If you looked up the word exhaustion in the dictionary, it would likely have a picture of me with a timeline of most of my youth next to it. Why you ask? Well I lived the majority of my pre-teen, teen and even early 20s trying to gain the approval of others.
I wrote a piece for Tiny Buddha last year based around the Thich Nhat Hanh quote that states you don’t need to be accepted by others, you just need to be accepted by yourself. For a long time, this is something I was incapable of doing. I wanted everyone to like me so badly that I became as pleasant as I thought possible and did my best never to cause any waves.
I was thinking about this in greater depth the other night. I literally approached the world with an “I’m really going to show you how I awesome I am so you’ll like me!” attitude. I think it’s safe to say many of us do that. We’re so focused on wanting to be liked and wanting to accepted…to be a part of something and someone… that we forget that the other person needs to impress us too.
Take guys for example. 9 times out of 10 I’ve approached dating and meeting guys as an experience where I need to show them I’m worthy of them and haven’t bothered to even try see if they’re worthy of me. With that mentality, you not only end up walking into situations feeling scared and not confident, you could also end up dating someone completely wrong for you or getting crushed when they don’t respond the way you want; you internalize that you weren’t pretty enough or funny enough and thus, they didn’t like you. It becomes this destructive cycle to yourself when you never really even bothered to see if the guy was someone you were interested in anyway.
My approach to men and to friendships with this mentality is without a doubt due largely to my disability. I felt like not only did I need to get people to like me, but I needed to try 10 times as hard to do so because I had this self-perceived “defect.” I wasn’t like all of the other kids, the other girls in high school or the ones living in the dorms so I really needed to be cool and funny and smart so people could look past the disability. So I exhausted myself for years and years trying to be what I thought everyone else…what I thought society…wanted me to be.
It’s so easy to lose yourself trying to be what everyone wants you to be like I did. You’re constantly trying to mold yourself into something for this person or that person and let me tell you, constantly walking around like a blob of Play-Doh really takes it out of you! It hasn’t really been until recent years that I’ve started to mold myself based on my likes and dislikes, my dreams, my opinions and my realities. I know what I have to offer the world and any people that I meet. I know that I’m worth being friends with and I know that I’m worth dating. I’m not approaching the world with this “please like and accept me” attitude because I accept myself. Maybe not all the time but for the most part, I really do and once you start doing that, it’s amazing what else falls into place. Yes there are still going to be people that might not like you and not every single guy is going to like you just because you accept yourself unfortunately, but at the end of the day you still know how awesome you are and you can move confidently forward in finding those people that are worthy of you and your time.