Last Monday, I turned 29.
29 is not an age I ever imagined being. 29 is almost 30, and I've definitely never been able to picture myself as a 30-year old. Although, is it true that 30 is the new 20? Because I feel like I know of a lot of happy 30-something year olds.
Anyways, on my birthday I reflected on where I am in my life, where I've been and where I thought I might be by now, and thankfully didn't wind up having an emotional breakdown re: being in the last year of my twenties. Rather, I found myself feeling content and truly just grateful to have had another year of life.
Fast forward to a little later in the week, I randomly decided to read through some old blogging archives. As I scrolled through reblogged photos and quotes and songs, one thing just kept standing out to me: young Robyn was a sad panda.
It hurts my heart to remember how sadness and loneliness always seemed to hover over and underneath even my good times as a young adult. But it led me to conclude something that brought a lot of comfort to my heart. 29-year-old Robyn is the truest and therefore the happiest Robyn I've ever been. She is not without challenges, hardships and disappointments, but she is more rooted in joy and peace than she ever thought possible.
(/end speaking about self in third person.)
My late teens/early twenties were some of my worst and hardest years- even though I had some amazing friends and plenty of good times in between. But they were hard years because I felt debilitated by insecurity. I didn't know how to be okay just being me.
I have always wanted so desperately to be liked, I become whatever version of myself might be most accepted in every different setting. It's only been quite recent that I've come to understand that being liked by everybody is not only completely impossible, it means many people are not getting the real deal. My efforts to blend in and be accepted mean that I'm trying to be what I think a given person or group of people needs or wants from me instead of just what I actually am.
That's how it is when you feel hyper-aware of every interaction you have with people. Your intentions are good, and you try to please people out of concern for their feelings, but it becomes so skewed that you equate being kind with always being agreeable. You downplay your own feelings, and you don't disagree with someone else's strong opinion because you don't want to rock the boat, and you definitely don't give entirely truthful answers when someone questions or disapproves of a decision or choice you've made in your life that you knew was best for you.
Being a chameleon gives the illusion of having a skill- you can potentially talk to anyone and they will most likely think you are okay at worst (even if you still obsess over every little detail of the conversation and ultimately conclude that you gave that acquaintance 392 reasons to find you weird or offensive in 5 minutes.)
But in the long run, being a chameleon within a relationship is a great disservice to both you and the person who doesn't get your authentic self. Friendships or relationships that run on a modified version of yourself ultimately deplete you and they can't last. It's hard to say it, but I also think it ends up hurting people more than it helps them in the end.
As I look at the friendships I've held onto over the years, I get a pretty good picture of how we all thrive when we are free to be our true selves. We feel safe enough to voice our honest feelings, to act in ways that line up with our values, and we don't worry that our friendship is being threatened or that we'll be rejected.
What an incredible gift to have even one person in your life that you can experience that with! And what an equally incredible gift to understand your worth so fully that you can freely offer it to someone else.
I looked through those old posts this week and revisited some really sad moments for myself. But I didn't spend very long feeling sorry about it. I know I'm no longer the 20-year-old who felt despair on a regular basis and didn't know how to cope. Perhaps it's age, or plain old experience, but I am finally allowing myself to just be who I really am because I know to Whom I belong and where my identity comes from.
So on this occasion of my birthday, and of feeling like I have made some strong leaps and bounds toward being my best self, I hereby formally release myself from being the following people:
Someone who is consumed by a desire to be liked by everyone. (Spoiler: some people will still dislike you no matter what you try to say or do and life will go on.)
Someone who believes their worth hinges on someone else's opinion of me.
Someone who spends more time worrying about how I'm being perceived than the well-being of others.
Someone who is so influenced by what I think are the "right" ways to be, I lose sight of what's right for me.
Did you hear that? That was me sighing with relief after removing the weight of the world from my shoulders. This kind of work is never complete, of course, but I think I've got myself on the right track.
Do you feel like there are versions of yourself you need to be released from? If so, consider this your official permission slip to give 'em the boot and say sayanara.
And if right now you identify with the sad panda I described earlier who feels doomed to be that way forever, take it from this older (and much happier) panda: you're not.
Today you are You, that is truer than true.
There is no one alive who is Youer than You.
- Dr. Seuss