I had an aching feeling that people didn’t know the real me. I felt like each day I was treated and talked to in ways that didn’t reflect who I was at all. As much as I hated this and I couldn’t be fully myself, I struggled to use my voice to speak up and communicate who I was with the world around me. I was afraid of losing the comfortable sense of identity that I had gained among my friends and acquaintances. But at the same time, I wanted desperately to be
It felt like I was a caricature of what others thought of me. I envied those who were unapologetically themselves and listened to music about self-expression, believing confidence would never be possible for me. There was a cognitive dissonance between what I wanted to be (myself) and what others expected me to be.
I’m sure we’ve all felt this at one point or another, though each of our experiences
My best friend and I never went to the same school. We met at theatre camp one summer when we were young and have remained friends to this day. When middle school got tough for me, she was the friend I told everything to and confided in as I moved to a new school for 9th grade.
The friends I made in my new school were nice and we had fun together, but there was never the same connection as there was with my best friend. In my new friend group, we didn’t know how each others’ home lives were and we didn’t ask. Nobody ever did. It was an unsaid but known rule that we didn’t ask personal questions.
I believe we all hid our personal lives and real personalities from each other because we feared rejection and needed a place to feel safe. I certainly felt comfortable with this kind of security blanket for a year or so, but it soon felt like more of a burden to fit in with them than it would to just stop forcing myself to be someone I wasn’t.
After dealing with bullying in high school, it felt liberating to finally have a group of friends to call my own. But was I sacrificing my self-esteem to find comfort?
Over time, I became conscious of the fact that I had been curbing my behavior to act like others around me. I’d copy their slang and fashion choices to the point where I wasn’t sure of my own style. I was allowing others to mold me into someone I didn’t recognize. However, I absolutely could have spoken up when I didn’t agree with how I was being regarded, and I could have used my voice authentically instead of trying to sound like others around me.
I realized I had been struggling to live up to an image that wasn’t authentic to me. Instead of speaking my mind and using my voice to express myself, I allowed others to speak in my place. More importantly, I had been silent for so long on my opinions and interests that others had likely subconsciously created a mold of who they thought I was and who they expected me to be.
Halfway through high school, I began trying to break free from the box I allowed myself to be put into. I had never spoken up about my interest in The Beatles or the fact that I absolutely loved dancing more than anything else, though I had plenty of chances to do so. When I finally started speaking up about these things, people were confused because I no longer fit the same mold.
Suddenly hearing someone harness the power of their voice can be surprising. I certainly lost some of my “cool” creds when I chose to do what interested me over what the “norms” might have been- but I felt free. And that was much better than feeling like I was constantly fighting to fit in a frame.
Thinking back to my elementary school days, I remember feeling and displaying a strong sense of leadership and entrepreneurship. Of course, this
Pinpointing the exact moment I became more concerned with the opinions of others than my own self-esteem might be pretty difficult to do, but what I can do is work to reclaim my sense of individuality now.
It takes some serious courage to be yourself. The truth is that no matter who you are, not everybody is going to like you. With the vast amount of personal and cultural differences around the world, it just isn’t possible to appeal to everyone. And that’s okay.
We’re doing a disservice to ourselves and our world by not fully encompassing what sets us apart. Why not just embrace our uniqueness and respect the uniqueness of others?
Life is full of moments where we will find ourselves as the odd one out, but these moments can be used as opportunities to better understand and appreciate our own individuality
Though many of us may be similar, not one person is the same, and we’re only fooling ourselves by trying to be.
I definitely still find myself staying silent when I should be speaking up, whether it’s regarding topics that interest me or just voicing my opinion. Expressing yourself is a vulnerable act so it’s natural to struggle with doing so confidently. If you’re interested in learning specifically about building up your confidence, check out this short article.
The power of your voice is constantly within your reach. You can obtain the power of your voice and use it to exhibit who you really are, instead of allowing others to speak for you. It’s senseless to silence your true self. You have some incredible gifts to offer this world!