How many times has someone (an employer, sister, father, spouse) said to you, "Could you be a little more cheerful with the customers" or "I wish you were a little neater around the house?" Many times in the course of our lives, all sorts of people will ask us to be something we are not. Some will be polite about it and some will not.
When I was younger, I spent a lot of time and effort (before and after I got over the rebellious teen years, that is) trying to be everything everyone wanted me to be. Well, I was never going to be tall, blond and beautiful and luckily no one every required that of me, but there were plenty of other requirements that I just was not meeting naturally.
It actually started quite early. For my father, I was never smart enough or did anything quite well enough. For my mother, I was never neat enough. I wanted to be someone who screwed her socks on and my mother wanted someone who kept the ribbing of hers socks straight at all times. I wanted to draw and paint and make things with my hands, and my father wanted me to be a doctor.
I was shy as a child and I still am to a degree. So, why I chose retail, I will never know. Maybe it was for the lessons it would teach me. At any rate, I was never outgoing, or forceful enough for most of my employers, even though I always did the best that I was able.
At a time when I was going through a period of having migraine headaches every day, I worked for a family-owned clothing and accessories business as a salesperson. They were particularly dissatisfied with my level of cheerfulness. Just about every night, I would complain to my husband about what the owners had said to me that day. What did they expect? I was doing the best I could. One night, my husband said three little words that changed my life. He said, "Just be yourself." What an amazing idea!
It took a couple of weeks for the full importance of what he had said to me to sink in. As it turned out, the self I was at that point had to admit that she really should not be working at all right then. That she had to get well first and stop having migraines every day before thinking about taking on another job. It was a scary prospect. We had just moved to Arizona and bought our first house. We had a mortgage and needed the two incomes. I had to work or we might lose the house.
We managed, however, to keep the house and while I was not working, I had the time to figure out why I was getting the migraine headaches and what I had to do to stop having them. Since then, there have been many other occasions when I have had cause to remember my husband's sage advice. I consider myself to be much the better person for it.
I am not all-knowing. I am not perfect. I am not always right. I am friendly and a good friend. I say stupid things from time to time. I lie now and then when I am just too weak to say no. I can love unconditionally. I am not graceful and I still have a tendency to screw on my socks. I will never be everything everyone wants me to be and that is okay. It's much less stressful and infinitely healthier to just be me.
Do yourself a favor and be honest with yourself about who you are. Do not wait until you are 42 years old to get started. It can be a little frightening at times because of some of the choices it causes you to make, but it is well worth it. Do not lie to yourself about whom and what you are. Get to know yourself and be genuine with yourself. You will be surprised at how liberating and confidence-building it can be. When you are genuine with yourself, you can learn to love yourself. And when you love yourself, anything is possible.