Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Be Yourself...wait - not like that!

When I'm interested in doing something, I will generally express a desire to do that thing.

If you know something that I don't know about - a new place in town, a new singer, book, movie, etc. that you want to recommend, I'm totally down with that. More importantly, if I'm in the midst of a really bad situation and can't see a way out, and you can see a solution to the problem (Note: accepting reality is NOT a solution. Solution example: I recently moved and couldn't have quiet in my room late at night because I could hear my neighbor snoring. My mom suggested closing my vent and getting a white noise maker. Closing the vent has dramatically improved the problem, and I'm sure my white noise maker, when I get one, will solve the issue entirely) you are more than welcome to recommend that solution.

But when I haven't expressed an interest in something that is *obviously* available to me, such as going to the gym, and I haven't mentioned any type of problem that relates to said advice, such as wanting to lose weight, you can generally assume that I'm probably not looking to do that thing.

I am not interested in handling problems in a way that involves writing less about them on Facebook. I've been wracking my brain for a long time, and I just can't come up with one single time that I've expressed a desire to share less. I'm really not coming up with anything.

Ever since I left Colby, my goal has been to share MORE. I avoided sharing lots of things in the past because I was worried what other people thought of me, and that was a serious problem, and my goal has always been to share whatever I want to share freely. I used to feel like I was being a good little girl by not sharing negative stuff that I felt like saying, but trying to maintain a positive Facebook image so people would like me more. But when I recently started posting more stuff, I realized that I was NOT any happier when I posted less stuff. I was just holding back to please other people. And I don't want to please other people because I want to know upfront who my real friends are. Anyone who thinks less of me because of what I've written, or who sees my writing as a problem that needs to be fixed, is not someone I want to be friends with at all.

There's that saying, "Always remember to be happy because you never know who's falling in love with your smile." I don't want someone to fall in love with my smile. Anyone can fall in love with a smile. I want someone to fall in love with me when I'm NOT smiling, someone who likes me all the time and isn't going to ditch me in times of trouble. I want someone who will really, truly accept how bad a situation is for me, not see a wilted flower when I'm describing a burning building.

It felt good to have my BF wrap his arms around me when I was upset about Colby and tell me, "You're not there anymore." It felt good, but there was something lacking there. It wasn't just about Colby - it was about the general issue of validation. He acted like Colby was just this one isolated incident and now that I was done, everything was gonna be all bright and sunny. That's not true. And that's why I need assurance that if you were there when I was going through Colby, you would have accepted that it was every bit as bad as I said it was and support me dropping out. I need to know that, because it could happen again. Not college specifically, but there will always be times when I'm in a situation that's a problem for me, that other people are okay with or willing to accept, and I need to know that I will have your support, that you won't tell me to suck it up and deal, because that's not something I'm planning to do.

Colby taught me a lot about people. A lot of my relationships with people are damaged now because of how they treated me while I was going through college. Most people didn't accept how bad it was. When I posted on Facebook that I was upset about job rejection, I wanted to see what would happen. And sure enough, I got support. But the truth is, I wasn't that upset about the job rejection. I was more upset that a recruiter had lied to me and was pressuring me to lie in order to get the job. Honestly, when I didn't get into the plays and singing groups I tried out for in college, I was more disappointed about that than about not getting a job. Honestly, the job thing is NOTHING compared to what went on at Colby, and it's clear to me that "support" often has more to do with what other people/society value than what you value, not matter how clearly you express what matters to you, what's okay and not okay with you. And if you're going to just step back when I post that kind of stuff on Facebook, like when you step back and let a child have their temper tantrum and figure they'll eventually get tired of screaming, it's not gonna work. I will NEVER run out of words.

I support people who have a personal goal to be happy or positive. I don't support forcing this goal on others because it puts too much responsibility on the individual. I don't support telling people that they are responsible for their own happiness. A lot of things in this world are really horrible, and we need to be working to solve these problems and to help people get out of bad situations. If I were going to give a talk about happiness to a group of people, it wouldn't be about positive thinking or attitude. It would be about two things: 1. Doing what's right for you, even when other people pressure you to just accept your current situation, and 2. Treating other people (of all ages) with respect, validating other people's feelings, respecting personal choices, being supportive, and helping them feel good about themselves. It is NOT your responsibility to deal with people hurting you - it is THEIR responsibility to not hurt you.

Finally, don't go around saying, "You just gotta ignite the light and let it shine" (from "Firework") if you're gonna blow out the light when people actually do it. I can't tell you how many times I've had this conversation:
Person: Just be yourself.
Me: That's what I'm doing.
Person: No, don't be like that!
I once saw a clever cartoon where all different shapes - a square, rectangle, and triangle - were standing near a door that was shaped like a circle, that none of them could fit through. A circle was standing outside the door telling the other shapes that all they had to do was be themselves. Being yourself doesn't fix everything! It might be good advice in some situations, but honestly, be someone other people can be themselves around!!!

Expressing yourself doesn't mean it's always gonna be a pretty fireworks show. Sometimes it's gonna look more like blood smeared all over the walls. Honestly, the most heartfelt, passionate things I've written are quite the opposite of a happy fireworks show. I have friends who like me better because of who I really am, because of all the things I've expressed here and on Facebook, and really, these are the only kind of friends I want to keep.


  1. "I support people who have a personal goal to be more happy and positive. I don't support forcing this goal on others..." That is so true. However, I may add that I don't support this goal for myself either. I thought the only way I could get that sense of camaraderie that was missing when a close friend of mine moved away was to be more positive and smile all the time. However, what I discovered was that I wasn't achieving my goal of more camaraderie/expanding my social circle. I was trying to achieve a goal set by people (mostly one person) who wasn't being a real friend at all. This former friend was the most notable one who ignored what was actually going on with me and made the issue about positive energy. Instead of discussing ways in which I could expand my social circle at my age, he was talking about how I need to smile more and relax. Now this may be helpful info for those whose focus is on being more happy and positive. However, this isn't the best when it's not followed up by advice on what is actually upsetting a person.

    So I guess what I am saying is that for me, I want to accomplish what I want to accomplish. If I do meet my goal, happiness and positive energy will follow. If I don't meet it, well who's to say I'm going to give up?

    1. Thank you for commenting! And yes, I know exactly what you mean. The goal of smiling all the time and being positive about everything is not for everyone and is absolutely not the solution to everything. I think I'm the same as you in that I want to accomplish what I want to accomplish. My main goals are to have fun and feel good, but I want to do those things by doing what I like (NOT liking whatever I'm stuck doing) and getting lots of warm fuzzy cuddles and stuff like that. Honestly, the whole positive attitude thing was my downfall in the end - if I had admitted to myself how horrible Colby College was for me, I would have dropped out after one semester, but I was set on this idea that it would be awesome and everything would get better and be okay if I stuck it out. I regret holding onto that "positive" attitude/hope in the beginning when all the bad stuff was staring me right in the face.

      Everyone doesn't mean it when they say to be yourself. I think a lot of people say that automatically, absentmindedly, without stopping to think about what being yourself could really mean. College and the breakup really taught me who my friends were and who means it when they say "Be yourself." You should ALWAYS be able to be yourself, and anyone who doesn't let you be yourself is not being a friend to you. When you feel upset, you have every right to feel that way and every right to try to change your situation. It's not up to anyone else to tell you to smile more.

  2. PS This is one of my favorite blog posts. It's unfortunately true that some people really don't mean it when they say "be yourself." However, it just goes to show you who your real friends are.