Last week I talked about the importance of becoming a congruent person – someone who presents to the world who they really are on the inside. This is not an easy task. It takes courage and bravery to be ourselves. Adolescents are a great example of this. They want to be their own person, to be unique, yet they follow trends and fashion to the point that it is hard to tell one from another. What they are really saying is that they want to rebel against the “establishment” the ideals of their parents and other adults. However, they are terrified to stand out and be different from their peers. Being different as a teen comes with pitfalls and dangers.
Bullying is at epidemic proportions, fueled especially by the anonymity of social media. Things you wouldn’t dare say to one’s face can easily be spewed across the Internet for all to see. There is also a mob mentality perpetrated against those who are different from us. Children can be cruel and destructive. They will act badly within a group setting and say and do things they would never do as an individual. Remember Lord of the Flies?
So, from a young age we realize that it is better to be like everyone else. Our behavior conforms to the expectations of others. Some of us are more invested in this than others. Some of us are “pleasers.” We want to do the right thing. We want to get good grades, so we do our homework, turn it in on time (or early), follow the teacher’s directions, and sit quietly in our seat. Others are NOT necessarily “pleasers.” They will offer just enough cooperation as to not get into too much trouble. However, they too present just what they want the outside world to see.
For most of my life up until my 30’s I was a pleaser. I always did the right thing (as much as that is possible), I worked really hard to please my parents – a pretty impossible task, but I kept trying. My father was very opinionated and the family ran “his way” or it was the “wrong way.” I learned my father and mother’s rules by trial and error – no one told my sister and I what the expectations were. We were supposed to automatically understand what to do. In this environment, I never got to experiment with what I thought or liked, so I grew up not knowing who I was. I had no idea what I liked. It was irrelevant.
It is hard to be congruent and present your true self to the world if you don’t know who you are yourself. So, I kept on doing what I thought was expected of me, until I just couldn’t.
Next week – the story continues.