Hey, girl. I hope this doesn’t hurt your feelings too much, but some people don’t like you (sigh. or me). I know, right? Some people get annoyed with the way we talk or dress and shonuf don’t think our jokes are funny. It sucks, I know. I’m 42 (or am I 43?) years old and I still try too hard to make them like me and care too much whether they do or not. I worry if I said the right thing or if I said the wrong thing or said too many things. Honestly, by the end of interactions like these, I feel worn out! As I reflect on this overthinking habit, sometimes I get frustrated with myself that I care so much. I’ve written about this before, so clearly it isn’t an easy habit to shake, but I’m not letting this one go.
I’m going to take you back old school, circa 1991. I’m a 6th grade student at Lincoln Middle School with a mean permed mullet. Walking into school one day, I was confident enough to wear a rather vibrant pair of shorts. They were lively with abstract colors and design. Within a matter of a class period or two, I heard a comment from a fellow student about how ugly my shorts were. Well, that was the end of any confidence I was carrying in my Jansport. During my health class, the assignment had something to do with writing a reflection in my journal. Because I can sometimes resemble a packrat, I kept this journal and ran across it years later in an attic purge. What I was reminded of and sometimes even consider impactful in my decision to become a teacher, was the kind note scribbled at the bottom of my entry. Sadly, I don’t even recall the teacher’s name, but she validated how that must have made me feel. She encouraged me to be confident being myself and finally, jotted a “P.S. I really like your shorts!” Mind you, I doubt my 11-year-old brain truly trusted or took to heart the stylistic opinions of an “ancient” 30-something woman, but her thoughtfulness influenced me nonetheless.
Words have power. We tend to cling to the crappy ones and they tattoo themselves to our brain, but I have a game plan. Let’s practice not caring (even though we often still will). Let’s practice wearing the piece of clothing or accessory we really like, but typically hesitate in case someone will think it looks dumb. What about sending the text about hanging out even if we worry they might be annoyed and only say yes out of obligation? Maybe even the most important thing might be the way we talk to ourselves with those worries that come after an interaction with someone. Even though it may feel uneasy or strange, we can try making space for the uncertainties of others’ opinions of us. Maybe I did blab too much about XYZ. It’s possible they think the sparkly bumble bee earrings were a bit much. They might not have invited me to that get-together because I’m loud and unpredictable, but WHATEVS. It is really tiring to get all of my ducks in a row to make sure I don’t rock the boat of their approval or upset the apple cart filled with their “Like” button. Here’s all the evidence: Life is too short! We should listen more to our favorite colors, activities, and accessories. I believe we will ATTRACT healthy relationships with others by practicing healthy relationship with ourselves. Say the thing. Stand up for something you think is good. Does your heart feel a tiny bit giddy when you see that karate cat t-shirt? Wear it, girl! Practice talking freely, sharing stories or comments that come to mind. We have to PRACTICE being us and taking the chance that it won’t win over everyone’s approval. Luckily, as I said already, we already know not everyone will anyways. Whew. What a relief. (Wink, wink. That’s me practicing.)