It all started in middle school.
I moved from the safety of my childhood home to another small town. I began attending a combined middle and high school in sixth grade. That was the year I suddenly became worried about being accepted by my fellow classmates and the upper class.
As a child, I mostly dressed in clothes bought from the boys’ section, but I decided the others might think me weird.
My style wasn’t the only thing I changed. I changed my passions from skateboarding and sports to more “country” things. I also converted to other foreign pleasures such as dirt-track racing and mudding. I wanted to be accepted, so I changed every part of myself. I stopped writing and working on photography. My passion for the ocean disintegrated.
Then, in eighth grade, I decided to start finding myself again, and did so by pursuing one of my dreams: surfing. As soon as I began, I discovered another passion: nature conservancy. Throughout ninth grade, I discovered more and more about the person I used to be. I began listening to the music I once enjoyed. Meditation became my favorite thing to do—guided meditation, to be exact.
As I reverted back to the old me, I suddenly became the elephant in the room. People would whisper, “I think she’s a hippy or something; I don’t know. She’s kind of weird.”
“Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner.”
~ Lao Tzu
As a 15-year-old, I thought my world was ending—that is, until I found myself in the ocean, once again, all alone and forced to face the real me. I clearly remember thinking, This is exhausting. Why can’t people just accept me?
That’s when it hit me.
People will always have an opinion of you. We might be too spiritual, or not spiritual enough; we have no passion, or we have too much passion; we shove our beliefs down people’s throats, or we don’t speak our minds enough. No matter what we do, we cannot please everyone.
Once we understand that notion, our lives become much less stressful. We should learn that, as humans, we are each made uniquely; that very uniqueness is something to embrace in ourselves and others.
The first step to doing this is to do what we love. Be it drawing, writing, singing, hiking or anything else, we should do these things shamelessly.
Step two is to stop overthinking as we do what we love. (I know, I know, it’s easier said than done.)
Chances are, not everyone we meet is judging us negatively. But even if they are, the energy we focus on caring takes away from the energy we could be using to put our best foot forward. If we surround ourselves with accepting people, they will rub off on us, and we’ll learn to love ourselves and live as we want.
Let’s focus on the bigger picture.
As we worry and stress about what others think of us, our lives become less enjoyable. Instead of wearing that outfit that we love, we worry about what others may think when we walk out the door. We don’t try that yoga class, because we might not be as flexible as that lady a few rows in front of us.
Every time we decide to not do something (or do something differently) for the sake of what someone else might think, we live shallowly, trying to follow the status quo. Living like this, we may miss out on our destiny.
Whether we’re meant to be a yoga teacher, fashion designer or housewife/husband, if we don’t act like ourselves, we’re watching the life we’re meant to live blow right past us.
Let’s be ourselves, build a life we love and be proud to tell others about our journey.
Author: Sydney Hynson
Image: Karma Surf Retreat/Flickr
Apprentice Editor: Devin Mudcat Kelly; Editor: Toby Israel