If I’ve spent my life trying to be accepted, why have I never felt accepted? As it turns out, it appears as if I’ve been making a giant mistake. I’m willing to bet that most people seeking acceptance have made the very same mistake at one time or another.
My fatal flaw is this: I tried to make myself a person that would be accepted by others, while simultaneously stating that I wanted to be accepted just how I was. In doing so, I have never given a single person the opportunity to accept me for who I am. I’ve only give people the opportunity to accept me for the person I was trying to be.
Growing up, I always felt like an extra puzzle piece that didn’t quite belong. I was a quiet girl that preferred playing alone with Barbie dolls rather than romping around with the kids in the neighborhood. Yet, playing alone doesn’t seem very normal. Normal kids laugh and play Kick the Can and ride bikes with their friends. So, I did what I felt I had to do to be accepted in the neighborhood. I’d force myself to play with my friends, and then I’d hide under my Strawberry Shortcake sheets at night reading the books that I’d been craving all day, savoring the solitude and serenity that I had denied myself all day in favor of being liked.
I always felt like my thoughts, ideas and preferences were weird. Like I was different. I didn’t always understand the jokes that my classmates made. I didn’t always know what celebrities they were talking about. After being laughed at and made fun of a few too many times, I became determined to fit in, and that resulted in me doing a lot of pretending. I pretended to understand. I pretended to “get it.” I pretended to be a person that I thought everyone would like.
I pretended for so long that I forgot who I even was.
It’s natural for humans to adapt to our environment by featuring different aspects of our personalities in different situations. I would never start doing the worm on the floor of church, for example, but I have been known to brandish that particular 80’s dance move on Ladies’ Night at Polly Esther’s. Different behaviors are certainly called for in various situations. However, there comes a point at which changing one’s behavior crosses a line into blatant dishonesty. I’ve sad to say that I’ve crossed that line many times.
Somewhere along the line I picked up the idea that being accepted meant making people happy. As a child, I wanted to make my parents happy, and then I wanted to make my brothers happy, and subsequently I sought to please my friends and my teachers and my bosses. Praise, straight A’s and promotions were my rewards for my so-called good behavior, and I thrived on them. Yet, the external rewards never fully satisfied my internal desire for joy, peace and acceptance. Sure, I earned a flashy A+ for my persuasive paper on the death penalty. But did I really share my truth in that paper, or did I simply write what I knew the teacher wanted to read?
I’ve repeated this pattern ad nauseam in virtually every aspect of my life. I tried to act like a cool kid in front of the cool kids. I pretended to be holy in front of Father Ken. I imitated the polished and professional women at my office so I could climb the corporate ladder. Much of this acting worked – I achieved many of the external goals I sought. I got a handsome and successful husband, a big and beautiful home, and gorgeous children. I got invitations to MLM parties and Bunco night with the girls. But inside, I have always felt like an imposter. A fraud. A fake.
Pretending to be somebody that is acceptable to society has robbed me of any chance to truly be accepted.
I heard Jonathan Fields, author and motivational speaker, address this subject eloquently on The Sean Croxton Session Podcast, Episode 021. He said this:
“You can’t be unapologetically joyful until you are unapologetically yourself. As long as you’re putting energy into supporting this façade, of being someone else in the world who you probably think others want you to be, no matter how hard you work at being joyful and happy, you’ll never actually hit your stride because so much of your effort is being put into just keeping up the illusion of being somebody else. It’s not until you let that go … and just say to yourself, you know what, it’s time to just be me- once you do that there’s a lightness that starts to happen and … all that energy that you were using to prop up the façade of being someone else now gets freed up and you can shift that to put it towards doing things that genuinely light you up and make you joyful. It’s really powerful when you actually make that decision – it can be scary, because all of a sudden you’re exposed for who you really are, but it’s also the gateway to joy.”
Hearing Fields’ words on that podcast hit me to my very core. No wonder I have struggled with feeling unaccepted! I have spent my life pretending to be someone that I’m not.
Real Carrie cannot be accepted if Real Carrie is never exposed to the sunlight.
Acceptance is the very reason I started this blog. I wanted to feel more comfortable in my own skin, and I also wanted to feel like I belonged in my family, in my circle of friends, and in my community. I’ve been trying to get acceptance for over 40 years, and for 40 years I’ve missed the entire point. I’ve been trying to fit in, and I’ve been trying to get people to approve of me. I’ve been adapting to my surroundings and adjusting my behavior for various people I interact with. Now I realize that in addition to being extremely inauthentic, my attempts at fitting in have been fatally flawed from the very start.
It’s time to stop pretending and start being me.
Maybe now I can finally feel Good Enough.