I've certainly been through phases in my life which were sharply punctuated by concerns about what other people thought of me. I recall wanting to fit in with some 'cool kids' when I was in junior school and desperately trying to infiltrate their group through adopting their behaviours and aping their topics of conversation, boring myself silly in the process. I have definitely experienced the pain of realising that I was different. I was teased for the way I looked and acted. I was bullied for being a weirdo. I don't think there was one specific 'light bulb moment' in my past which led to me realise that I was tired of apologising for who I was. Instead it was a steady trickle of exchanges and experiences which built up this awareness in me - the awareness that life's too short to worry about it all the time. Witchcraft definitely had something to do with it. As I connected with the word 'witch' and started thinking about the process of directing energy, I recognised that any energy I chose to spend on fitting in or garnering acceptance was a waste of some mighty fine fuel. By the time I was a teenager I was blessed enough to have already worked out that being a poor imitation of someone else couldn't offer the profound joy of being the only me on the planet.
One of the most liberating things I ever did for myself was to finally be ok with the fact that I'm just not everyone's cup of tea. If I don't float someone's boat, I know that it's not necessarily personal. I am indeed an acquired taste in many ways, and that's something I gladly announce to people now in a matter-of-fact way. I'm cool with it. Authenticity is my bag, baby. (Yup, that was an Austin Powers reference. Nope, I'm not sorry.) It's far more important for me to find myself connecting to the right people at any given time than it is to make sure that I connect with all people at all times. If what I say doesn't resonate with you, that's fine. I'm not going to get you in a choke-hold and insist that you praise me wildly for my contribution to the conversation. Maybe we'll connect due to our mutual love of fiery debates! But either way, neither my night nor my life will be ruined by your suspicion that you don't exactly want to pick out curtains with me!
Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying it's ok to be rude to me or to dismiss me out of hand just because my personality doesn't mesh with yours. I appreciate kindness and civility as much as the next person. But I also fully accept that I am a particular kind of character and, basically, your mileage may vary. I embrace, love and accept myself and, further more, I enjoy myself. Therefore I am absolutely not about to make sweeping changes to my core personality in order to obtain someone's approval.
A few months ago I bumped into a friend at a party. She had consumed a considerable amount of alcohol and I was as sober as nun by comparison. We got into a conversation about social media - specifically Facebook. As we talked about the increasing relevance of such platforms in our daily lives, we hit on the fact that social media can be a cause of stress. In her drunken haze, my friend actually confessed that her new boyfriend (whom I have met a couple of times) finds certain kinds of Facebook status updates intensely irritating and that he regularly complains about those whom he sees as 'key culprits'. Apparently, she confessed, I am one of those culprits! She told me that he had bitched about some of my statuses being 'hippie', 'overly idealistic', 'needlessly wordy' and, at times, 'too social justice-y' for his taste. I laughed, not just because I could definitely imagine him saying those things about me but also because she was drunk enough to volunteer this information about him. (Let's face it, alcohol is the devil! It really brings down those social boundaries, huh?!) The morning-after-the-night-before I told my bestie about this conversation and we both laughed.
The point is that I wasn't hurt. I didn't blow it out of all proportion. I didn't fret and bite my nails and wonder why he didn't enjoy my Facebook musings. Most notably of all, I didn't get angry. The truth is that I don't necessarily enjoy everyone's Facebook status updates either, nor do I enjoy everyone's opinions during my conversations with them. I don't enjoy the way everyone behaves all the time. I have experienced personality clashes. There are some people I'd rather spend more or less time with dependent upon certain variables. I don't feel that this makes me a bad person, nor do I feel that it makes me particularly judgemental - it's just a fact. I am not obligated to enjoy all facets of all people, and others shouldn't feel obligated to enjoy all facets of me! I have since spent time with my friend's boyfriend and he was nothing short of lovely to me. So what if he doesn't want to be my best friend? So what if some of my views have grated on him and he chose to confide in his girlfriend about that? How does this information diminish me? It doesn't, unless I decide that it does!
I don't want to walk around getting everyone's signature before I contribute something to a conversation, and I don't want others to feel as though they have to get my signature before they speak up either! I would far rather continue to be an acquired taste than to take out all the flavour and make myself as bland and inoffensive as possible. What kind of world would it be if we all drained ourselves of the natural flavours which make us so damn individual? I'd rather people take a small bite and see if they appreciate me for my natural ingredients than to turn myself into a tasteless-but-easy-to-digest packet meal! If they're not keen - that's ok! I don't expect to be everyone's favourite dish! I just wanna be real.
When you make a conscious choice to let go of the popularity contest and stop worrying about what other people think, you're far more likely to start having a good time. Plus, on an important note, you're more likely to open yourself up to people who do resonate with you. If you're toning yourself down and shaving yourself into a more polite shape, you're hardly going to be sending out clear friendship/partnership signals to the people you truly want to attract into your life, right? If you chop and screw your personality so that it fits the bill from one place to another, this month is the perfect time to stop yourself in your tracks and make a different choice!
I'm ok with being an acquired taste. That suits me fine. I do not demand that others appreciate, accept and validate me because I actually appreciate, accept and validate myself. When it's no longer necessary for people to give you a round of applause, it's amazing how your life starts to open up!
Archive treasures you might enjoy: