Here are some questions for you:
How many times a day do you censor yourself to protect someone’s feelings?
How many times a day do you censor other people (intentionally or unintentionally) to protect your own feelings?
You have probably done BOTH of these things more than you’d like to admit. And it’s not entirely your fault. We live in a world that walks on eggshells pretty much 24/7. Whether it’s with family members, friends, or complete strangers on the internet we have trained ourselves to hold back our true feelings/opinions on things. Most of us do it on such a subconscious level that we truly convince ourselves that we feel/think the same way as the people around us when we really don’t.
Why do we do this? Can we really say what we mean? What if our opinions and beliefs upset other people? Is it really worth it to hurt the people closest to us just to speak our minds? I will answer these questions for you from my own experience and what I’ve learned from being a chronic “people-pleaser”.
Are YOU a “people-pleaser”?
I used to be the type of person who shape-shifted to fit other people’s ideas of who I should be. I got to a point where I no longer knew myself, what I wanted, or what I was capable of. This was a very scary point for me, but it was also crucial for my growth. If I never had this “identity crisis”, I would have never realized just how lost I was. Just how much value I placed on other people’s opinions, and how little value I placed on my own.
It also allowed me to realize that our identities don’t really exist. We create these illusionary beliefs and values to feel like we have things to “stand on”. They make us feel secure and real. While this is not inherently bad, it’s important that we don’t take our egos too seriously, or else we end up working constantly to prove our identity at any cost. This results in a stressful life of only doing things that are in line with your current beliefs, being defensive and sensitive whenever other people question your opinions.
This may be you, you may be the type of person who snaps at everyone who questions your ideas OR, you may be the opposite. You may allow the people around you to shape YOUR identity. You adopt other people’s opinions and beliefs and wear them to disguise who you really are. You fear to let your true colors show because of the rejection you may face at being different or offending the strong-minded people around you.
Whatever side you are on, you are not embodying your truest self, which will always lead to dissatisfaction no matter how “successful” you appear on the outside.
Preserving other’s feelings is preventing you from being YOU
If you spend a lifetime hyperaware of other people’s sensitive feelings, you quickly learn to censor yourself and fade into the background. As you conform to what other people think is “acceptable”, you become a cookie-cutter image of every other person on this earth.
We let fear control us. Our fear of rejection, abandonment, and being “left out” of the group. This is natural, as humans we biologically need the support of other humans. Our primitive brains know that if we are shunned by society, if we are left alone in the wilderness, we will likely die. The problem here is that we are no longer primitive humans. We can honor those fears while still transcending them and doing what makes us feel truly alive.
Our fear of dying is preventing us from living.
We block ourselves from success, refusing to acknowledge our deepest desires. Deep down, all of us want to be expressed. We want to show the world who we are, which can be done in countless ways. The easiest example is that of speaking your mind. It’s rare to find someone who speaks their mind without any ulterior motives. By that, I mean the motive of trying to prove someone else wrong. Most people will wait to say what they mean until they feel threatened in some way.
We express ourselves out of fear, out of defensiveness. This does not bring true happiness, as we are still afraid of how other people will respond to our words. True strength is portrayed when someone speaks their mind, however controversial it might be, without expecting/dreading a certain response from others.
How do we get rid of this fear?
Fear is a natural human emotion. It is very necessary for living, as it protects us from unsafe situations and keeps us alive. On the other extreme, it also keeps us from stepping outside our comfort zones and enjoying new experiences. This is really what life is: doing things that are NEW and embracing the constant change of life. If we let fear control us, then we do not live our life, but remain in our safe little bubble, avoiding every little thing that might make us feel alive.
Paradoxically, the only way to “get rid” of fear is to accept it. Have you ever noticed that once you speak your fear into existence, its power over you fades slightly? When our fear remains unexpressed, it festers within us and only grows stronger. We become afraid of our fear, which only creates more layers of fear. The way to overpower your fear is to change your perspective on this emotion. If you view fear as a scary and awful emotion, of course, it will have power over you. However, if you view fear as necessary and natural, you will be able to honor it while still moving beyond its limitations.
One other perspective to have on fear is to make light of it. Walking up to a stranger, you can joke about feeling a bit nervous in order to express the fear in a healthy way. Not only does this empower you, but it allows other people to relate to you more. We are humans, we all experience uncomfortable emotions, despite our constant efforts to repress ourselves. Seeing a human embracing these messy parts of themselves is like a breath of fresh air. It’s real. It will make people love you more, not less.
What happens if we offend someone?
When you are being and expressing yourself, you are going to offend some people. No question about it.
This is inevitable because we are all different and we all have different values, which is exactly what makes humans so fascinating. Some people may look down on others for being different, but this is only because they are too attached to their own beliefs. When this attachment is too strong, defensiveness and hostility occur towards people viewed as “on the other side”. We defend our opinions as if we are fighting for our lives, feeling the same intense fear when other people refuse to agree with us.
These people exist, we cannot get rid of them. People will not agree with everything you say, but here’s the thing:
Once you start expressing yourself, you will also find people who share your beliefs, even some people who look up to you. Eventually, you could make a huge impact on other people’s lives, and therefore make a huge impact on the world. It is only the people who transcend their fear that are able to leave an imprint on this earth once they leave.
Most people never get to truly inspire people around them because they don’t stand out. They purposely fade into the background because they are afraid of being seen. These people don’t recognize that being seen does not only result in negative feedback. It can also result in immensely positive feedback from those around you.
Embodying who you are may require some work at first, as you need to break through the old patterns and habits you developed. But, as time goes on, you will find that speaking your truth comes much more naturally than suppressing and limiting yourself. Your comfort zone will expand, and therefore you will expand too. As this expansion occurs, you will touch the hearts of more people and attract the right people into your life.
Feel free to listen to this post in podcast format to learn more about this topic! 🙂