One of my favorite morning routines is walking my dog Kloe. Not only is it healthy for my body (and Kloe’s) but I also make it healthy for my mind by listening to podcasts and other lectures by authors I enjoy. I purposely pick positive and uplifting talks and seminars because I care about what kind of information I am putting into my brain. However, because we traveled so much this summer and although I still did plenty of walking, I hadn’t listened to a lecture in months. This week I downloaded some new ideas from one of my favorite speakers, Abraham-Hicks. And with synchronicity at play, I heard exactly what I needed at this time in my life. That was the loud and clear message that it is time for me to stop my need to alter my behavior to get others to agree or even understand me.
Now as a writer I realize what a radical statement that is. After all, doesn’t every writer want people to understand and at least partially agree with what they write? I’d be lying if I said I didn’t care. But the thing is, if I care so much that everything I write is acceptable, pleasant and pleasing to every single person who reads it, then I’m not saying one word that is unique, special or even necessary. If we edit our words so they are right and proper for others, then we aren’t creating something new, just regurgitating words onto paper. I would far rather prefer that my writing spark thoughts in others in ways that they have never thought before—and yes, that risks that some won’t like them or even understand. And while I have a strong intention to share ideas that I find uplifting and helpful, I’d be delusional if I thought it was even possible to do that for every person who reads my blog.
The problem is, I was raised like most people to do just that. Doesn’t every mother want their daughter to be a “good girl” and have everyone like and love her? When children do good and nice things, other people smile, approve and “include them.” When children do unusual, radical, outside the box, or “seemingly selfish” things, then many people are displeased and often vocal in their criticism. We all learn from an early age about what it takes to fit in and be accepted. Follow the herd. Don’t be the tall poppy. It’s okay to be entertaining, but don’t push it too far. And stay quiet and polite—because no one likes a loud, assertive person—especially if she is a woman.
I get the importance of this basic survival instinct for both parents and their offspring. Certainly, for thousands of years our physical and mental survival depended upon our ability to work with and be valued by our tribe. This was especially true for women who not only had to consider their usually smaller size and strength, but they also had to consider the needs of their children. The importance of collaboration, acquiesce, peace-keeping and self-sacrificing are deeply encoded in our biology. Fortunately, we don’t live in a world today that requires our constant submission to the rules of others or our society. But that doesn’t mean that many of us still don’t feel the reflex and unconsciously attempt to comply. And anyone who thinks they are immune to the urge to belong, be accepted, and be understood—just look at your Facebook account.
Fitting in and being accepted worked for the first several decades of my life. I honestly didn’t know any different. Just about everyone I knew was doing exactly the same thing. Assimilate. Settle for a rather ordinary (suitable) existence. Be successful based on what everyone in your world thinks it means. It doesn’t seem to matter what generation you are born into, we still strive to fit in and find approval from our peers.
Plus, it doesn’t really matter if you’ve made some bold choices in your life or not. Only we individually know if we have compromised ourselves to fit into a box that is much too small for us. In fact, my previous writing about my attempts to not care what others think of me is tied to this idea. And while I am much better than I used to be, I know deep within that I still sometimes care too much and censor myself by doing things (or not doing them) to conform. How do I know that? Because it doesn’t feel good. And that’s where some of the advice of Abraham-Hicks came in during my morning walk.
Now Abraham-Hicks may have said something like this over and over again, but I swear it was the first time I heard it so clearly. It’s true they constantly suggest that we should avoid caring so much about the opinions of others. But this morning they said it in a slightly different way in answer to someone in the audience. They said, “From the moment you are born you are taught to base your happiness and wellbeing on what is going on in the world outside of you rather than what’s happening inside of you. If you get love from your parents that is good. If you don’t, you feel bad. If someone feeds you and changes your diapers, good. If not, then again, you feel bad.”
As we grow we get more and more conditioned to believe that every feeling we have is either triggered positively or negatively by other people or the circumstances around us. The world outside of us becomes our reality and we are oblivious to what is going on within—our true thoughts, emotions, our soul. And because of that conditioning, we become convinced that others (our parents, our spouse, our employer, our government) hold the key to our happiness. And if they don’t deliver, we fight and/or blame them.
In other words, few of us are taught from an early age that we are the generator of our thoughts or emotions. We are taught to “face reality” instead of “create our reality.” We go through life allowing others to tell us how we should think, feel and live. By adhering to our “tribe,” and doing our best to seek its acceptance and understanding, we hope for happiness. But like Dorothy in the Wizard Of Oz, we’ve held the real power all along. That “power” is the innate knowing that our true guidance, and the key to our personal happiness, lies within us.
Someone else who repeatedly teaches us to be true to our “authentic, imperfect selves” is author and speaker Brene Brown. She calls this awareness, “true belonging” and says, “True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.”
What it comes down to is the awareness that if we think we need other people to understand or agree with us before we feel good about ourselves, we will constantly be fighting a losing battle. It’s not their job! Instead, if we focus inside at what our soul longs to be and create, we see that the Source of our wellbeing lies with us. Accepting ourselves completely, warts and all—frees us from attempting to win the approval of anyone else—and we will be guided and directed from within to do what is right for us. Talk about “rightsizing!”
I’m not there yet. I still like knowing when something I write resonates with others—and I’ll always care on some level about what Thom thinks of me. But every day I’m getting better at letting go of the need for others to approve of my actions. And I’m also relinquishing any thoughts that what I write will appeal to everyone. I’m accepting the fact that some people won’t have a clue what I’m even talking about! From here on out I want to write only what my inner guidance tells me is “up” for me. I’ve always strived to be a growing, evolving writer and I can’t help but believe this is the next step for me to be the best writer I can be.
What about you? Do you only follow your own inner guidance, whatever that means to you? Or do you find your thoughts and emotions swinging back and forth with what’s happening on the TV news or what some people said, or didn’t say, on Social Media? Or what about friends, family or co-workers? Do you force yourself to sometimes avoid speaking your mind just to keep the peace? Do you ever let outside circumstances disrupt your inner peace? We live in challenging times, especially if we are still bound by some of those ancient tribal needs to belong. Could the next SMART step in each of our individual evolutions be to get in touch with that still small voice within and then live our lives in authentic alignment?
Okay, your turn? Do you ever feel the need to conform to fit into people around you? Do you need approval to feel good about yourself? Do frequently feel the urge to justify your ideas to others? What advice would you give others who are struggling with this awareness? Please share in the comments below.