You can finally stop faking it!
When we’re young, our survival depends on the approval of others. Most of us grow up looking for ways to fit in, which often means living up to the expectations others have for us—rather than being our authentic selves.
In general, the need for approval drops off over the years. (Probably the coolest thing about getting older!) With time and support, I’ve gotten way less worried about fitting in and spend far less time making choices based on how others are likely to react to them.
The freedom that’s accompanied this relative indifference is exhilarating.
I’ve come to realize that some things are simply more important than having everyone in the world agree with me. (Plus, I tend to be too busy or tired to worry about what “normal” is supposed to look like anymore.)
You too can make peace with not fitting in. Here are a few tips to help you get there. Start by choosing to embrace your authentic self, and then do these eight things.
1. Surround yourself with people who “get” you and appreciate you for who you are.
Find people who don’t have an agenda for who you are supposed to be, who won’t be disappointed when you don’t live up to standards that aren’t relevant to who you truly are.
2. Stop seeking approval from people who don’t offer it.
Develop some discretion about what you share with certain people, especially anyone who belittles your expression of your true self or who withholds kindness in any way.
Devote your time, creativity, and energy to chasing your dreams instead of trying to convince others of their value.
3. Know that sometimes being rejected is a blessing.
We can’t always avoid toxic people, but we can usually reduce the amount of contact we have with them. Although it may not feel like it at the time, when they throw us away, they create space for new and better, and our lives are generally better for it.
4. Question beliefs that no longer serve you.
Growing up, I got a lot of information about who I was. Some of this information was true, at least at the time. But some information was flat-out wrong and led me to believe negative and limiting things about myself.
It took a good bit of work to sort through and reject these messages, updating them to reflect who I really was in present time. Don’t let yourself be stigmatized by other people’s judgments and feel free to reject any labels that don’t resonate with your true sense of self.
5. Use feedback that is useful.
While not all information is worthwhile or accurate, see if you can pull something of value from the messages you currently get.
Strive for kindness and consideration without trying to twist yourself into a version of yourself that doesn’t feel authentic. Watch for defensiveness or slipping into shame.
If someone’s input or requests help you grow, improve, or understand yourself better, consider it a gift.
6. Don’t take things personally.
Even when it is personal. Don’t make it about you. People judge from their own filters, values, and priorities. Honor their right to their opinions and move on.
7. Stop comparing yourself to others.
The real value we bring to this lifetime comes from our authenticity and uniqueness, whether or not it is immediately appreciated.
There are huge benefits to chasing an individual dream and solving problems in creative, out-of-the-box ways. Look beyond the push for conformity.
8. Take time for yourself.
We all are pulled in so many different directions that we often end up exhausted and resentful because we haven’t made time to pull away for a little recharge time. But you’ll be in much better shape if you bring a healthy “you” to the party.
Learning to follow your inner guidance, especially when it means saying “no” or taking time for yourself, can mean developing a tolerance for the discomfort of swimming against the current.
And oddly enough, over time, the judgments and criticism can start feeling like a badge of honor because they often affirm that you are being true to who you really are.
Adapted from a piece written by Dr. Jane Bluestein for the YourTango blog on Dec. 28, 2017.
© 2017, 2022, Dr. Jane Bluestein
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