Recently my blogs have talked about knowing who you are and being firm in your choices. That still holds. The greatest leaders in history knew themselves and stood on a solid foundation of the beliefs they had developed over time. And yes, those great leaders include men such as Hitler and Stalin. A great leader is not necessarily a person who does great or admiral things. And this brings me to today’s blog.
There is a difference between being who you are, being strong in character and integrity, well developed and a valued contributor to society and having an excessive “need to be me.” That is, some of us have personality traits that… um… might require a bit of tweaking. If you continually find yourself saying, “Well that’s just who I am!” or “Who are you to judge me???” maybe it’s time to step back and re-evaluate.
No, you don’t have to listen to every piece of criticism or every derogatory comment about you. You just have to put in the work to be sure that who you are is a person of value. I am profoundly aware that there are pieces of my personality that should not be let loose on society. Not because I am a sociopath, but because I understand discretion and appropriateness. For example, I find many things funny that most people would not appreciate on any level. Please note the Venn diagram. 🙂
Several years ago I received a letter from a person who was not happy with me. (Shocking, I know, because how could you not be happy with me, right?) She did not hold back on pointing out everything I had done wrong over the course of the previous 10+ years. As I read through the letter there were parts that I could easily discount because she simply had her facts wrong about things like what type of work I was doing. So I could ignore that. But rather than spout off about how dare she judge me!!! I stepped back and allowed her to be correct. I opened myself up to the possibility that sometimes the harsh things people say to us and about us need to be heard. And let’s face it, your friends typically won’t tell you the yucky things about you, partly because they don’t see them!
So I read the letter and let it sink in. Is this really how she sees me? Is she just angry and spouting off? Then I took it a bit further and thought, “If she sees me this way, maybe others do too.” That was an eye opener! So I took a good, hard look at myself. A hard enough look that I broke the mold of who I thought I was. I opened myself to the possibility that who I was – or who I am – might not be pleasant to everyone. (Gasp! A tough reality, I know.) And really hard to believe for those of you who know me and how pleasant I am! Until you can admit that you might have areas that need work it is virtually impossible to make improvements.
Seeing myself through the eyes of someone who disliked me was not a fun experience. It was not a horrible experience, either. It was actually an opportunity to become more than I was. To become a better person for having listened. Again, I didn’t listen to everything she said and I didn’t totally revamp my life. I simply allowed myself to explore the possibility that she might be correct and she might not be the only one who saw me that way.
I still have those parts of me that I preserve for a less public audience. I don’t want to scare anyone away, after all! Yes, I can be me and be true to my values, beliefs, and self. No, I don’t need to impose myself on people in a manner that makes them uncomfortable. Hitler was being true to himself so was Stalin. For that matter, so were Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy and countless others. They all believed in who they were and what they did. But nobody would buy the thinking “That’s just who I am” or “Who are you to judge me?” Extreme examples, yes, but how far across the line should you be allowed to go before those are no longer valid excuses for your behavior?
Be who you are in a manner that contributes to others, that is beneficial to the world around you, and that makes people happy to see you. Stop using the phrase, “That’s just who I am” and trade it for, “Just who am I?” Be curious about how others see you… don’t let them define you, but listen to how they perceive you. Open yourself up to the possibility that “Just who I am” might need a little work.
This week I challenge you to take a hard look at yourself. A hard enough look to break the mold of who you think you are. Maybe you’ll find that the mold is perfect just the way it is. Maybe you’ll find some areas that need some work or need to be preserved for a selective few.