As I write this to you, I’m preparing to go to my college reunion. I’m really excited about it, but also a little nervous.
It’s the kind of nervousness I often feel when I’m about to go to an event where I’ll be meeting and chatting with a lot of different people, and I begin to think to myself:
I hope everyone likes me.
Will I sound impressive enough?
I wonder if I seem kind of weird or awkward.
Have you had those thoughts before? Maybe before going to a networking event or holiday parties where you don’t know anyone, or even when you go to your parents’ for the holidays or see friends you haven’t seen for a while.
You feel vulnerable, and like you want the people you meet to like, accept, and approve of you.
A few years ago, I read something that gave me a lot of strength and inspiration for these moments, and I wanted to share it with you. It’s from Brené Brown’s lovely book, The Gifts of Imperfection:
I try to make authenticity my number one goal when I go into a situation where I’m feeling vulnerable.
If authenticity is my goal and I keep it real, I never regret it.
I might get my feelings hurt, but I rarely feel shame. When acceptance or approval becomes my goal, and it doesn’t work out, that can trigger shame for me: ‘I’m not good enough.’
If the goal is authenticity and they don’t like me, I’m okay. If the goal is being liked and they don’t like me, I’m in trouble. I get going by making authenticity the priority.
This is such a deep sentiment, and it was truly a game-changer for me.
If I go to a party where I don’t know anyone, and the goal is authenticity, it’s okay if everyone doesn’t think I am hilarious and charming, or if I have no one to talk to for a bit and spend some time looking at the bowl of chips.
If I go into a performance review and the goal is authenticity, it’s okay if my boss doesn’t shower me with compliments. It might sting, but I don’t have to be adored by everyone.
And, I remind myself as I prepare for the weekend ahead, if I go to my college reunion and the goal is authenticity, it’s okay if I have some awkward conversations or don’t wow my classmates by explaining how I cured cancer while on a research trip to the Arctic Circle.
As long as I come out feeling like I’ve been myself, it can be success.
It’s also worth mentioning that this whole “authenticity” thing has had big implications for me in terms of my eating. When I go into a social event and feel like I want people to like or approve of me, I feel like I have to hold everything together to project a certain image.
And honestly, that pressure is tiring and straining. Without realizing it, I will often find myself gorging on food before, during, or after the event to keep down all of the feelings of insecurity and nervousness that would otherwise be coming up.
But when I let myself make authenticity the goal, then the stakes aren’t so high and the outcome is within my control. I don’t need other people to like or approve of me; I just need to be myself.
And I am able to enjoy the food that goes along with these events, and not end the night feeling like I ate 100 tiny spring rolls or mini tarts.
Over to you: Do you have any upcoming social interactions that make you feel vulnerable? How would your attitude towards them change if you didn’t need acceptance, approval, or to be “liked,” but instead you let yourself make authenticity the goal? I’d love to hear from you!