When we fear that we are inadequate in some way, that we’re not enough—be it in appearance, wealth, talent, smarts, humor or what have you—we learn to take cues from those around us on how to behave. We adjust ourselves accordingly to fit in. We are manipulating ourselves and others into believing we are something we are not. In doing so, we let our fear manipulate us. What’s wrong with simply letting the world accept us for who we really are?
On this topic, Anne Wilson Schaef writes:
“Most women are accomplished research scientists. We have developed skills for gathering data that would put researchers to shame. We are constantly scanning faces, bodies, and situations for clues about what is acceptable and what we can get away with. We have, unfortunately, in many situations become people who ‘survive through cunning.’ Our hyperalertness emanates from our fear that whatever we do will not be enough—our fear that we are not enough no matter what we do. We have to be cunning to survive, or so we have come to believe. Some have said that this revolution of women is the only revolution where the outpost of the enemy is in our own heads.”
I think one reason women in particular fall prey to this behavior is that throughout history we have been made to believe that our reputation is everything. We have been taught to please others in subtle and more obvious ways. Regardless of gender though, everyone has expectations they believe they must live up to. Men are taught it’s weak to show emotion, and that to be a real man, one must be brave and strong. Every situation we are put in presents an opportunity for us to boldly act as we are, or to cower in fear and pretend we are someone else to fit in. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be liked. The problem comes when we let fear manipulate us into being something we’re not. The world has to accept us for who we are and what we have to offer. It’s time we stop looking to others for how to think and behave, and act for ourselves instead.