I grew up a people-pleaser. It was drilled into me from childhood that it was very important to be aware of what other people thought of me and my actions at all times.
Growing up in the south, keeping up with appearances is something that becomes a part of your identity.
While I enjoy the part of Southern upbringing that taught me to always be polite, the part that teaches you to put others' opinions before your own is something that I came to resent. Before I made any decision, I had to carefully weigh out how it would affect others and their thoughts of me. As a child, it worked out pretty well. (The whole reason I stayed out of trouble mostly, right?) As a young adult... not so much. The constant need to have everyone like me came back to kick me in the butt, again and again.
It started out through high school and early college when I was still figuring out my interests and passions.
In my heart, I felt one way. In person, I obviously leaned toward whatever I thought was "cool." I can still remember having the childish awe and passions at the time, but I tried to grow up far too quickly to fit in. Before long it got to the point where every decision in my life involved me heavily weighing what other people would think.
I built myself completely around others' expectations, from the way I looked, to my friends, to my relationships, passions, personality, and more.
When people would ask me about myself, I had carefully planned out answers. They weren't the same for everyone because I tailored them to what I thought each person would want to hear. I became an expert at analyzing people and situations so that I could figure out the person I needed to be for certain people in order for them to like me. I had no one true self, but instead, many different versions made to please anyone and everyone.
In relationships, it hurt me the most, possibly. I never revealed my true self to anyone, friends, or significant others, as I didn't want to drive them away. If we got into arguments, I would either apologize or simply pull myself away from them as I convinced myself that we were not meant to be.
The journey to my own self-discovery and wanting to please myself came from something unexpected when a friend began pulling away from me after we had had an argument. In the past, I had always been the one to pull away from people before they even got the chance to get too close to me, never the other way around.
It struck me in time that I was not upset because of how close we had become or how much I had valued them as a person.
It turned out, what upset me the most was knowing that there was someone out there who did not like me and was harboring bad feelings toward me. The thought of that tore me apart.
It wasn't until I was talking to another friend that she pointed out that there were most likely plenty of people that didn't like me. At the sound of this, I had a revelation.
There will always be people who don't like me — possibly people who outright hate me.
By trying to cater my life and decisions to everyone other than the one person whose feelings mattered most (ME), I drove myself into an unhappy place in an impossible attempt to make everyone happy. I'd never be able to make everyone happy, and it turns out that that's okay.
I spent so much time trying to get people to like me that I never figured out that wasn't what was best for me. Surprisingly enough, I have figured out that in life, it can actually be a good thing to drive some people away. That may sound weird, but as you drive people away, you get closer to your true self and your ideal people.
Those who love you, who want to be close to you, and who truly value you, are one step closer.
Each person who criticizes your ideas brings you closer to your crowd. Each friend that walks away brings you closer to the people who share your beliefs and passions. Being disliked by some is simply a by-product of being authentic to who you truly are. The more you embody your true persona, the more incompatible people will pull away from you.
All of this is okay because at the same time, the more you adapt yourself to the person you are meant to be, the more like-minded people you'll draw toward you.
So the next time you lose a friend to a difference of opinions, remember that you are not meant for everyone, and that's okay. Being the most authentic version of yourself is the best way for you to be in this amazing life.