It is easy to do. When looking for approval or love from a potential mate, family member or work mate; we tend to just want to fit in. We want to be accepted into the fold. People walk the thin tightrope of wondering if we are good enough and always trying to be our best self.
I remember having a (guy) friend who was from a very learned family. He had been put under tremendous pressure to go to college and off to a Masters program. His father was successful in his circles and was thought of as an expert in his field. His mother, although a stay at home Mom, had been educated and could play the perfect role of being a good cook, entertainer as well as keep up with a conversation of world politics at the table.
He fascinated me. He was very smart, book smart. I on the other hand had been raising other people’s children as a profession for a number of years. I wasn’t dumb in any sense but my thoughts were centered on more on peanut butter sandwiches and Sesame Street than who won the Pulitzer this year and what the P/E ratio is for the top ten stocks of the year. I was about nurturing children, exposing them to nature, life lessons and developing their strengths. We started dating and it started. He bought me a subscription to the newspaper because he wanted to discuss current events with me. When he handed me four boxes of college vocabulary words to learn, I knew there was trouble. He imagined himself to be Professor Harry Higgins to my Eliza Doolittle character, except in real life. I tried for awhile then tired of the constant badgering to do this and do that, so I would be a proper girlfriend candidate.
We took a trip together, as friends, across the U.S. It was really eye opening to me. We saw 14 states and I saw things I had only seen in magazines. Stupidly, we toyed with getting married in Vegas just for the hell of it. We didn’t- Thank God!
When we arrived at his parents home in Ohio, his mother took me clothes shopping (which was completely awkward, as I didn’t want her to spend money on me, my friend however, convinced me to let her as she didn’t have any daughters and it would bring her joy, ok…). He was staying there and I would be heading back to the Northwest, I got to my room and started to pack to leave the next day. It was then that I overheard something that taught me to never try to be someone I am not, for someone else.
” She isn’t what I had in mind.” He was talking to his father, saying I wasn’t smart enough to be his girlfriend. Not good enough to be his wife someday.
I couldn’t wait to get on the train for home. I forgot to mention, if only as a side point, the entire trip I had been developing the biggest zit on my face, a borderline boil. I see it now as the festering of something that was not good for me, manifested in physical form.
I have the ability when I am so done with someone to completely disengage and not give a crap. I have seen this as a positive and a negative in my life. When I am done, I am done.
We said goodbye, and I boarded to train. I didn’t look back. I have never seen him since.
He contacted me weeks later and asked how I had managed to leave so cleanly. He had noticed me not look back. I told him what I heard. He was mortified.
Even years later, he carries that with him. The absurdity that one would expect another human being to change completely for another, enrich yes, but to ask them to be someone else. That it was ok at all.
I think people spend too much time worrying about what other people think. They think that everyone is sitting there judging them and wondering why they do this and do that. Truth is, no one really cares what you are doing, they are mostly worried about what other people are thinking about them. And so goes the vortex of unworthiness and lack of self.
I see people so wrapped up in worrying about what other people think they don’t do anything. They sit and watch. They don’t allow the silliness to overcome them, or to giggle at something funny. You won’t see them start singing in a flash mob, you won’t see them running to the plane, they just sit and look around to see who is watching them. I like to call these people “the people who have too many rules for themselves”.
At 12, my friend Erin and I rode the bus to town. We wanted to go to Taco Bell to see how many crunchy tacos we could each eat. We started the silliness on the bus.
She said “Let’s pretend we are from a different country and speak a different language. It will be fun.”
To which I replied “People will think we are weird.”
And then at age 11, she hit one out of the park- “Who cares, we will never see any of these people ever again.”
That was the most brilliant thing I had ever heard! It’s true! We didn’t ride this bus all the time, I would never see any of these people again ever in my life!
This is a lesson I have passed down to my kids too, they enjoy being silly, playing spies at the grocery store, talking on imaginary walkie talkies. They crack me up. Most of all, they have a lot of fun. They shine. Their energy and love for life is contagious. Don’t change girls!
I don’t worry either, I just be me.
Reminds me of a quote Dr. Phil once said- “You wouldn’t care so much about what people think about you if you knew how little they did.”