Look at me! But really, don’t

LOOK AT ME!
BUT REALLY, DON’T.

WHY INHIBITIONS AREN’T WORTHY OF YOU

NO ONE CARES MORE ABOUT WHO YOU SHOULDN’T BE THAN YOU

I spend way too much time caring about what others think of me. When I really think about it, a lot of what I do in my day to day is influenced by how I think I might come across to other people. I don’t think this is unique to me, I’d bet my bottom dollar that you, dear reader, are also affected in this way. That we ALL are.

I was watching my 5 year old boy play on his own this morning. I took him out to the park with our dog, and he decided to run around the forest and invent a game for himself. I’m not sure what the game was about, but I could tell it was a lot of fun. The game involved pretending to cook himself a meal (or a magic potion) in a pile of branches and leaves he’d gathered (his cauldron), and running back and forth to this spot from his living area (or a tent as he so called it, which in reality was just a slightly darker and secluded area amongst the trees, that to me resembled the perfect spot to hide and pee when we’ve run out of options). I could hear him talking to himself and his imaginary counterparts, and I’ve got to say, it didn’t make a ton of sense. I found myself watching from afar, with a big smile on my face. It made me happy to see him let himself simply be – without a care in the world. He knew I could see and hear him, but in no way did my presence (or anyone else’s) influence him, or make him feel exposed. At no point did he think that he should be quieter, or not speak in ‘that baby voice’ for fear of being embarrassed, or abandon his game altogether to do something more ‘normal and less weird’. Nope. My little guy was perfectly happy being who he wanted to be in that exact moment, and it made me incredibly proud.

It also got me thinking about how heartbroken I would be if he had felt too exposed or embarrassed that he would feel the need to stop doing what he pleased, or be who he wanted to be. It got me thinking that, sadly, such a time is probably not that far away. At some point, hopefully not too soon, he will notice a kid walking past and will drop whatever it is he’s doing. He’ll feel embarrassed and will be worried about coming across too childish, or baby like. He’ll think he might look stupid to that kid. He’ll probably pick up a stick and pretend to use it as a gun to shoot at things around him, because that’s a much cooler thing for a 6 year old to do than to pretend to play house alone in the forest, right?

Sadly, I believe that this sudden realisation is where things went pear shaped for a lot of us. That moment where we became so self-conscious of our actions and appearances, that we allowed ourselves to act more normal. That moment when we became inhibited and stripped ourselves of the things that made us unique. That moment when we began to see more value in hiding our true selves than we did in letting ourselves be…

Not all of us though, because I’m sure we all have that one person in our lives who does not give a shit what they do or how they come across, and we secretly admire them for exactly that, and even wish we were more like that. You know who I’m talking about. That person you know who just doesn’t ‘fit in’, who looks a bit strange, seems lost in their own world, who is often judged by others for their differences… yet somehow, they are perfectly happy in life and confident in their choices.

But aside from that one person we all know, most everyone else conforms to what is ‘normal’. Doing anything else is just too damn difficult and has a lot of consequences… “Don’t stand out too much, but don’t blend in too much either. Don’t be so loud, but speak up sometimes. Don’t wear those crazy bright colours (even though you love them), but also don’t just wear depressing black. Don’t follow your dream, be more conservative instead. Don’t take that risk, be sensible. Don’t listen to that kind of music, you’re too old for that now…”. THIS LIST CAN GO ON FOREVER.

I remember being caught in this a few times at least in the last few years. I’ve handed my phone over to someone a few times to play some music, but to my embarrassment and upon them launching the music app, they’d see the last song I’d been listening to. ‘Wannabe’ by the Spice Girls. Or Celine Dion’s ‘My Heart Will Go On’, or ‘I Want it That Way’ by the Backstreet Boys. The look on that person’s face, jeez Louise! And the feeling of shame in me…immeasurable. I found myself making up some elaborate thing about how my little sister had borrowed my phone etc etc etc… instead of just saying: “Yeah, I love these songs and actually some of them have a special place in my heart that serve up some amazing memories and I enjoy revisiting them, so what?”. Or even better: “What? I don’t need to explain myself to you, play your damn song”.

I also remember having to wait to be totally alone to watch my favourite cheesy movies… no way I’d let my friends know that I like to watch feel good romcoms… I definitely wouldn’t ever suggest this as an option when sitting down with buddies to watch a movie, and I probably still wouldn’t now, as a grown ass adult…

For as long as I can remember, my favourite colour has been pink. THAT IS NOT SOMETHING YOU SHARE WITH YOUR FRIENDS IN THE SCHOOL YARD… Yeah, exactly, what friends? Thankfully, nowadays, I embrace this choice of colour and make a point to use it as often as I can (have you seen my logo?). I’m glad to say that, for some things at least, I’ve grown to not give a crap about what others might think of me.

I was reading a book recently by Jen Sincero called ‘You Are a Badass at Making Money’. I highly recommend her books by the way, they’re very entertaining and full of truths and reminders that we are all badasses. There was a passage early on in the book that explained that the reason we’re not financially wealthy is not because we’ve not had the best idea yet, or not made the right investments, or not built the right business, or not built a career in the right industry, or not been lucky enough. No. The sole reason why we aren’t money rich (whatever that may mean to you), is because we’ve not given ourselves permission to become it. An example that stuck with me was the author pointing out that I was likely not reading her book (which has a very colourful cover page and a pretty explicit title) in the middle of a crowded train carriage. She was right, I had been concerned that the title of the book would bring too much attention to me in such a public place, and everyone would know I’m the guy who wants to be wealthy and who is reading a book on how I need to believe I’m a badass to get to the point where I give myself permission to make the money I want to make… in our society, in this day and age, that’s pretty embarrassing. At least for me. So yes, I started reading that book in public places, flaunting its title and doing my best to remind myself that no one actually gives a shit, and that I should just be myself. Not an easy feat, but so worth it. Much better than reading it while trying to cover up the title, forcing me to bend into awkward positions to read the pages, and being more concerned about my appearance reading it than I was about the content on the pages. What is the point in that? Good example, and a great lesson Jen, thank you.

We are all so damn unique. There is, and will ever only be one version of each of us on this planet. So why conceal ourselves in any way? Why live a life full of inhibitions? Why pretend to be anything else than who we are or want to be? Why not be proud of ourselves, regardless of what anyone else might think? What good does it do to deny ourselves our very own truths for the benefit of fitting in and being ‘normal’. Imagine what your life could be like if you were yourself 100% of the time and lived up to your true self always, holding yourself back for nothing.

I know that deep down, you know this. There is nothing good that can come from living in a place of inauthenticity. This is not a solid or safe base to build anything from. We cannot grow from such a place because it will all be in direct (and massive) conflict with who we are at our core, our values, our passions, our joys of life, our interests, our purpose for existing. Anything we create from that place is not the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. So help you… YOU.  

I appreciate that being who we are, operating from a place of full authenticity, displaying exactly what we love and are passionate about – can sometimes come at a cost. Whether that cost is being bullied, ostracised, losing friends we thought we had or being judged and laughed at… those are terrible things to have to experience. But it is even more terrible to deny the world of our true and full selves. And, in the end, this is a realisation every single living person in this world makes at some point in their lives. For some, it’s much too late in life and they have to deal with the pain they might have caused to others for being themselves, but that is their problem. In the meantime, you solved your problem long ago by just being you, and thereby living a life of abundance and joy. Being you is the only way to live a happy and authentic life.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the need for privacy, of course. There’s a place and a time for everything, as long as you’re not mixing up privacy with shame.

It is easy to rid ourselves of the burdens that our society has ironically created for itself. Being ‘normal’ is bullshit. Living a life on our own terms, filled with the things that make us happy, showing up for ourselves exactly as The Universe (or God, or science, or your Creator…or whatever your Higher Power may be) intended us to, is our duty, to give the truest purpose to the gift of LIFE we’ve all been given. Being embarrassed about our true selves is just an illusion. There is nothing about the real you that should ever be embarrassed about. If the people you spend your time with make you feel like you should be, find better people to hang out with. And if, like me, you sometimes make judgments about others simply because they’re being themselves and it may not appear ‘normal’, maybe take a beat and ask yourself if you can’t just be happy for them. Maybe even praise them for being themselves. Tell them that you admire that in them. I know it’s not always easy, but that genuine smile you give instead of that raised eyebrow or snigger (yes, I know you know), is always worth it. Perhaps it will encourage you to wear those pink shoes, sing out loud to yourself as you walk in the park, pull out those bright dungarees you’ve stuffed away in the back of your closet all those years ago, blast that invigorating song out of your car stereo, finally go to a public nudist beach, strut your beautiful body everywhere you go with pride and joy (regardless of its shape, scars and size), share more personal stories, come out of the closet, talk about your mental health with friends at the bar, apply for that job you always dreamed of, build your business as you so deserve… Perhaps if we could all accept each other more for exactly who we are, we could all finally just be ourselves and live without the fear or worry of judgment, mockery and ridicule. Perhaps people would be happier, healthier, safer, more loving and loveable, relaxed and genuine. Perhaps the world would be filled with love.

I don’t know about you, but I’m about to go play in the forest and make myself a magic potion from my tent, and I hope everyone will be watching. Hell, I might even sing ‘Wannabe’ out loud while I stir my cauldron and invite people to join in. Something tells me some might. At the very least, my boy will be there to show me how living is done.

How about you, would you like to join us? Or maybe you’ve got your very own special idea to tend to. Well… go for it, you ‘perfect as you are’, accepting and kind being of a human!

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