…they would never like me. That used to be my inner monologue all the time.
I grew up succeeding at things. I wasn’t always “popular” but I was good at most of what I tried. I was always the one who had it all together, the “mature child”. A trouble-maker perhaps but got good grades, didn’t party, and a responsible good kid. That was a persona that I created and I worked hard to keep up. So people would compliment me on something and all I could think was “Wow, if they knew how crazy I was they wouldn’t think that”. I spent years thinking that I was just too weird for the world- I tried to be what my perception of “normal” was – exactly like everyone else. I appeared confident and together. Unfortunately all of my victories seemed cheap because I couldn’t accept praise without thinking “If they knew this or that about me, they wouldn’t be saying that”.
Then a switch flip. I think it happened about the time that I started my own business. Being an employee had never really suited me — my utter lack of tolerance for bullshit, and my attachment to logic and basic common sense seemed to constantly put me at odds with my bosses. I was the “trouble maker”, always asking “why?”. My ability to do my work more quickly than most earned me scorn from fellow employees and more work from my bosses. The incentive was to sit down, slow down, and shut the hell up.
People called me “intimidating” – too intimidating for friendships and certainly too intimidating for someone to be in a relationship with. So I tried to seem like I was less than I was. I downplayed my accomplishments, I went so far as to pretend to be bad at things so that I wouldn’t intimidate people.
It felt awful.
When I started my own business I decided that if I couldn’t make it on my own, being authentically me, then I didn’t want to succeed. I ditched heels, pantyhose, and pretending to be less anything than I actually am, and I never looked back. I started to just be me – say the things that I think, do the things that I like to do, be honest and open about who I am, what I think, things that scare me, difficulties I have. I started being proud of my accomplishments and celebrating my victories.
And it’s working. I used to think that I had to make up a socially acceptable persona and then try to be that in spite of what was real about me so that everyone would like me. I let that go – now everyone knows how crazy I am.
There are people who really like me a lot, and it’s never tainted by my thinking that if they really knew who I was they wouldn’t like me at all.
There are people who dislike me a lot. There are people who are intimidated by me. Turns out that I just don’t care. That falls into the “Big Sack of Not-My-Problem” category.
It’s not easy being authentic – it’s a risk and it requires work. But then it certainly wasn’t easy pretending to be something less than what I am. In the end it’s the same amount of effort – it’s just a matter of what you want to put your effort toward. You choose.