Perhaps you’re also one of those people who often hear that they are:
- Too emotional
- Too dedicated
- Too demanding
- Too intense
- Too busy with their job/career/hobby/etc.
- Too independent
- Too pretty/ugly/skinny/fat
- Too gregarious/lonesome
- Too orderly/messy
- Too unpunctual/thorough/obsessive/precise
- .. (you can put here whatever applies to you)
I have to admit that I’m a woman who heard too many “too” in her life. So much that I started internalizing them at some point. I started believing in them. I started watching myself. I was constantly thinking “can I still do that or will it be too much of something?” Obviously, I was receiving a whole lot of advice about every “too” of mine, such as:
- Too busy with career – Don’t mention early on what you do or, even better, don’t mention it at all.
- Too independent – Sometimes pretend to be a little girl and ask for help.
- Too emotional – Just hold your tongue and don’t react. You can tell me everything later but when you’re with him – remain the queen of ice.
- Too dedicated – You need to care less about men and then they’ll come to you out of their own will. If you care, never show it.
- Too messy – Watch yourself, girl. It’s not a big deal to keep your home or desktop tidy for when you see him, is it? Or just hire yourself a cleaning lady to tidy things up for you every day.
All that advice was great. But I was far from great when I used it. When you keep receiving advice to pretend all the time, you end up getting a single particular idea. The idea that you’re “too much”, so there has to be less of you and you have to fix yourself. Later, after my great meeting with a Buddhist teacher who convinced me that my mantra for both average and special days should be: let yourself be as you are I just couldn’t continue using all this advice in my life. In the end you need to choose some strategy. Since I put my trust in the teacher, it started happening. You probably would like to hear that things got better and I lived happily ever after, right? FORGET ABOUT IT. Suddenly I started being even more irritating to most people. Since they were used to my personal self-deprecation, they were shocked: “What got into you?” And everything that I did was just letting myself be as I am.
I arrived at a critical point: I wasn’t sure if I was going to kill myself, get killed by others or kill everyone myself – such was the intensity of most of my relationships. Why? Because I was stubborn at being who I am and spread that philosophy around. Fortunately for both me and my surroundings in Costa Rica another teacher was sent to me. The beautiful Toca, a multiracial woman with voluptuous curves and insolent glance. She had plenty of shocking stories about her relationships to tell, but one of them changed my understanding of what it means to be who you are. And why it’s not working.
Toca was the most confident and sensual girl I had ever met. When she told me that she was once in love and unhappy, my first automatic question was “What was wrong with him?” So: He was older, but not too old. He was wise, but not overwhelmingly. He was handsome, but not so much as to lose sleep about it. He was romantic, but not excessively. He was a gentleman, but without overdoing it. And he was in love with Toca just as much as she was in love with him. Like in a fairy tale. But a while later he told her that it’s stupid that she pierced her navel. So, she removed it eagerly because it was not a big deal. Then he told her that her dresses were too “hippie” and that she could be more elegant. She didn’t do anything about it, and he was not happy about it. Later she shaved her hairon one side and wove millions of small braids on the other – and when he didn’t like that as well, she exploded:
“Who are you do criticize me? WHO are you to tell me what’s wrong with me or how I’m supposed to be? If you don’t like me the way I am – leave. But you have no right to tell me all the time that something is wrong with me”.
This story had a huge impact on my life, because when it was me who heard some years later that my hair, makeup or clothes should be improved, I knew what I had to do.
However, the conclusion that I drew from that story was much more important than the knowledge how to react when a man doesn’t like something in you:
1. Let yourself be exactly the kind of person that you are – you have to allow yourself to do that, not flaunt it in order to test everybody around you. “You’re not a lion in the desert, you are not supposed to keep roaring to underline that you’re the king of the jungle” – just be yourself. You don’t need to overstate it. At the moment when you really allow yourself to do it, you don’t need to be anyone else than you really are – you don’t need to understate or overstate anything. Just say what you have to say and show what you have to show – not less, not more.
2. Don’t excuse yourself for being yourself. You don’t need to have excuses or justify why you’re more or less emotional, independent or cooperative. Can you imagine a lion having to explain why he’s the king? Or Cleopatra explaining why power turns her on? We can explain our behaviour, but there’s no reason for us to explain our nature.
3. Everyone has the right to be as they are. At the same time, everyone has the right not to like the way you are. But they’re also not forced to stay in your company. If somebody is like that, but, due to some reason, doesn’t want to leave you – leave them. There’s really no reason to have them suffer your presence and have yourself suffer their comments. It works both ways – if you don’t like somebody – leave. You don’t always have to express your opinion.
I think there is a big difference between saying “be as you are” and “let yourself be the person you really are”. “Be as you are” includes not caring for the feelings of others and what is important to them – and that’s not what it’s all about. It’s important how other people feel. And it’s important for people to like being with one another and not waste their energy for mutual criticizing and correcting.
To let yourself be means also letting others be as they are – and accepting that they may have some features that you don’t like.
To let yourself be means also accepting yourself – gently, but firmly, defending your boundaries.
To let yourself be means not allowing yourself to stand in a negative torrent of comments on what’s wrong with you and how you’re supposed to change.
There are millions of people in the world – you can always choose the kind of company in which you feel good. There’s really no need to stay with people with whom you don’t have to stay (if that’s the case). And no, you don’t need to voice your opinion all the time, especially if nobody’s asking for it.
A friend will tell you how they feel when you do something and will give you space for not having to change anything if you don’t feel like it.
It’s ok not to like somebody. And it’s also ok if somebody doesn’t like us. But it’s not ok to cut someone’s wings and convince them that your truth is a fact and not just your interpretation. It’s strange that I had to meet Toca in order to finally understand, after finishing my studies, what certain terms from the Gestalt therapy mean and how they should be used in life:
You are ok and I am ok.
I was not born to live according to your truth and you were not born to live according to mine.
If we ever meet – great.
If not – alright.
I came to Costa Rica in a very special moment in my life – and I met people who believe that you don’t need to prove to anyone that it’s ok if things are how they are… Costa Rica gave me a lot of strength and the feeling that I’m not a frog and no one needs to kiss me in order to discover my better self.