This is part 8 in a blog series on why we are so afraid to be ourselves, how that fear keeps us broke and invisible – and how to stop that shit.
Previous installments can be read via the links below.
It’s okay to want to be liked. That’s human nature.
It’s not okay to change yourself in order to fit in, find new friends or even build your online following.
I don’t know when others’ approval became our priority. But I think this problematic tendency we have (particularly as women) creeps in so quickly, we don’t realize it’s happening until we’re in too deep.
There’s no reason we can’t all admit we’ve tried to appease a group of people at one time or another. And I don’t think any one of us is a bad person for doing that. However, if we put too much thought and energy into how other people perceive us, well, we can – again – lose ourselves.
In truth, it seems so dumbed down when we talk about something so complex with one word. Unless you’re willing to do the inner work on all of these things (hello, exhaustion), there’s no real way to become who you truly want to be just by understanding or acknowledging the concept.
Some of us haven’t stopped caring about other people’s opinions of us.
You can see this in the entrepreneurs who seek praise from others (constantly). They’ll pry or talk themselves up and wait for confirmation that someone else sees their worth – only because they are so full of self-doubt they can’t see their own value. By increasing the amount of positive feedback they are receiving, they feel less of the criticism.
But that doesn’t mean anything, except they aren’t being honest with themselves – or with the world – about who they are and what they stand for.
You’re not married to what other people think.
If you were, you likely wouldn’t have gone into business for yourself anyway.
There are countless times throughout life when each of us wants to pursue a dream or wish of our own, maybe to travel, write a book, or – hello – become an entrepreneur. Yet we know the vast majority of people won’t allow themselves to pursue their dreams because they are worried about what other people will say and we hold their opinions over our own truths.
We don’t want to be vulnerable in sharing our dreams. So we cast them aside and scurry away, living a mediocre version of what we truly want.
When you follow along with the status quo and act on whatever values are presented to you by those surrounding you, your opinion really isn’t anything more than someone else’s thought.
It’s really, really fucking sad.
It’s also why diagnoses like social anxiety exist. Some people do not get the amount of validation they’ve built themselves up to needing. Then they crumble when they receive more criticism than they can handle. Obviously this is unintentional and subconscious.
Since we’ve already discussed mindset, I think there’s an opportunity to shift here and see these criticisms (or lack of praise) as an opportunity to embrace some of the disapproval.
Think about the most loved people in our history and how – in their lifetimes – they faced a shit ton, a dump truck size box of tons – of criticism.
Let’s make a list:
- You have the true OG, Jesus
- Abraham Lincoln wasn’t favored by many
- MLK Jr. either
- John Lennon was assassinated for spreading his messages of love, acceptance and understanding
- Two words: Mahatma Gandhi
What does this mean for us?
That being hated doesn’t mean you’re not doing a damn good job.
And by embracing the people who give us hell, we might be a little less anxious at the end of the day.
Giving them negative energy might seem easier, but that negative energy will inevitably dictate your actions. So it’s a bit easier to stop wasting time on them altogether and take their dissatisfaction as a hint that you’re doing good things.
Of course, this takes constant awareness and mindset work. But once you come out on the other side of it, you’ll see that being disliked isn’t that big of a deal at all – except that it proves you’re standing up for something you believe in.
Plus, it proves you have lady balls (which are really just ovaries, but whatever). This helps you feel empowered and will attract the people who like your vibe. Those are the people who belong in your tribe.
And this isn’t just attracting anyone by falsely presenting yourself as whoever you think will be most well received. You’re inviting in people who actually give a damn about the same things you do and who will – genuinely – believe in you.
Why this phrase is so, so trendy.
As more women go into business for themselves, we find that building a tribe (whether fellow entrepreneurs or raving fans) is a hot ticket item in coaching. Plenty of established coaches tell you they’ll help you grow your platform in the same way they’ve grown their own. And while that’s fine and dandy, we all know the best tribes are built on mutual respect and understanding.
Yes, people know they need a following. But they also – and more critically – need a support system. The problem is they want it immediately, without ever considering what this crew actually does for them.
Having a tribe makes you influential and positions you as an expert in your field, but it also helps you streamline your offerings to certain groups who will resonate with your message. This is, of course, geared toward business, but doesn’t actually differ much from why you’d want a tribe in your personal life.
You want people to respect and value what you have to say.
Your tribe becomes a safe zone for you to try out new ideas, whether personal or professional. If you have a new package you want to put out, they can serve as beta-testers. (Just like your BFFs will tell you if that shade of fuchsia looks good on your lips).
The problem is people are more concerned about the number of fans they have on their Facebook page than they are the quality of engagement. A Facebook page with more than 10,000 fans isn’t valuable if nobody ever comes to chat or support your posts.
Counter that with your personal life: You can be the most popular mom at the track meet, but if you aren’t building true, deep connections with anyone, you’re still going to go home and feel lonely.
While finding your tribe is something we have all heard we should do, or we work toward doing, it’s not enough to think of it as a task on your to-do list. You have to find the people who will genuinely and greatly love you for exactly who you are, otherwise you’re still living a bullshit lie that makes us all miserable.
The truth is people want to connect. It’s one of the most inherent characteristics of being human. Why the hell do you think social media is what it is? Yet even in today’s society, inundated with technology, people feel alienated and alone.
Be forewarned, my friends: If you try to build a tribe based on who you think you should be, you’re still going to feel alone. You won’t connect with those people all that well. They’ll do something that feels out of alignment with what you need. And you’re going to have to do the work again.
I have craved that inclusion as much as anyone else, sometimes questioning my own beliefs and behaviors to see if I could fit in more with one crowd that seemed appealing. Rather than truly trusting there are other dominating women in the world who think and talk like me. So, again, the core of finding this tribe began by doing the inner work and playing with that word “authenticity.”
If I truly want to be myself and be accepted as me, how the hell do I think I’m going to get there by acting like someone else?
So how do you find these unicorns in human form?
1. Where are your blocks?
Look at the beliefs and experiences you hold right now that are standing between you and the awesome people you want to meet. This brick wall? You created it, lover. Now it’s time to tear it down.
Yes, that means you’re going to have to do some work and it won’t always be fun, but there’s no reward in only completing simple tasks. Ever.
When you have enough time to dedicate to this (because you sit down and make the time), answering those questions will help you continue building a self-awareness and understanding of where you are, and who is with you when you feel most at ease.
This was really fucking hard for me. It made me feel vulnerable. It made me see how I push people away to avoid feeling hurt or being disappointed. It also made me realize I’m exhausting myself by trying to do everything without dividing tasks between people who want to support me and my business. I was living on an island – miserable in the solitude – but with nobody else to blame but myself.
That made me feel really, really guilty and embarrassed for a second.
But what it also did was free me up to let go of shitty behaviors so I didn’t have to deal with the shame anymore. I refused to feel the loneliness because I wanted to believe I could fly solo through damn near anything. I was stuck, miserable, and 100 percent delusional in that belief.
Give yourself the time and space to reflect, and then begin to develop a self-awareness and understanding of situations where you feel completely content and comfortable.
This is when life feels like it flows – everything around you happens naturally, allowing you to complete every task you need to finish. That is the goal.
2. Start asking questions.
This kind of work takes a gentleness and patience that was foreign to me before I began. I remember sitting in my house, feeling incredibly vulnerable because I was alone (even though my ex-husband was there), trying to distract myself from these feelings by filling my day with whatever I could. When I finally decided to stop, I had to practice a grace I hadn’t in a long time.
But when you simplify these massive issues into feelings, and you decide you can change how you feel, it becomes easier to let go of what you perceive as hulking, horrendous issues.
With a fresh perspective, I asked myself two questions.
First, what type of friendships feel good?
Second, what would it feel like to be surrounded by these types of friendships?
Describing what I wanted was easy (I’m a writer) and my energy around receiving those types of relationships shifted. Just as I manifest anything in my life, I started to feel my way through this. I felt those people and the joys they brought to me on a completely different energetic level. I acted as if.
Sure as shit, they started coming my way.
Maybe that’s because it was easier for me to notice them when they appeared in my life, or maybe I subconsciously sought them out. Who the hell cares?
All I know is this started bringing people around who were absolutely 100 percent the ones who I needed so I could show up as my real self each and every day – and stop apologizing for who I was – because I felt supported and loved.
Surround yourself with people who want to lift you up and talk it out. Even though most of us start businesses on our own, working by ourselves until we can afford to hire a staff, it doesn’t mean you’re alone.
If someone makes you feel alive or provides you with support, encouragement and inspires you, you need more of them in your life (and remember to be this person in return).
Good vibes feed off of other good vibes. That’s when they multiply. That’s the magic.
3. Stop With the Criticism Already
If you want to care less about people giving you hell, you have to stop giving so many others hell.
If you judge every person you meet, you have a problem being accepting of people.
And you need to rectify it immediately.
4. Be A Risk Taker
Something you want to do but have avoided because you were afraid of what others would think? Time to start doing anyway.
I don’t mean to do everything at once and make massive life changes, but if you want to part your damn hair a different way or you want to try out Salsa lessons, go do it. You’re not going to love every change but you’re not going to hate them all, either.
What you will find is you’re learning more about yourself, putting yourself in situations where you are around others who are like-minded. Exploration is healthy.
5. Pay Attention to (and Seek) Outcomes
When anxiety and fear crop up, it’s easy to revert back to your old ways. Remember the outcome you want here is to give less fucks.
Consider the absolute bottom-of-the-barrel worst thing that can happen to you if someone you wanted to connect with is displeased by your actions or words. Usually, nothing happens other than feeling a bit rejected, which does suck, but isn’t insurmountable.
6. Stand Up for Yourself
If someone becomes a bully and their words are actually damaging, consider what type of action you’d like to take. In each situation you might feel differently. Maybe you feel a polite reminder that you’re not a doormat is in order today. Six months from now, perhaps some gross person needs a little more than just a slap on the wrist (legal action, etc).
But please, before you make any decisions on which action to take, make sure you ask yourself if it’s worth it or if you’re just trying to protect your ego.
Last thing to consider…
If you go through all of these steps and find that someone still genuinely dislikes you (and you can’t allow that to validate you or your mission), remember that authenticity does you no good if you’re authentically a douche-canoe.
Take their constructive criticism, analyze it, and realize we’re all works in progress all the time. You still have plenty of time to grow.