How To Take Control and Be Who You Are Supposed To Be
Life is full of erroneous expectations. I call them our supposed-to-be’s. Everywhere we go, there are people who tell us what is supposed to be, what we are supposed to feel, do, and think, and how we are supposed to experience things.
But what if we don’t?
Bogus expectations can set us up for disappointment or lead to believe there is something wrong with us.
According to my Aunt Pauline, high school was supposed to be the happiest time of my life. It wasn’t.
I was supposed to be outgoing, have lots of friends, and be invited to lots of parties. I wasn’t. I was an introvert, and I was uncomfortable and awkward in any group of people.
I was supposed to have boyfriends and go on dates. I didn’t. I hated dating, probably because I was horrible at it. I didn’t know how to talk to boys in high school. I wasn’t athletic or interested in sports. My passions were poetry and art. (I learned first-hand, that quoting poems to the boy on a first date made sure there would be no second date)
Just before high school started, I did something that was supposed to make me stand out and be special. I overcame a problem that had tortured me in junior high school. I’d been overweight, and I knew girls were supposed to be pretty to be happy, which meant they couldn’t be overweight. The boys who didn’t ignore me often made mean jokes. Then, the summer before high school, I lost the weight. Suddenly I was pretty and thin, and I couldn’t wait to show those other kids. I’d go to sleep at night, smiling as I pictured the looks on their faces. But it didn’t happen, because we moved. I didn’t get to show anybody, because none of them were in my new high school. To this new group, I was nothing all that special, just another pretty, and thin, girl.
When you face a supposed-to-be that isn’t true for you, what can you do to make it better – besides run away?
- Fake it.
If you can’t escape the situation and you can’t change who you are, the best way to make it through tough places is to fake it. Fake your confidence and enthusiasm, fake your smile – just fake it. You may be surprised at the good times that come when you’re pretending you’re having them. Even if they don’t, you won’t come off a cry-baby.
That’s what I did in high school. I slapped a smile on my face, stuffed my bra, held my head high, and walked down the halls looking straight ahead (like a child hiding my face because, if I couldn’t see the other people, they didn’t exist). I couldn’t make myself walk up and join a group of kids who were talking and laughing, no matter how much I wanted to. I would walk the other way, pretending I was in a rush to be somewhere and didn’t see them. It was exhausting!
- Dismiss it until all of the facts are in.
Another supposed-to-be, similar to those I’d experienced in high school, popped up when I was expecting my first child. It scared me when people kept asking, “Are you excited?” It implied that I was supposed to be excited.
The truth is, I wasn’t. I was apprehensive. This baby was a person I didn’t even know, so how could I be excited? What if I didn’t like him?
I was afraid something was wrong with me. I was supposed to be excited. I was sure I was not supposed to have the thoughts that were in my head, and I certainly couldn’t tell anybody. But the answer didn’t matter anyway. This baby was coming whether I was excited or not. When they asked if I was excited, I lied (“Yes, I’m excited”) and dismissed the question they just loved to ask.
Finally, my baby arrived and brought the answer. As soon as I met him, I fell in love. Then I was excited.
- Lighten up and laugh – learn to appreciate, value, and enjoy who you are.
Maybe the high school years were supposed to be the happiest for some people (although I hope not. Who wants life to peak out when you’re seventeen?), and some people are supposed to love dating and parties, but it wasn’t true for me. It took years, but I finally learned the lesson of self-acceptance:
I am who I am supposed to be.
Laughing at supposed-to-be’s is the best response. One day, I called a client and got his secretary. She said, “There is something I’ve wanted to tell you. You need to do something about your name. Ruthi is a baby name. You’ll never go anywhere with that name.” I thanked her, hung up, and laughed.
- What supposed-to-be have you encountered recently? Are you ready to show ‘em? If they scare you or upset you, what will you do? Will you fake it and stay in the game? Can you dismiss it and keep going?
- Where are you along the road to appreciating and enjoying who you are?