When I was 17, I started smoking. I was afraid that my parents would find out and be upset with me, so I hid my cigarette pack under the driver’s side seat in my car. Perhaps one of the most obvious hiding place, my mom found them. Her response wasn’t what I expected – rather than being upset with me for the act of smoking, she was more upset with my hiding it. I’ll never forget what she said, “Be who you are. If you smoke, say you smoke.” (yes, I've told this story before in a blog, but it's made a huge impact on the me of today!)
I wish I could say that from then on, I always had the strength of character to be “who I was,” but as I’m sure we can all relate to, that’s easier said than done. We still live in a pretty judgmental world. And I believe that as long as we do, we will care or worry what others think. Perhaps we don’t always suffer from those feelings of wanting to be liked or fit in more than we feel we do, but I don’t think anyone could honestly say that 100% of the time, they never think about it.
Personally for me, it has taken over 30 years to get to a point where I’m not afraid to stand up for what I believe in, or share honest opinions and thoughts when asked a direct question. For a long time as a child I was really shy and didn’t want to share strong opinions. I’m not even sure I allowed myself to form them, content to just agree with the majority in hopes that would make me look like I was “one of them.” Trying to be “one of the crowd” has brought me through some experiences that were nothing if not learning experiences – of what NOT to do my life. I allowed myself to be led astray almost exclusively each time I tried to do something simply to fit in. That has played a HUGE part in shaping the Lucy of today. How do we build more of that self-confidence and self-esteem? My answer? By doing esteem-able things. And the more you stand up for yourself, the more I find your self-confidence and esteem grows.
Do I worry that people won’t like me for some of the things I believe or say? I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about it prior to sharing or admitting certain things, but worry isn’t the word I use. I hope that people feel like I do – I respect people more FOR sharing their beliefs and thoughts, whether I agree with them or not. Obviously there is a caveat to this – I wouldn’t respect someone if they said something in the vein of “I think we should kill all the people that _____,” but those people aren’t in the communities I keep myself in, so it’s a non-issue. I have friends of different ethnicities, religious beliefs, that work in different industries and that grew up completely opposite the way I did. How boring would life be if everything agreed with you? Would you not be a bit mistrustful of those people? I mean, how can anyone honestly think the exact same things you do? And if you were to find that 1 in a million person, what you could you possibly talk about? I find that discussions or debates, even arguments, always lead to my looking at things through a different lens. Does that mean I’m then swayed to their way of thinking? No, but sometimes.
When you know that someone speaks their mind and is constant in their thoughts and their actions and way they conduct themselves in life follow those thoughts and beliefs, it’s much easier to know how to engage with that person. You don’t have to worry about which “side of them” you’ll be dealing with, and you’ll know what people to have what conversations with. These are the people I find myself looking at as my “influencers,” those that I know are strong enough in their beliefs that if I want an honest opinion or thought or piece of advice, I can go to those people and not have to wonder if they’re just saying what they’re saying to appease me, or to make me like them more than I already might. I find it exhausting when people seem to “go both ways” on topics – it’s confusing, one day they say one thing, and the next time we talk about the same topic, they suddenly seem to have flip-flopped into thinking something else. I understand that feelings change and grow and that’s FINE, but I’ve seen it happen mid-sentence and that just makes me feel the person is saying what they THINK I want to hear. How well does that ever work out? For me? Never well. I’m not a mind-reader, and I don’t want to be one.
Does this always work in my favor? Nope. But because I have the courage of my convictions, I recognize that I might face disapproval, but I’ve gotten to a point in life as an adult that I believe in myself. I, as much as I can, surround myself with other people that are confident in who they are, and people I can trust and believe when they talk. Does this make me arrogant? I hope it’s not seen that way. Just because I believe in myself, that doesn’t mean I’m right all the time. Haven’t we all had a situation we thought was 100% one way, and it turned out it wasn’t at all? I don’t find that confidence = arrogance, unless ego is involved. If you come from a pure place, ego doesn’t generally enter into it, right? Am I like this every minute of every day? Nope. I am not sure that’s even possible as humans. Of course I have self-doubt at times. But I work on it. Is it sometimes easier to just “go with the flow” and not express yourself or your differing ideas? Sure. We’re human, we make mistakes and sometimes it’s easy to take the easy road.
Have you ever experienced a time that you stood up for yourself and your beliefs and it wasn’t taken well? I’d love to hear some of your experiences with this….