Being Yourself in a World of Adversity
Losing Yourself in Others
I have lived most of my life caring far too much about what other people think. As having an opinion seems to become increasingly divisive and people are not content agreeing to disagree, it can feel impossible to just be yourself.
When you are afraid that your new hobby or political view might upset the apple cart, or you worry about your coworker or in-laws disliking you if you bow out of a social event, you do not live in a way that is true to your own values and intentions. While this may not be dangerous if it only happens occasionally, it can be exhausting when you live your whole life that way.
The real you can then be buried under people-pleasing habits. You lose touch with your own emotions when you are overly concerned about everyone else’s.
What is one to do?
The way I see it, we have two choices and possible repercussions:
- Continue giving in to the fear, stay quiet, and never do anything that might upset anyone else or even cause them the slightest bit of discomfort. You will not have many people who express disapproval or disagree with what you have to say. You won’t have many true friends, but you will have a lot of acquaintances and shallow relationships. You may be able to engage in your hobbies when alone, but you will not feel you can talk about them or connect with anyone through them.
- Feel the fear but work through it. Express your thoughts and opinions – you can do so respectfully so as not to attract as much confrontation. Engage in your hobbies, interests, and political views. Talk about them. You might upset the apple cart a bit. Your relatives or friends from high school might look at your social media and shake their heads. You might get into controversial discussions from time to time. But you will be yourself, and the connections you make through your lifestyle will be genuine. You will attract friends who are also secure in themselves and know who they are.
Why Does Disagreement Hit So Hard?
Disagreement can feel threatening. It can feel like a lack or withdrawal of love. “I do not share your opinion or enjoy the things you do, so we cannot care for one another or be friends anymore.” Perhaps you do gradually become distant with people who do not share your interests and opinions, but often that is not because you no longer value each other. When we have difficulty finding common ground, it can draw us apart. It does not have to if a conscious effort is made by both parties to stay connected. You may choose to let some relationships go because you do not feel up to putting in effort to keep them, and that’s okay too. None of this has to have any ill will or hatred behind it.
I will take Option 2 over 1 any day. It doesn’t always feel good. There are times when I read a comment on my work and give the middle finger as a type a reply that I hope sounds balanced and kind. That is normal – people will (sometimes unintentionally) push our buttons and make us angry, but we can still control our response if we take a few deep breaths first. The nice thing about the Internet and written correspondence is we have time to think about and choose our response with no one in the room reading our emotions. Face-to-face can be more challenging. We will have days when we are not proud of our responses to adversity, and that’s normal too. When we learn from them as opposed to becoming unmoving and hateful, we win.
What To Do
So go ahead and upset the apple cart. Talk about something weird that you believe in – be it Mercury retrograde, the full moon, the tooth fairy, whatever. That one Donald Trump tweet that was funny or that you actually agreed with? Go on and “like” or retweet it. Start your political blog – under a pen name, if you must, but bonus points if you at least use your real first name. Do that one annoying thing that drives your partner crazy. When you feel ready to leave a social event, don’t feel like you have to wrap it up neatly with a pretty red bow. Just say your goodbyes and leave. When someone seems upset with you, let them be upset rather than rush to fix it. Decline invitations and say no when you need time to yourself. It really is okay.
It might not feel so important to express your interests and opinions. They aren’t important, right? “That is optional and insignificant,” you might think. You might be right. When you really want to express these ideas in order to connect with others who also share them, but you hold back because you worry who you might upset, then it is a problem. When you hold back from pursuing something you could enjoy because of what others have said about it, then it is time to set up some boundaries between yourself and the views of others.
You Are Needed, Exactly As You Are
I get it – this is easier said than done. You must start doing the work of caring for yourself, your needs, your wants when others seem to want you to do the opposite. Your first instinct might be to go back to the meek, people-pleasing version of yourself. You might slip up and do this a few times. When trying to change a deeply ingrained habit, I have found repetition is the key to success.
The world needs the quiet ones, the peaceful ones, those who do small things with great love. It especially needs those who can disagree without holding a personal vendetta against anyone. If you are reading this, this is you.
We need you.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Holley Hyler