For Christmas this year, I received the book “Humans of New York: Stories.” Its a collection of photographs and quotes from thousands of people in New York City. As I’ve been flipping through the pages, I read one quote that stood out from the rest:
I found a mentor once. He was in this thirties, and had a career that I very much admired. I thought if I listened to him, I could be successful, too. He told me that everything I did was wrong – the way I stood, the way I moved, what I wore, even the way I warmed up. I did everything he said. Every time I was on stage, I could hear him chattering in my head, and I felt like I’d lost my own voice. It was like all the work I had done in my personal search had been invalidated.
My default setting in my life is to please people. I crave validation. I want to do things that make other people happy and proud. And because of this, I consistently ask for feedback. Should my hair be lighter? Was the presentation captivating enough? Am I nice enough? Did I handle that conversation the best way? Would a different style make me more noticeable?
And the beauty of feedback is that over the years, it has helped me grow. It has shaped me in some beautiful ways, challenged me, pushed me further. However it has also been one of the most crippling things. Because I desire to make everyone happy all the time, I’ve seen myself never learning my own voice. I’ve been so dead-set on customizing my voice and who I am to everyone else, I’ve probably lost some of the very things that make me unique. And rather than strengthening who I am, I find myself living life like the girl quoted above, with other people’s chatter in my head, distracting me from my own.
If I had a theme for my life, it would be to be true. Be your true self. Pay attention to who you are deep down, what you really love, what you really enjoy, what things make you sad or unhappy. Pay attention to all of it. Because its all important. And not doing so will cause you to always live in reaction to others, letting life happen to you, and leave you feeling resentful and lost, rather than confident and sincere. So be true. Learn what you love and who you want to be and