I think one of the most difficult lessons we come to learn throughout the course of our lives is that even as we move further and further away from 'high school' and the types of behaviours you expect to find in an environment supported by naive, hormonal, insecure adolescents actually continue on throughout your adult life.
As a teenager, our insecurities and desire to feel liked and accepted is at an all-time high. We aren't really sure of who we are, or what we want our lives to look like, and so it's easy to let ourselves down in the name of being in a 'group'. The phrase 'mob-mentality' comes from somewhere, and for the most part, we're all aware that the types of people who engage in that kind of group behaviour are actually good people when they're on their own. So what is it about being in a group that gives people this false sense of acceptance to drop their moral compasses or overlook behaviour they know is designed intentionally to tear somebody down?
I always thought that once you leave school, or even university perhaps, that people grow up. You assume everyone finds themselves, or at least begins that journey. The hope to grow and embrace who you were always supposed to be; to leave behind any toxic ways you one used to build shaky relationships with people you probably didn't even like or respect. As the years begin to pass we find we're much more able and willing to put things into perspective and no longer jeopardise parts of ourselves in the name of 'acceptance' or 'fitting in.'
But as I'm now enjoying this ripe old age of 24, I'm amazed at how many people that simply isn't the truth for. And I'm not writing this post to critique or to shame such people, but rather to process what that looks like for me. This is a space for me to unpack and explore my own experiences, and to challenge myself to be more understanding and compassionate with people who are yet to find that security or love within themselves
I had an experience the other day which left me quite hurt and confused, and naturally, is what spurred this piece of writing into existence. To summarise very quickly, one of my closest friends was in a cocktail making competition, so Sam and I (who would normally rather be anywhere else but a crowded bar) decided to go and support her. It was all going well, I was having a good time. Then it was time for her to compete, so I made my way round to the front of the bar to cheer her on and support her. It was a speed-competition so naturally the pressure was going to be ramped up, natural freak-out reactions were expected and I wanted to be there to make sure she knew she was all good. In moments where I could feel her panic, I cheered. And for anyone who knows me from gigs, festivals or cheer knows the culture around that kind of vocal support - and how reassuring it can be when shit hits the fan.
But for those of you who don't here's a little insight: both at uni cheer competitions, as well as at multiple festivals I've attended and run since, cheering, woo-hoo-ing and such vocal expression is an integral part of the phrase 'support'. If someone starts to feel a bit insecure or panicked - if in a routine you drop a stunt or forget a dance move - knowing that people aren't judging you or going to bitch about you because of it is so important. Knowing you're surrounded by people who are just there to celebrate you and remind you it's all a bit of fun, even in a competition setting, is the most wonderful feeling and one of the greatest takeaways I've enjoyed from my time in the world of creatives.
Anyway - that's relevant because part way through my friend making all these cocktails, I clocked this group of people I know (briefly) at the end of the bar, frequently taking swigs at the same time - as you would if you were playing a drinking game. Anyway, it didn't take long for me to clock onto the fact that they were using me as their point of piss-take. Every time I woo-d they all took a drink. And it's not surprising that no matter how old you are, how strong you are or how good you feel, knowing that people have banded together and targeted you, whether they believe it's 'funny' or not, is always going to hurt. At the end of the day, part of what is so wonderful about this human experience is our ability to feel things. And knowing people aren't being nice about you, and actually being very overtly nasty towards you, will always be a bit of a punch to the self-esteem.
Luckily for me, only a rare few hold the power of my respect which helps ensure that there's a cap to how much people can really hurt or impact me, and also how quickly i'll bounce back from it.
As I hope you would expect, no external behaviour could have influenced me to stop cheering or woo-ing my friend, despite knowing exactly what was going on.
And I think that's my takeaway here. We have to dare to be disliked. We talk a lot about how the way people treat us is often a reflection of them, and the places of life they're at. The behavior that night had nothing to do with me, and as a result, was never going to influence my ability to be myself. If anything my heart will always go out to people who feel the need to act in such ways because when people go out of their way to make you feel bad about who you are, you're given a choice of how you respond. We get to make the decision of how we internalise that. Either we give value to those people, their behaviour, their judgements - OR, we choose not to.
I decided not to.
When judgements and nastiness come from people you're close with, it hits a lot harder (although there are still ways to disassociate from that too). But when it comes from people you barely know, and as a result don't really care for or respect, the decision comes more easily. We need to remember that we can very easily decide not to give any worth to random people and their irrelevant opinions, and always come back to the truth that we are more than what people think of us.
Daring to be disliked is a wonderful gift. Not many people have the strength or the courage to unapologetically be themselves - and yet that is where the magic of life lies. Being able to say that you know yourself, and you love yourself, is one of the most liberating and empowering realities we can strive for as humans. Our experience of life is directly correlated to the way that we feel about ourselves, and we have the power to decide if we like who we are or not. I'm grateful to be in a place in my life where I can honestly say I love who I am - I love what my life looks like and no matter what anyone else has to say about it, that won't change.
And whilst my takeaway here is to simply own everything about yourself - to be proud of who you are, the way you love, the way you care, I also want to give you a few tips on how you can always reset after experiencing nasty people or difficult situations. Because no matter what happens, you can always reconnect with yourself, and remember what's important.
So if a time ever arises where you feel bad about yourself, there are a few tips I have for bringing yourself back to your essence:
If the thing that's made you feel bad about yourself relates to other people, the first thing to ask yourself if you believe you deserved the way they treated you? Most of the time when I ask myself this, i'm reassured with the truth that I didn't. When someone is nasty to me - unless i've done something to deserve it - it's not about me. In the scenario stated above, I didn't do anything to anyone in that group, and they chose to do that anyway. I can smile at that, content that that's their drama and not something I need to think about again.
In cases where perhaps you may have 'deserved' it (used lightly as we never deserve to be experience nastiness), then you are faced with an opportunity to grow. Explore what it was that you did or said to make someone want to hurt you. From there you can connect with a lesson to take forward to ensure you don't act in a similar way again. Our aim should only be to spread as much kindness and positivity as we can, and we must hold ourselves accountable for that when we fall short - which of course will happen. Just be sure to find the lesson, and the challenge within that, and always strive to be your best self.
The next thing to ask yourself is if you want to give energy to the negative self-talk spiraling in your mind after a negative event happens? It's pretty safe to say that the answer will be no. At which point you can take the opportunity to discipline yourself and train your mind not to give in to these destructive thought patterns. You already know you're better than that, so it's time you started acting like it.
Write a list of everything that you love about yourself
Write a list of areas you'd like to work on - do this with a positive spin. Write what it is you're currently unhappy with - perhaps it's an attitude, a thought that keeps repeating itself, the way you react, how you've treated someone - and from that bullet point, write a few sentences on how you can begin to change or transform that to take you closer to the person you are working to become. You already know that side of you exists otherwise you wouldn't be thinking about it at all, you just need to continuously bring them to the surface.
DARE TO BE DISLIKED. Remember you're never going to please everyone or be every person's cup of tea. Own that. Allow yourself to enjoy being disliked because you know that you've had the courage to be yourself no matter what. And there is nothing more freeing than that. Wouldn't you rather live your life exactly as the person you are and knowing that the people not meant for you will shit on you - both in front of your face and behind your back - than give in to the pressure to lose sight of who you are in the name of trying to get approval or be liked by others? Who wants to be a slave in their own life story. I certainly don't and I know you don't either. So just own who you are - and keep reminding yourself of all the people in your life that YOU value who you know adore you exactly the way you are.
I think it's a powerful reminder, this notion of daring to be disliked. I first saw the phrase on instagram and instantly fell in love with it. How wonderful. It's daring - it's desirable even. Being disliked is nothing to be ashamed of. It means you're living fully and authentically, and that will always threaten or piss someone off. So as long as you're happy, and you keep working to be not only a really good person, but the most raw, beautiful, aligned version of yourself, you never have anything to worry about. People that are meant for you will feel your light even on your down days, so choose to give life to those who matter, and forget anything or anyone else. Life's too short to let negative people, situations or feelings overwhelm you. This is your life - and your light and kindness and beauty radiates much further than you realise.
My experiences of being disliked, both the one referenced and the many many others in my time, just amplify to me how grateful and lucky I am to have so many people in my life who do see me clearly for who I am and love me as a result.
As you know the power of words can change your life, so below are some quotes I find inspiring to keep on loving yourself and being proud of who you are. I hope they top-up your strength if you ever need it.
Sending lots of love x
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"I think some people need to understand that other people disliking you is not a bad thing. When you are embodying your true, authentic self, it creates fear in people who still operate from the ego. If you want to grow, heal and evolve you have to let go of being liked."
- Audrey Kitchin
"You come to a point in life where you really don't care what people think about you, you just care what you think about yourself."
- Evel Knievel
"The courage to be happy also includes the courage to be disliked. When you have gained that courage, your interpersonal relationships will all at once change into things of lightness."
- Ichiro Kishimi & Fumitake Koga
"Anyone who is popular is bound to be disliked."
- Yogi Berra
"I don't care about what you think about me. I don't think about you at all."
- Coco Chanel
"Do not live to satisfy the expectations of others."
- Ichiro Kishimi
"You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world and there's still going to be someone who hates peaches."
- Dita von Jeese
"Don't let anyone drain you of your happiness. Be drama free. Rise above the petty stuff."
- Trent Shelton
"I love who I am, and I encourage other people to love and embrace who they are. But it definitely wasn't easy - it took me a while."
- Serena Williams
"I'd rather be hated for who I am, than loved for who I am not."
- Kurt Cobain
"My self-esteem is high because I honour who I am."
- Louise Hay
"You have to stop believing that you need other peoples' permission to be okay with yourself."
- Brianna Wiest
"Be loud about the things that are important to you."
- Karen Walrond
"How you love yourself is how you teach others to love you."
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