For most of my life, I didn’t want to be simply good at something; I wanted to be the best.
The best daughter. Sister. Singer. Teacher. Wife. Mother. Friend.
The problem with trying to be the best at something is that best is highly subjective.
It’s an ever-moving goal post.
So I shifted from trying to be the best at something to becoming someone’s favorite. At least then I’d have concrete proof in the form of these simple words:
YOU ARE MY FAVORITE, JULIE!
Favorite blogger. Favorite author. Favorite writers’ group member. Favorite human.
(Small goals, right?)
I loved any positive feedback, but I always craved more more more. And any feedback that suggested I’d failed was devastating.
On that note, is there ever enough praise or reassurance for someone who wants more more more?
(The answer is no.)
Over the years, I’ve done a lot of nice and generous things to prove that I’m worthy of love. I’ve also done some not-nice and selfish things to prove I’m worthy of love.
Then I spent a lot of time in denial about this—rationalizing, arguing, defending. Shaming myself. Forgiving myself.
As it turns out, that does not feel good.
Right now (like literally this exact minute, and also earlier in the day while I was out walking the puppy) I’ve been working on believing that being genuine with people is more important than being the best, or becoming their favorite, or hogging all the love.
For that matter, bending myself into a pretzel that is NOT JULIE in the hopes that allofthepeople will love me doesn’t actually serve anyone.
When people are busy liking NOT JULIE, they’re being deceived, and the REAL JULIE isn’t being liked at all.
Of course it’s human nature to seek approval, to search for evidence that we belong. Our ancestors’ survival depended on their belonging. To be rejected by the group was a death sentence.
(Yikes. That’s heavy stuff.)
To this day, a part of us clings to that instinct. We’ve got these deeply internalized fears that if we aren’t picked—first and/or above others—we might be the one left behind.
So we can try not to care about the number of stars we receive in a review, or the likes we get on a post, or the comments and shares and support we feel from the broader world, but…
Each like is a dopamine hit.
Silence breeds concern.
And flat-out negative feedback can be crushing.
No wonder we humans are kind of a mess.
(Unless you’re one of those rare souls who’s always confident. If you walk around feeling inherently worthy and valued, that’s wonderful. Please carry on. I’m not even being sarcastic.)
As for me, I’m a work in progress, hoping to calm that animal instinct.
Of course I’ll still be a nice person. Kindness is in my nature, and generosity brings me joy. I guess this is selfish in its own way. I’m nice to you—you feel good—I feel good.
It’s a chain reaction of win-win.
But I’m also going to be REAL more often than I’ve been before, to say no when I mean no, to be honest about what I want to embrace.
The desire to constantly please others can be paralyzing, and it takes up too much time. I need to spend more of mine in pursuits that please me.
Does this sound selfish? I sure hope not. Because it might be how I need to show up in the world from now on.
Not as the favorite. Not as the best. Not perfectly.
I hope you’ll stick around anyway.
(This is the workspace I squeezed in at the top of our stairs, with stuff that inspires me crowding the desk and taped to the walls above.
Not pictured: the puppy trying to crawl in my lap to apologize. She smells like fertilizer after digging in the hydrangea bed we planted yesterday.)
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