Have you ever caught yourself thinking, or even saying, I must try harder, be better, be less bossy, be kinder, be more organised? Do you feel like everything is always your fault, or you could do better? You tell yourself you should do these things from a desire to fit in and be accepted. Sound familiar?
For many of us, for me and for many of my clients, and maybe you too, it is often very difficult to feel comfortable in your own skin and be who you really are. Often you don’t know who you are, you are too busy trying to fit in with other people’s ideas and expectations of you. Trying to be the person you believe that they want you to be. When this happens the real you gets lost, or hidden away, or buried deep down, along with some, no! a lot, of your feelings. Sometimes you don’t even realise that there is a real you inside, especially if you have spent years trying to be someone else, trying to be the person other people want you to be… Hold on! Let’s rewind for a moment. What is really happening is you are trying to be the person you THINK people want you to be. Humans have an inbuilt desire to love and be loved. We are social creatures and need contact from other people. This helps us feel grounded, safe and accepted as part of the group.
Criticism when growing up, at school, at work, or even from family members, leads to self-doubt, and negative self-talk. I tell my clients that nothing is ever only one person’s fault. In any relationship, whether it is romantic, work related, family, sibling or friendship, there is responsibility on both sides. Most of the time, you are doing the best you can at any given moment. If you can believe in yourself and know that you have done your best at the time, you can begin to realise that it is not all your responsibility. You can begin to honour and respect yourself as well as others. This is something I have been able to do by talking to my therapist, talking to friends, talking to my family. Talking and hearing myself say difficult things, things I have chosen to believe were not true about me: I am worthy, I am lovable, I am OK.
‘This Is Me’ one of the songs from ‘The Greatest Showman’ comes to mind. Even if you don’t like musicals, I urge you to go and watch it. After a while you forget it’s a musical because the characters are so interesting. It tells the story of Barnum and how he started the first circus. He came across a lot of criticism and discrimination because of his background. However, he was determined and he wanted to prove his critics wrong. He felt like he didn’t fit in to the society he found himself in. He began to notice and seek out other people who didn’t quite fit in because of how they looked or talked or came from. It is a moving story. Yes the song is catchy and maybe played a little too much, but it packs a punch if you listen to the words: ‘This is me; I am who I’m meant to be.’ You cannot be someone you are not.
This blog was originally going to be entitled ‘What does your tattoo say about you?’ My latest one says ‘this is me, and I’m not boring.’ It has taken a long time for me to get there and be able to say that; I’m now in my fifties. Latest one? Most people I know who have any tattoos will say ‘once you have one, you will want more.’ So yes, I have several tattoos, all of which mean something to me. Whether you love them or hate them, tattoos are becoming more acceptable. I feel they are a way of expressing myself, they say something about me that maybe words can’t. They also say something to me that I find it difficult to say to myself; ‘this is me and I’m ok’. This happened once I was able to recognise that harsh words and criticism said more about the people giving it out than it did about me. I feet like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders.
A couple of people who have noticed my tattoos recently, have asked me if I’m having a mid-life crisis. That is not the case at all. I’m finally ready to let myself be seen. I now feel comfortable in my own skin and want to express myself. Of course I don’t want people to be offended by my tattoos, and I care about what people will think about me, but now I’m also comfortable about what I think about myself. I feel now that I have my place in my group, and my world because of who I am and not despite who I am. I am finally comfortable in my own skin.
To read more about how harsh words can affect you, see my ‘Words Hurt’ blog