If you think about it, there are two main reasons why people betray themselves. 1) for approval and 2) to belong or fit in. It can make you feel like you walk around wearing a mask. Neither feeling is generally worth the loss of self that it costs you.
Acting for Approval
Everybody enjoys approval. We all want to feel that we are good, competent, kind, and valued. However, when we need it, it becomes problematic because the power over our happiness always lies in someone else’s hands.
The person wielding the power can feel manipulated or obligated to care for you. That can feel like a burden. And you can feel slighted when you don’t get approval when and how you want it. Both people can end up resenting the other.
What you can do instead is meet your own need for significance. Do what you enjoy. Build competency in something that matters to you. Be a person who displays the values that you admire. When every day is a healthy expression of you, you feel validated automatically. Outsider validation becomes a bonus, not your life’s blood.
Acting to Belong
Humans are social creatures. We need to belong. However, when belonging means conforming, the price becomes too high. If the price is your authenticity, belonging kills the spirit.
Here are some examples of acting to belong:
- I attend a school because that’s where my parents want me to go.
- I wear certain clothes because that’s what my friends wear.
- When people in my circle say they believe in X, I agree even though I either am not sure about it or completely disagree.
- I’m easily persuaded to change my mind.
- When I don’t know what to do, I ask someone in authority and follow that advice.
Acting to belong is actually hardwired into the human experience. Humans are social creatures. We need to belong to our families and society to continue to exist. So being agreeable is not a bad thing. It helps us to connect.
Yet when your personal ethics or beliefs go against the group, and you don’t stand up, it leads to self betrayal. This is actually how the Nazis were able to kill so many Jews. Nobody stood up and said, “Hey, wait a minute. What are we doing here?” While your personal betrayals are probably never going to be that huge, losing your soul one conforming choice at a time still doesn’t feel good. It can lead to a life that you don’t recognize.
Here Are Some Healthier Ways to Create a Sense of Belonging:
- Most people lean towards seeing differences or similarities. If you’re a differences person, look for similarities between you and others. It’s an easy mind shift that make a huge difference.
- If you exclude people based on differences, stop. This creates a whole lot of ways for you to not belong and damages your relationship to the whole.
- Find common threads and nurture them. For example, if you find out that someone has children, have a conversation about children. Then use that as a springboard to find other similarities. This will enhance your sameness and make your differences matter less, thus increasing your sense of belonging.
- Be nonjudgmental. Judgments create rifts and dislike. Being open to new experiences creates growth opportunities and positive experiences.
- Practice radical acceptance. Acceptance doesn’t mean agreement or condoning. It just indicates a willingness to see the other person as worthy even if you disagree on some things. It’s okay for people to be different.
- Be pleasant. It’s easier for others to want to be around you if you’re pleasant.
You don’t have to betray yourself to belong. You’re okay as you are. So is everyone else. You were born to bring your gifts into the world. If you diminish your light to conform, the world loses out on your blessing. So shine!