Imagine a world where you can say what you like, do what you like and be who you are.
The fear of being seen is a common issue, and no one talks about it. We all subconsciously subscribe to organisational norms, blending our behaviour to fit the perceived culture at work or the standards of the social group to which we belong.
Adjusting your behaviour can seem like the right thing, but how much of your authentic self do you bury so that you can fit in?
Over time we may have a nagging feeling we don’t quite match up despite all our efforts to fit in. I’ll let you into a tip. Most people feel like that. You are not alone. Consequently, we are all trying to fit and we are all judging each other to see how we fit in.
Be yourself despite judgement
Are you staying small so no one can blame you for anything? Do you hold your tongue a lot, worrying that your view won’t fit the social or work community you want to fit into? Have you ever kicked yourself for not speaking your truth?
Fear of being judged is a function of our reptilian brain, formed way back in the days of the cave dwellers. We are hard-wired for safety. Our entire chemical system exists for safety and security, and being judged is dangerous. How can you be yourself when you are avoiding the pain of being judged?
As humans, we are tribal by nature. It’s the way we roll. If you look at mental illness, alcoholism, and drug addiction, there is one central theme, isolation. People suffering generally either self-isolate or feel isolated and when we are isolated, we are not doing well usually.
Humans need humans.
If you are found not to fit into a tribe in caveman days, you might have been cast out of the tribe. If that was the case, you were unlikely to survive the harsh conditions. It is very similar for primates. It’s no wonder we fear judgement at a very subconscious level. Fear of being judged generally sits at the heart of survival, so despite evolution, we are still wired for safety
The world opens up when we are free of this fear of judgement. So how do you even begin to fit into all other people’s beliefs, opinions, fears, and learned behaviours? It’s exhausting!
What to do if you fear judgement
If this is you, try observing how people behave in social situations and see if you can notice a tribe that fits your vibe. Your flow is there. The best way of knowing how you naturally fit with people is how relaxed you are and how conversations flow naturally. You need to understand also that It’s none of your business what other people think of you, in the same way, that it’s none of their business what you think of them. Recently I had a conversation that ended with “not my circus, not my monkeys”. That felt good!
Think about a time when you checked yourself before you wrecked yourself. Can you think of a time when you got angry at someone else for not being or saying something you couldn’t bring yourself to be or say?
Setting rules for how we behave is born from survival. It is a response to the fear of judgement. Whole societies have unspoken agreements about behaviour. This is called culture. The less we oppose the consensus, the more we fit the culture, subsequently, then we can feel comfortable, and safe. We can even judge others for their views from our comfy position.
Some examples of self-imposed rules that could be a hindrance for you might be:
- Always clean the house before you go to bed
- Never trust anyone that hasn’t earned it
- Always be the one that fixes things
- You must make others happy
Creating rules for being is a clever way of controlling the environment to keep us, in check and make sure others are also as we navigate social situations. Unfortunately, our rules can be challenging for others to handle since we usually insist others follow our lead, consequently this focus on rules impacts relationships sometimes.
The purpose of rules
Most of us are incredibly clever at self-preservation, and those rules have likely helped us in certain situations for a particular time. Think of a young child bullied by a sibling, parent, or kids at school. Its highly likely that child will not feel safe in social situations. However, you cannot blame that child for creating social constructs that help them navigate a confusing time.
Perhaps they made an unconscious rule that they never speak up for fear of being noticed. Staying quiet about things that matter may have been a great strategy then and may have undesired repercussions later in life.
When some of your rules no longer work it can be a confusing time. Holding on to old beliefs can alienate you from others or yourself in some circumstances. These unhelpful rules and beliefs can become a noose around your neck and cost you relationships, jobs, and self-acceptance. It really is worth examining the truth of some unhelpful rules and beliefs to see if they are true. Imagine if you could create a whole new reality not to mention have better relationships simply because you dropped some unhelpful thinking.
Daring to be yourself
At this stage, it might be helpful to share my own story about learning to be myself. As a young person, I was very loud and gregarious. Deflection was a great survival tool in that environment. My strategy as a kid was to become the queen of observation and deflection with humour. I had come from a chaotic childhood, with no mentors or one to tell me what normal looked like. What is normal anyway? I made it up as I went. We all do.
At some stage in my life, all my attempts to be what I perceived others wanted me to be fell apart, and I could no longer pretend or try to fit in! In the end, At work, I was constantly trying to mould my one monumental gregarious nature into a corporate package and I can tell you she was a tight fit! Life eventually caved in for me internally and I imploded, and it wasn’t pretty. All the while, I may have been guilty of the saying, “this is me; take me as you find me”.That wasn’t entirely me anyway but a version of me I had created to “fit in”.
Being this big happy person was exhausting over time and led to the day I first met my new friend, anxiety. being anxious was new to me and I had no idea what was happening. One day I found myself hyperventilating, terrified even though I had nothing to fear, and the walls were caving in. I just wanted to crawl into a corner and cry. What was going on?
Looking back, none of this was real. It felt very real but in fact, the way I was “being” wasn’t working and I had no other conscious way to be. My ability to cope with life landed at the end of who I was “being” and I was about to embark on a very long journey of the real me.
Being myself is the best gift in the world. No matter what is going on, I will no longer fit into my perception of who you think I am. I will just be my own incomplete, imperfect self and love myself anyway. It feels like peace.
How rules lead to Anxiety
Anxiety is frightening. All your coping mechanisms no longer fit, and you feel exposed. It’s like standing on the edge of a cliff. Your whole way of being no longer seems to work, and the persona you created feels stale, yet, you don’t know how else to be. Constantly, you find yourself worrying about others noticing and may withdraw from friends as you no longer know how to act around them. It’s a bit like your shoes shrunk, and you don’t know where you will get another pair.
Some people call this a breakdown, others call it a spiritual awakening. Maybe it’s just an opportunity to reinvent ourselves. A breakthrough if you like.
Rules start with “have to” or “must” or “can’t”. A rule never seems to be about potential, or possibility. Enough of those will slowly erode your sense of self as you chip away at your nature for the sake of following the rules.
Just flipping that very focus on possibility from must and” have to’s” is enough to start to fire your brain in a new direction. Learning what is possible brings you into the wonderful world of authenticity.
We want desperately to be at peace, but maybe we don’t know how. Authenticity will eventually bring you that peace. While you are “being” for others, they can see you anyway. It’s impossible to see our own subconscious behaviour. We can’t even see our body language at play.
People know when you are not being authentic. People pleasers, give it away by their lack of boundaries. Those of us that can’t look someone in the eye, show lack of confidence.
It’s ok to be yourself
There is gold inside you, and maybe you do everything to hide it simply because it doesn’t fit your idea of what is acceptable to others. Perhaps you have been telling yourself you are less than for years. You have simply been lying to yourself.
You can’t hide who you are entirely. We are all judging each other all the time in an effort to impose our unspoken rules on others and yet what other people do, say and be is none of our business any more than our stuff is anyone else’s. That is another subject altogether. Maybe you can just be yourself and create your own reality.
The result is just fantastic when you finally resolve that maze of beliefs and pressures inside you. Letting go of everything that gives you anxiety gives space for learning how to be so in tune with yourself you finally know deep inside that it’s ok to be you. Over time you get better at being yourself, and people love you for it. Those who love us see us and are just waiting for you to see the amazing you that they see.
So if you are up to the challenge, learning to let go of fear, and judgement and focusing more on who you are will lead to Authenticity. It may be a journey, but it’s not like you aren’t living and breathing anyway. What have you got to lose by being yourself?