A friend of mine sent me this quote yesterday: “Surround yourself with people who know your worth. You don’t need too many people to be happy, just a few real ones who appreciate you for exactly who you are.” (Lessons Learned in Life) And it’s so true. How often do we try to be a certain way to fit in, to be more outgoing or quieter, funnier or less vocal, more fashionable or cooler, more articulate or less emotional, more successful or less powerful, etc.? And for what?
My Mom is Japanese, and while growing up there was always concern about what other people would say and how things would be perceived by others, even though I grew up in Germany. And it is true: In Japanese culture, where conformity is so important to being accepted by society, people will often notice, talk and maybe ostracize you if you are different. I remember going to elementary school in Japan during one summer and my classmates immediately informed me about the differences they noticed: “Why are you wearing a watch? You are not supposed to wear a watch in class. Why is your hair so long? It’s not supposed to be that long.” I learned and adapted. I stopped wearing a watch to school and my teacher informed everyone that it was ok for my hair to be that long because I was going back to Germany after the summer and students could have long hair over there.
Wearing or not wearing a watch may not be significant, but what if you had to change your personality to conform? What if your “friends” told you that you were too quiet or too loud? What if you felt you had to be more aggressive or less caring at work? Every time we are asked to change in a way that goes against our nature, we are not honoring ourselves and who we are. By making other people’s opinions more important, we suppress ourselves. We are telling ourselves that there is something wrong with us. We are not loving ourselves.
So surround yourself with supporters instead. Seek out people who will accept and love you for who you are. You don’t need to please everyone. Not everyone needs to like you. Your true friends will. And if you want to grow and change for yourself, because you want to, then great! But don’t do it for someone else. Accept yourself. Love yourself. And make sure the closest people around you do as well.