Have you ever noticed the version of your personality that comes front and center when you’re making new friends or in an unfamiliar social setting? Are you funny, charming, quiet, awkward, or serious? Do you find that you have a go-to persona that you pick up when you’re with new people? Well, I’ve been on a quest recently to understand why, for me, it is so much easier to be deep and serious when developing new relationships rather than goofy and lighthearted.
You might think, well, that’s not really a problem is it?! For a long time I didn’t see it as problematic either until I realized I was ONLY allowing that part of my personality to shine and forcing everything else into the background. I started to become painfully aware of how one-dimensional I felt and the fact that I was hiding aspects of my personality out of fear.
But fear of what?
I found myself in a situation a couple months ago with a group of girls I normally meet with in a more Bible study-like setting where being deep and serious is the norm. However, this time we were just sitting around drinking coffee with no agenda and no serious spiritual business to discuss. Normally, I would thrive in this setting but seeing I didn’t know this group of girls THAT well at the time, I found myself wanting to crawl out of my skin with awkwardness.
My inner dialogue sounded a lot like… “What is your problem?! You’ve been meeting with these girls for months now. Why did you feel so insecure and awkward right now? Snap out of it! Be normal!”
Not long after this experience I was talking with my counselor and I explained the situation to her and expressed how strange I felt. She asked questions, I attempted to answer, and by the end of the session, I said, “hmmm, maybe when I’m goofy, fun, and lighthearted I feel like I have nothing to offer….but when I’m deep and wise I feel like I have something meaningful to bring.”
My counselor just smiled, and being a counselor myself I knew by her expression I had hit the target. I said, “shoot, that’s it huh?” And in perfect counselor fashion she smiled again and said, “why don’t you just reflect on that and see what else you find.”
As an enneagram type 2 (the helper) one of the biggest things I battle is “the need to be needed.” Without realizing it I’m driven by needing others to need me to feel worthwhile. Apparently I had learned somewhere along the line that the way people will most need me is if I present the deep, serious, and wise part of myself to them. In contrast, if I offer the the goofy, lighthearted, and fun part of me they may not need that. Thus making it very risky to bring that part of me into my relationships.
Well, because if people don’t get something meaningful out of their time with me than that means I’M not meaningful. So, the most guaranteed way for people to gain something meaningful from me (and for me to feel meaningful) is to be deep, serious, and wise.
Now, please know this was all happening on a subconscious level and I HAD NO IDEA I was doing this. The interesting thing is that my care and concern for the lives of others, and having meaningful conversation was all coming from a genuine place, but what I didn’t know is that it was feeding a deficit, in other words, feeding an insecurity.
Once the lightbulb went off and I realized I don’t have to be driven by my need to be needed, I also understood I don’t have to be limited in what part of me I bring into relationships. I don’t have to be controlled by needing to have something to offer others in order to be meaningful and accepted.
Brené Brown says in Braving the Wilderness: “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.”
I’m realizing that true belonging doesn’t come from being needed by others or having something meaningful to offer them. When I don’t give others the power to determine if I belong than they won’t have the power to say that I don’t.
Then I have nothing to fear. I’m free. Free to be goofy or wise, to be right or wrong, succeeding or falling behind, lighthearted or deep or absolutely ridiculous. Either way it doesn’t matter. Like Brené says, “true belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.”
I’m not sure what lie is driving you and keeping so many beautiful parts of you in the shadows. But let’s identify the lies and wage war on whatever is keeping us from living in the freedom of being fully us and therefore fully alive. Lets be who we are. ALL of who we are.