So I’ve been told recently that I can’t make everyone happy all the time. Seriously? But…I so want to.
Is that so weird? I feel like I should get to have that! I should move slowly over the passing of my years towards elegance and worldliness and gentle radiant beauty until I arrive - an effortless, impeccable, uncritique-able pro. Then everyone will hug me. Then I’ll only get thumbs up on youtube. Then people will just give me jobs. This sounds legit to me. This sounds like the way to go.
But the more authentic of an adult I become, the less able I am to pull this off. And that really sucks, because I was really good at it for a really long time.
If my authentic feelings didn’t feel safe in the days of yore, I used to just kind of…do without them, and lemme tell you something - that was fucking effective. Fuck yeah, I’ll laugh at your joke! Sure thing, I’ll stay out later than I wanted cause you want to! Pssh yeah, I’ll make fun of myself so that I don’t shine too brightly for you! Totally! Let’s do this!
I had tons of friends.
But I’ve been encouraged to stop doing that, from a self-esteem perspective. So I’m trying, which looks a lot like, one step forwards, three million steps backwards, throw up hide in a corner and die.
If only growth only felt good. So often it feels like wanting to throw up and poop your pants and pass out.Then, the other side of the growth feels better, after you make it through the wanting to die part. But that part is like, so real. That shit really feels like dying! Which reminds me of another thing the death of my people-pleasing really feels like, which is having all my skin ripped off, and all my bloody, weird organs exposed and not knowing how okay that is. Or, more often, not knowing how NOT okay it might be - because I OFTEN suspect my authentic self isn’t okay.
Today, I hurt my foot, (yeah, I don’t even know, this somehow happened while sleeping?) and rather than laying off it for the day, I limped way to dance class, pretending like it was cool and not hurting, because I didn’t want people on the street - strangers - to judge me for being injured. I didn’t want them to feel like they had to stop and help me, I didn’t want them to tell me to go home and be authentic and relax. I mean. I reallllly cared what those people thought.
So, I get that that was lame, and kept me from walking as slowly as I actually wanted to, and kept me from protecting my foot from further injury and as such i.e. true freedom is an end to trying to control and manipulate other people’s opinions and just being one’s true self. But…okay okay… if I stop trying to control and manipulate you all.. then I can’t control and manipulate you all! I just have to hold space for my real thoughts and opinions and deal with your feelings about it. Ahhhhhhh my skin!
But DO I have to deal with your feelings about it? Or can I just be like: I don’t give a shit about your feelings!! I mean… judgment is literally something we made up. It isn’t gravity or raindrops or pain. It’s just humans trying to categorize and measure and calm ourselves down by telling a story about one of us being right and one of us being wrong. Gross. Judgment you are the worst. So unhelpful, and so profoundly never the truth.
So can I just say FUCK. OFF. JUDGMENT. Can I?
I think I’m allowed to, actually. But also I don’t feel totally ready. Because those judgments are here, in me. See, because if I’m judging my own authenticity, my own gimp-footed, stare at my own facebook pictures for two hours while getting up the courage to go to the gym, leave the party at midnight, slather peanut butter on dried figs because I’m trying to stop eating chocolate authenticity, then I’m judging yours too. I know it.
In January my sister told me that I freeze people out when I disapprove of them. That it hurts to receive that, that I had hurt her, on accident. And I listened, and I tried to ignore the suspicion that the pit of my stomach was dissolving into the porch beneath me, and I scoured my brain for motivation for something so mean, and all I could find was, that I was just trying to move towards perfection! For both of us! Just trying to move towards that eloquence and elegance and all those youtube thumbs ups… by freezing her out when I thought she was too human and real and didn’t perform to my standards. How sad. How cold. How unsafe. And I did this all accidentally.
I want to experience myself as safe in the world. Doesn’t that sound like a dream? Like a big, airy pumpkin-pie-flavored, leap out over a cliff? But it means I have to kill perfect. Kill better. Kill good. Kill “this would be a little better if…” And I’m in love with those. They helped me, I think. They made me work so hard.
I think humans hate to be in question of our goodness and badness. We hate to not know. So we set standards - ideas of behavior that will make us approvable, even if those standards aren’t achievable. Even if it hurts us to have them. I have set so many standards, in my life, in order to approve of myself, or to give myself permission to approve of others. I’ve assigned meaning to widely held beliefs about good and appropriate behavior, and meaning to my own personal ones, then I’ve subjected myself and my community to them without asking anyone’s permission. I signed up for all these beliefs so that I could get an A+ at life, because what is scarier than going one direction in your one and only life, marching towards your own mortality and not knowing along the way, how you’re doing, if you should be doing it better, if this plus this plus this will equal respect, or companionship, wholeness, or shouting-from-the-treetops joy at the end of it all, if you can’t at least look at your neighbor and say “well I”m doing better than THAT guy…sooo…” what is scarier than that? What?
But it’s all backfiring now, my standards and measures, my scales, my status, my I-did-this-better-than-you-so-now-I-get-to-give-you-advice-about-it, because from a deep place, I want hold myself more softly. And none of my judgment and ranking has ever saved me from rejection or loneliness, or getting fired, or disappointing someone. It hasn’t. It really hasn’t. And I want to be in it - my life - not just be pressing my face against the glass and trying to clamber up a pecking order to the top before I have permission to finally leap into the middle of it, and wrap my arms around myself, finally. No.
It’s so appealing to live our lives inoffensively. To work to make everyone like us. To manipulate, and bargain, and apologize. But that also means stifling the raw parts, the tender parts, the embarrassing parts, or brushing them under the rug where no one can see. It means making half your life bad. And that hurts.
The belief that people need to be protected from me, from the real me, who wants to go home at midnight, and doesn’t think your joke is funny, and doesn’t want to apologize for shining brightly, who doesn’t always want to have sex with you tonight hurts. Maybe I need to believe something else.
My life coach tells me that underneath anger is hurt and underneath hurt is love, and when you’re in that place, that judgment-less love place, no one is wrong, nothing is broken, and nothing has the power to diminish your joy in the world. In other words, I’m allowed to hobble down the street and poop my pants, and still be perfect. Because everyone else will have days when they do that too. And if I can celebrate them, those everyone elses, then I can maybe find the compassion to celebrate myself, too. Then, those tender parts that feel ugly or confusing, will become places I can party. Stake a tent. Build a house. Eat dried figs and peanut butter. And sing.