I feel the urge to write, but all I can think about is why I haven’t been writing for the last four months. I was on a roll. It was all going so well. And then a friend gave me some very mild, very nice constructive criticism and I simply stopped. I suddenly had nothing to say. I went quiet.
Why? Well honestly, I hadn’t thought to ask that until very recently. I’ve just finished reading Mark Manson’s “The Subtle Art of Not Giving F*ck” and in the middle where he talks about the values that we’re running that don’t serve us I realized the most destructive pattern I’ve been running more most of my life: The desperate need to be popular.
I still need it. I need to be liked, admired, remembered, acknowledged. I go back in my mind tracking the source of this need, and while I can’t find a specific BIG moment there are definitely moments of feeling not quite “it.”
In primary school, I played second fiddle (or so I felt) to my best friend. She was perfect in every way, and I was not quite her. Later we moved and the group of girls at my new school wrote a letter to me. One of them handed it to during break. I was talking to another friend, but she graciously said, “Read it.” I did and started to cry. The whole group of about 10 girls unanimously broke up with me. In the next period (since I couldn’t stop crying) they all recanted the letter and took me back. I knew it wasn’t real, they did too, but it was easier than being a loser, so I accepted their apologies. I still do not know what I did that was so appalling.
I, mostly unsuccessfully, continued to search for my people again during school. I think I must have been quite guarded after these experiences. In high school, I met another group of girls. They actually did accept me (I think) but by this point, the fear of not fitting in or being enough had taken hold and if another shinier group called, I was there.
At one point I actually betrayed a very close friend in a very demeaning way for the simple reason that I could not face being alone again. I had to be in with the group.
These are just some highlights, but the just is that I’ve never felt like I had that magic, that magnetic essence that is “it.” That one elusive quality that makes you irresistible to anyone who meets you: Instant, powerful, enigmatic popularity.
In Manson’s book, he speaks about Values (I know, shocking for a self-help book.) The interesting part is that he speaks less about creating or choosing values that we want and more about how to recognize the values that are not as great. The ones we’re already running and that are already causing havoc in our lives.
As I gobbled up this book and went about my days, I realized how much of my life I live worrying about what other people expect of me. While I know that I cannot control what others think, I still spend a lot of time trying to maintain a particular image in their minds. An image of a girl who is effortless and easy-going and OMG she is also beautiful. So, I apply the same facade every day. I keep up appearances, as they used to say, all in an effort to be effortless. (Oh, the irony.)
As I write this, I suppose there should be a turning point right about now. A moment where I tell you that I’ve turned it all around and this is how you can too. But the truth is that this realization is new and raw, and I have no advice. What I do have is a plan.
My plan is to stay vigilant about my thoughts. To do my best to notice the difference between doing and acting in a way that is for others versus myself. From there, I aim to choose what serves me rather than my ego’s need to be accepted by other egos.
I hope I can because I believe this core, deep hurt has manifested into a value and metric that has kept me up at night, driven some very destructive behaviour and caused me to stray away from who I am.
I am not popular, and I don’t care… or at least I am trying not to.