ON CELEBRATING THE FACT THAT YOU ARE NOT FOR EVERYONE

I believe people make decisions about other people based on this super rough formula I totally made up:

It’s whatever information they have in front of them, plus the trust factor (what you are willing to share with them and the likelihood they will get more information in the future) and physical proximity, plus shared tendencies and hobbies, multiplied by their individual life experience (shared life experience can make you much more likely to get along), divided by differentiating characteristics and values. What makes people different? If you are someone who puts themselves out in the world, has a vocal opinion, acts differently than the majority of society (for example, if you don’t drink),  dresses differently, has taken an unconventional life path, experienced a specific type of trauma etc. etc. You’re going to be different and therefore less likely to be able to connect with just anyone.

Obviously this is not very scientific, but the reality is that we are constantly processing some variation of this formula when we come across new people.

My name is Raegan and I am in rehab from being an over the top people pleaser. I come by it honestly — I get it from my mother (she works in sales and it made her exceptionally good at her job).

It’s a characteristic that I’m working very hard to overcome and I know I’m not the only one who a) deals with this and b) finds it hard to swallow, especially when I look at the ways it’s done more harm than good over the years.

I find the formula above freeing. It reminds me that there’s just no way, based on all these factors, that we are going to emotionally connect with a good chunk of the people we meet — it’s just a fact of life. It also reminds me to take off the tophat (this isn’t an audition, Raegan) so people can see the real me. Because the formula doesn’t work when you change to fit the mould of what you think the other person wants.

Some people don’t struggle with this. If you are one of those people please SHOW YOURSELF IN THE COMMENTS.

EASIER SAID THAN DONE

So how did I (collectively: we) get to this place where I (we) care so much? Based on research, it looks like fear, anxiety and pressure play a big role, which isn’t very surprising.

Pressure….

  1. To be likeable and nice.
  2. To appear as though you have a squad* or a lot of friends.
  3. To feel accepted (which is why being different can be so damn hard).

We’ve all heard the phrase “nobody likes a people pleaser.” So why are there so many of us?

Short answer: we are hardwired to belong, so don’t feel too bad.

“The need to belong, also often referred to as belongingness, refers to a human emotional need to affiliate with and be accepted by members of a group.

The need to belong involves more than simply being acquainted with other people. It is instead centered on gaining acceptance, attention, and support from members of the group as well as providing the same attention to other members.” (Full article here)

If there’s something I’ve learned from reading ‘Braving the Wilderness,’ by Brené Brown, it’s that belonging begins with ourselves. It really starts and ends there.

“Stop walking through the world looking for confirmation that you don’t belong. You will always find it because you’ve made that your mission. Stop scouring people’s faces for evidence that you’re not enough. You will always find it because you’ve made that your goal. True belonging and self-worth are not goods; we don’t negotiate their value with the world. The truth about who we are lives in our hearts. Our call to courage is to protect our wild heart against constant evaluation, especially our own. No one belongs here more than you.”
Brené Brown, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone

You are not for everyone, and you will not belong everywhere but that’s a good thing. You deeply deserve to be appreciated for who you are, and celebrating the fact that you are not for everyone is an extension of that.

REJECTION SENSITIVITY

This is hard to admit, but I know the pain of what happens when your opinion of yourself is based on other people’s opinions of you. Essentially, it means your self-esteem is as fragile as a sandcastle and some mean kid can come and kick it over at any time. I spent all my teen years bending over backward to be liked. I gave everything to everyone and as a result I got dumped, treated like a doormat (you don’t exactly command respect when you are like this) and had one person flat out say they didn’t want to be my friend anymore. I definitely developed rejection sensitivity as a result.

Taking baby steps to get to know myself and show my true self to people, knowing full well that I could be rejected, is one of the scariest things I’ve ever done in my adult life. For me, part of working through my rejection sensitivity is celebrating the fact that I’m not for everyone in a healthy, glass half full kind of way that honours and shows love & gratitude to my true self. 

It doesn’t mean I suddenly don’t give a shit about how I make people feel. It means I can say no and not feel an overwhelming sense of guilt. It means not chasing people down who don’t want me. It means not going over the top when it comes to simple apologies. It means taking the power back and not letting other people dictate how I feel about myself. It means I’m no longer apologizing for who I am as a person.

There’s always room to grow and I know I’m not perfect, but if you don’t like the real me, you can pretty much kick rocks.

“Taking ownership of your own fears and anxieties is the first step toward improving your relationships. Rather than expecting others to heal you, start by healing yourself.

This requires you to take a good look at the anxiety that fuels your neediness and longing for approval. The more you can deal directly with that anxiety within yourself, rather than trying to work it out through relationships, the more you will begin to heal those old wounds.” (Full article here)

Every day I accept more and more that I am a serious, opinionated, life-loving, risk-taking, aggressive, acquired taste and I don’t need to change who I am to make people like me. I am healing. I am going where I am wanted.

If you feel you are not in a place where you “belong to yourself” yet, as Brené would say, that’s ok. Don’t blame yourself. It’s pretty damn human.

When you aren’t sure if you are people pleasing, ask yourself:

  1. Am I being genuine?
  2. Am I working for approval?
  3. Am I being agreeable to avoid conflict?
  4. Am I reacting genuinely, or am I objectively crafting responses?
  5. Am I caretaking, or am I responding truthfully?
SHARING YOURSELF IS SCARY

Here’s my question: does the way you are interacting with others honour your sense of self-worth? How committed are you to rebuilding, healing and sharing yourself authentically even when it’s scary? Even if you make a commitment to yourself, then stumble or break it, it just means that you are willing to fall, f*ck up, get back up, honour that commitment to yourself and KEEP TRUCKING. Struggling doesn’t make you any less strong.

Here’s one more Brené quote before I send you on your way:

“True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.”
Brené Brown, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone

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WHY IS IT SO HARD TO MAKE FRIENDS AS AN ADULT?

Some nuggets of wisdom, some questions I’ve asked myself and things I’ve learned.

Three years ago I wrote an entire blog post on the topic of making friends in your 20s but deleted it before it ever saw the light of day. I was so concerned people would think I was the social-equivalent of a skunk, and that I would just repel even more people by sharing my struggle.

Side note: did you know that skunks live as solitary animals other than in the winter when they tolerate the company of other skunks for warmth??? I digress.

The point is, I know what it’s like to want to have more friends but not know how to build a girl gang. I recall very clearly a conversation I had with my two oldest friends Talula and Jocelyn before I started class at Red River College. I believe I was 20 at the time. The way I saw it, they both had multiple groups of friends they could float between for a good night out. I had them and that was about it. I was somewhat jealous, and I expressed my frustration.

Was I weird? No, they assured me. I was just an acquired taste. I’d make friends in college. Sure enough, I met a few people in college I still keep in touch with to this day (see photo above).

If you’ve ever been scrolling social media and wondered: “Am I the only person who doesn’t have a f*cking posse of people to party with every weekend?” You are not alone. 

I am now two full years out from post-secondary education and am FINALLY figuring out how to make new friends. Take it from someone who thought they had the social skills of an animal that shoots stink out of it’s ass, it’s possible.

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I thought I’d share some nuggets of wisdom, some questions I’ve asked myself and things I’ve learned about making friends.

What kind of barriers are you putting up?

Looking back now, I acknowledge there were certain things that kept me from making new friends at various points in my life.

  • I had next to no confidence, so I always sort of assumed people were just talking to me just to be nice. I questioned their motives which IS SO DUMB.
  • I had a bad habit of avoiding making new friends because I dated a lot (live and learn amiright?).
  • I purposely avoided sports and group type activities.
  • I was really and truly too brutally awkward for words because I second guessed myself so much when I was 18 and 19. I cringe when I think back to some of the stuff I used to say to people I liked and wanted to be friends with.

What kind of people do you want to surround yourself with?

It has been said many times that we are the average of the five people we most associate with. Do you want those people to be responsible, kind, smart adults who are pursuing their passions? Or are you gonna hang on to those people who treat you poorly and wring you dry by encouraging all the behaviour you’re trying desperately to grow out of?

Make the choice, you are 100% in control of this. I’ll lean on my favourite quote here and say “participate in your own life!”

If you say you’re gonna do it, do it!

“Oh Becky, so nice seeing you, we should grab a drink sometime? Next week and this week are like super busy for me but maybe sometime before {insert whatever season it is} is over?”

Becky likely sees right through your wishy-washy bullshit. That kind of non-commital talk makes you look flaky, but for some reason I feel like…we all do it?

Why not just say – it was nice meeting/seeing you! *awkward pause* and be on your way. No need to pretend. Also, if you take their card or something and forget to email them then realize later – that’s on you. It’s never too late though….be sincere, apologize and give it a go. If they don’t reply, cut your losses and take the L. At least you tried.

Are you actually putting yourself out there?

REJECTION SUCKS. This is not a new concept.

However, if you actually want to make plans with someone, you can’t be afraid to follow up. If they don’t hit you back, no harm done, at least you tried! Don’t be put off just because someone is busy.

You’ll usually be able to tell if the person is making an effort to hang out, or if they are blowing you off because they never really expected you’d follow up in the first place and they are just trying to be nice. Insert upside down smiley face emoji here.

Are you actively trying to meet new people?

This is the part where you’ll need to talk to strangers and maybe make an ass of yourself a bit. Find comfort in the fact that at least you’ll be talking to strangers who like the same stuff you do. For example, I met so many awesome people I really enjoy seeing every week at the bootcamp I go to, which gave me the confidence to start two book clubs.

On the professional development side, I make a point of using social media as a connecting point rather than as a way of catching up on what everyone from high school is up to. I’ve met some really awesome people (who you might see featured on this blog soon enough muahaha) by reaching out to them on Instagram, and asking them to grab a coffee — no shame in the game. I slide into the DMs in a non-creepy way, I swear.

I also am trying to go to more industry networking events (to meet other PR people), and joining things like the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Winnipeg program to meet other likeminded people. I’m very fortunate to have an employer who appreciates that I like doing professional development type stuff, and wants to support me. Never hurts to ask!


Oh by the way, I am still friends with Talula and Jocelyn. See Insta above.

This probably doesn’t need to be said, but if you’re already a person who has a tough time making friends, don’t stress about the number. Besides, come wedding time your wedding party will be smaller and save you some paper. Yaaaaaaas chocolate fountain here I come.

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