with a woman who would shush me in public because "people could hear me." I never understood because those people didn't know us, and we would probably never see them again, so who the hell cared what they thought? This from the same woman who didn't care if someone in the family felt they were slighted. But slight a perfect stranger? She wouldn't DREAM of it. It made me learn that looking perfect on the outside didn't matter. Trying to be good to the ones you loved did, and it doesn't really matter if everyone else thinks you're a goddamned loon. Sadly, it didn't make me learn it right off the bat. It had been engrained in my being and I wasn't able to shed it until I was in my 30s. I was always the "weird" kid, but I was still the people pleaser in high school in college, even though in secret I was getting in fights and doing tons of drugs and other stuff I shouldn't have been.
Right now I am mentoring a young girl. A girl who has anxiety so bad she pulls out her eyebrows and eyelashes. She has to leave school at least once a week because something will freak her out so badly she can't function. I remember being there. I invited her mother and her over so I could say, "It may not look like much, but this is my home and I have a good job. I came out the other side and even though I still struggle, you can do whatever the hell you want. Don't let anyone tell you different." There is only so much help a counselor can give you. Someone who has been there can help so much more.
If there's one thing I have to say to anyone out there who worries what people think of you I would say this: do whatever you need to do to be able to wake up every morning and look in the mirror and say, "Today I'm going to do the best I can. If I do something I'm ashamed of I'll ponder on it and fix it. If I do something other people are ashamed of that I'm not, they can totally suck it!" What? You didn't think this was going to be all serious and inspirational did you? That would most certainly not be authentic Melanie. :)
Happy picture of the day: When Molly pokes her head through the blinds and stares out the window for hours I dub her "emo cat."