I flunked grade one. Today they call it repeating a grade, and it’s softened by labeling it “an opportunity to improve.” But back then you just failed. The teacher physically separated the room into students who passed to the next grade and those who didn't, so the failure of some of us was obvious to all.
I was the one left behind. I was labeled a failure – and it was a big deal in my young life. There was no argument; my report card was clear. My failure was not the result of a lack of intellect or desire. There was one, single reason I failed: I was painfully shy. I didn't raise my hand. I didn’t participate or speak up. Instead, I hid in the corner, kept my head down and my eyes averted, and hoped I wouldn't be called on.
What I learned from this experience is that it was not acceptable for me to be shy, quiet or introverted. Holding those qualities resulted in the very thing I wanted most to avoid, failure and public humiliation. It was plain to see that it was preferable to be outgoing, to talk a lot, to be demonstrably happy, energetic and engaging.
Life and living have changed me. I have matured, and today I am characterized as mostly an extrovert. I naturally get more energy from being around others than being alone. I do feel that sometimes I am living my life for others. I am aware that there is pressure always to be optimistic, engaging, and responsive to those around me. I never want to let others down or to be rejected.
My evolution has led me to pursue a career in public speaking and stand-up comedy, avenues I can consistently use to get the approval of those around me.
We all want approval – that is part of the fabric of humanness, but do you find yourself craving approval? Do you continually search for ways to make others feel good, even at the expense of your comfort and well-being? Do you find it extremely difficult to say no to friends, family, and colleagues? Do you give, give, give your time, energy, support, and enthusiasm – not now and then, but ongoing to the point of exhaustion?
It’s important to ‘do’ for others, and it makes us feel good in ways that a hot fudge sundae never can. It’s equally important to keep enough fuel in our tanks that we can respond when it is genuinely important to do so. The ability to make those distinctions are part of maturing and learning who we are. Age and experience steer us in a focused, authentic direction where we know we are free to say no, even if it disappoints others.
Do you feel like you live your life for others?
Do you feel guilty saying no?
Do you fear rejection?
Do you change or downplay your viewpoint to appease others?
Do you feel that you have to be happy all the time?
If you can give up these pressures, you can start living your life from an authentic stance. Free up the energy to do the things you want to do!
My work has taught me to make friends with rejection even as I revel in the approval of others. I learned that I couldn't please everybody, but I can please some people. And I can please me in the process.
At the end of the day, the only person you need to answer to is yourself.
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