I recently spent the afternoon with someone I hadn't met before. Everything seemed to be going fine (which is a massive relief to the heart-thumping-out-of-my-chest-at-meeting-anyone-new introvert I am), that is until I noticed what I was doing, and had been doing this whole time. I was self-deprecating. It wasn't as obvious as listing reasons he shouldn't be friends with me, but it was definitely in the air and I was certainly not showing my true colours.
Generally it takes a little time for me to warm up to new people and feel confident and comfortable enough to relax and be myself. But this was a whole new level... I was unconsciously presenting myself as someone who is unknowledgeable, apathetic, and hesitant when in reality I'm passionate, determined, and a hell of a lot more entertaining that the girl I invented. And this got me thinking:
why was I doing this?
have I always done this?
how can I stop doing this?
Unfortunately, over the next couple of hours I kept portraying this character. I felt as if I were hovering over the two of us, watching the conversation bubbles and trying to shove the words back into my mouth as soon as they had escaped. Every sentence was followed up with a justification or deprecation; "I do this, but...", "I tried that, but...", "I want this, but...". And the saddest part about it is that I don't actually feel that way. Pretending to be someone who is perhaps a little more easy-going and agreeable comes at a cost: you loose yourself along the way and begin to live life for other's approval. That's a huge, and quite damaging, price to pay.
So what happened?
I put it down to a part of me feeling like I have to appease the other person (even though they aren't asking for anything). In my unconscious mind, I'm lessening myself in order for the other person not to feel threatened – like a puppy rolling over on it's back when approached by another dog. But I'm not a dog, and neither was he, so all this helped to achieve was the parading of someone who doesn't align with who I am, and a strong sense of confusion and embarrassment on my end.
Nearing the end of the day I began telling myself to relax and, most importantly, be myself. After all, if things don't work out, at least I've done it authentically and I can't kick myself for it later. So I relaxed a little more and found myself enjoying myself a
little lot more, too.
For this scenario it was key for me to realise that I was being inauthentic. No doubt this isn't something new in my life, but because I've recognised it I can begin to change it. So here are a few things to keep in mind when meeting someone new:
- be afraid to be bold
- be afraid of not being liked
- let your ego get in the way
- be a victim
- am I suppressing an opinion? why?
- am I seeking approval?
- am I being agreeable about something I don't actually agree with?
- cultivate kindness towards yourself
- show your true colours
- have self-respect
- trust your instinct
"It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are"
– E.E. Cumming