'put yourself first'

an everyday moment:

sidenote: Putting an actual moment from my life especially if it involves other people feels a tad weird so I’m going to be a bit more general about my everyday moments.

So the other day I was told that I was respected and admired by a person who had not seen me in a while. I felt a bit shocked and also had a mini identity crisis - like omg if that person respected me before, what if I’ve changed? And all the activities and creations I’ve started (such as this blog) I started to doubt, thinking that my own unexpected decisions and growth would cancel the respect and admiration I’ve garnered from people that know me.

Another ordinary, daily moment I experience occurs when I talk to someone new or a mutual friend who knows me through connections. Within 10 seconds of the conversation I find myself conforming into the perception of me that the other person has of me even if it’s actually not accurate. We all make first impressions on each other - this was one of the first concepts I learnt in Year 11 Psychology. During a first impression, our brain conserves energy by judging a person and compartmentalising their personality and identity into stereotypes that we’ve learnt. It’s easier for our brain, even if it isn’t accurate (after spending more time, our brain is able to more intricately process their identity).

As humans, we like predictability - the ability to meet someone off the bat and predict their likes, their dislikes, their ambitions, their actions, how they interact. By doing this, we make ourselves comfortable and feel safe in knowing how to interact with them.

And one insidious form of people-pleasing that I have found myself doing is immediately shrinking into the box of what the other person ‘expects me to do’ (the ironic twist is that I actually don’t know what they ‘expect or think of me’, so I am acting how I assume they expect me to act).

a reflection:

Face it, we’re wired for love and belonging - we literally have an in-built primal instinct to ensure we are loved by our tribe so that our survival is optimised. But that strategy is less necessary in the modern era. It is unlikely you will drop dead after disconnecting with someone you met or have known.

To my irrational self, being authentic and real in the moment, and consequently breaking another person’s 3 second preconception of who I am feels like I’m putting my life on the line. By challenging their perception of me through being who I am, it will likely cause discomfort or an element of surprise for them.

The logic is that this discomfort could lead to them disliking me because they are already comfortable and familiar with the person they thought I was and now they are challenged to change that (and hence, evolve their judgement of me). When I feel that love and acceptance is scarce, will run out or I have insufficient sources of it - then the strategy would be to prevent the above from happening - hence the people pleasing. However, when love and acceptance feels abundant, will happen naturally or I have sufficient sources - the strategy is really redundant and only makes me seem like I have multiple personalities.

The shift for me comes in twofold:

  1. Let’s say that people who have known you for a long time respect you. What if they don’t respect you for what you do but rather they respect you DUE to your willingness to evolve, to be honest, to break out of the status quo while sticking to your values. By continuing to conform to what you think they expect you to do, you not only degrade your own integrity but that respect is also slowly eroded.
  2. Use your authenticity and ability to show up realistically in life and in interactions as a crucible. A crucible purifies the mixture, separating substances from impurities. Think of the impurities as the people that are not willing or ready to respect, support your courage, risk-taking or independence and instead are the ones who have been supporting you in keeping up appearances and making yourself shrink into the background. For example, who remembers people who just act as expected - the people that make an impact, that make an imprint on my mind are the ones who broke the mould that I instinctively placed them in and who broke it in a good way. You might provoke discomfort in a good way, like you might surprise someone at just how similar your values turn out to be to theirs. Also, when you are clearer on who you are to others rather than letting yourself be defined by their terms of you, you make connections that are way more aligned for you and are likely to last longer (even if there are fewer). Your relationships feel way more freeing rather than imprisoning because you become surrounded by those people where hanging out feels so chill because they are so clear on your values, your vision and know where to stand. Simultaneously, those that have different values know to head off and find people that vibe with them rather than everyone staying around in a vague and tense vibe of feeling lonely yet surrounded - not really knowing or being able to champion the other because identities are such a fog.

magic in the mundane:

When I realise that I’m acting in a way to validate how someone else [I think] predicts me to be, it can be easy to go to the other extreme and completely oppose everything they predict me to think, feel and act which is also inauthentic. Kindness + determination is the key. I don’t need to beat myself up about being ‘fake’ - I know that it comes from an innocent place that believes that being accepted is a scarcity and I can gently remind myself to practise expressing my actual values, attitude or ideas.

I also realised that the areas where my fakeness is amplified tends to be the ones I feel most insecure in and would rather other people define it for me then to define it for myself. I think these provide perfect opportunities to realise where I still feel unsure about myself or where I still feel that my authentic desires/opinions are too unacceptable to be expressed.

fromtheheart mantras

  • I prioritise my respect for myself over others’ respect for an outdated version of me
  • Growth and change is exciting and it also brings a new group of supporters that may not be the same as the previous ones
  • Putting myself first does not mean serving myself before others, it means doing my authentic self justice by expressing and showing all aspects myself not just the ones I deem ‘socially acceptable’. When I’m honest with who I am, I give others permission to do the same which can create clearer connections.

with love,

from the heart <3

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