You can’t say that! What will they think?

blurred person layna

Photo by Layna Boyd

As I was updating my website today, I noticed myself struggling. The words just wouldn’t come. Well, actually they did come, but my mind quickly rejected them.

“You can’t say that! What will people think? You just write what people want to hear like everybody else. You don’t talk about that other stuff.”

Being a vocal proponent of authenticity, it’s not pleasant to admit that I was searching for ways to hide my true self out of fear.

Now, to be fair, I have a lifetime of experiences that support those fears. The geography and ideology of where and how I grew up—and where I now live—are all major factors, of course. However, adding some personal twists to the story are issues arising from adoption, alcoholism, religion and abuse, to name a few. Whatever the angle, however, the underlying message was the same—there’s something wrong with you.

The result of that is growing up believing you are inherently bad—and trying at all costs to hide it. I tried my best to be good, to do what I was told, to follow the rules. Much of the programming stuck—deeply—and I’ve spent years untangling from it. But at heart, I am a seeker and a rebel. And while I wanted so badly to fit in and feel like I belonged, I was also grateful that I didn’t. I was the perpetual outsider, an oddity in a world that valued sameness. I wanted to please and be liked, yet I was determined to distance myself from the mold I didn’t fit. The internal conflict kept me spinning like a top.

Eventually, I found a coping strategy that gave me a small illusion of control over being labeled as weird or crazy—I condemned myself first. I’d say things like, “Oh, you know how I am” or “You know me and my woo-woo stuff” or “Yes, we all know Mom’s crazy.” The preemptive strike approach was easier and hurt less than waiting for someone else to make the judgment.

Maybe this too is a preemptive strike of sorts—I’m not sure. What I do know is that my being totally upfront and comfortable with who I really am is long overdue.

It’s absolutely true that it’s “better to be hated for who you are than loved for who you are not.” However, being willing to live with the initial fallout takes a lot of courage.

When I mentioned to a couple of friends that I was writing this, there was a bit of “everybody already knows” eye-rolling. Maybe, maybe not.

Either way, the only person I’ve ever really been hiding from is me.

2 comments for “You can’t say that! What will they think?

  1. April 1, 2014 at 9:33 am

    I can relate to this wholeheartedly. Thanks for this article, I haven’t been dong what I want to do either because I have been busy thinking “what will they think”. I see now how my fear is what is holding me back. Thanks for the eye-opener, Paula!

  2. April 1, 2014 at 3:51 pm

    Only when we are honest about who we are can we be in authentic harmony with those who appreciate it–and gracefully allow others to be in harmony elsewhere. So many sides to this!