Have you ever lied about an odd hobby you have? Or maybe your job status or your height? Or even just avoided putting yourself in a situation in which you knew you were likely to fail? Why did you do that?
Short answer — because you were embarrassed.
The embarrassment comes from trying to control how other people perceive you. So instead of just showing the world your nerdy hobby, say, that you collect beanie babies, you go, “I don’t want people to think I’m a dweeb,” and pretend that you don’t have one.
The same process plays out with hobbies as it does with mistakes that we’ve made, areas in which we’re weak, and areas in which we might get publicly rejected.
We hide what we don’t want people to know about us. We conform to what other people would like us to be. But it doesn’t have to be the answer because there is another more empowering mindset.
Instead of focusing on other people’s perceptions and feeling embarrassed about what they may think, focus on whether or not you live up to your own values.
For instance, if you do have a killer beanie baby collection, you obviously value something about it — maybe it’s the nostalgia or maybe it’s just a quirk that started when your grandma gave you one twenty years ago.
Either way, if you value your own opinions, you won’t try to hide the collection no matter what anyone else thinks of it. Or maybe you have a crush that you’re thinking of asking out.
Focusing on other people’s perceptions of you would stop you dead in your tracks. After all, what if other people found out and laughed at you for getting turned down?
But what if you instead focused on your own values like doing the courageous thing or being honest even when it’s uncomfortable? You would ask that person out.
Now maybe you’d go on a date, maybe you wouldn’t but either way, you’d have lived up to your own values and no matter what anyone else said or did, you could feel proud of yourself.
The point is that when you focus on living up to your own values, you never have to feel embarrassed again. It doesn’t matter whether you trip up an escalator, get fired from a job, beat up in a fight, or blown off by a girl or a boy that you like — none of that stuff is pleasant but you don’t need the double penalty of being embarrassed by those things.
Your attempts to live up to your values are all that matter so take responsibility, try to correct course, and move on. And if you have traits that embarrass you whether it’s your looks, your height, your age — well, you can’t control those things and you can’t live up to a value that you can’t control.
So even though you might not like something about yourself, own it. You will immediately feel relieved when you accept yourself the way you are.
Now, this isn’t an excuse to simply give up on improving yourself in the name of self-acceptance. Some things are worth a moment of embarrassment because they remind us that we’re not living up to our values.
So in the case of maybe having fallen out of shape, a moment of embarrassment is worth it to get you back to a healthy lifestyle or a moment of embarrassment in saying your job title can be worth it if it inspires you to hustle to land your dream job.
The point is to get clear on your values than live in line with them. Let other people’s perception of you fade into the background noise. Now, this doesn’t mean you ignore other people completely to the point of becoming a self-absorbed jerk.
For instance, if one of your values is to be kind and you keep getting feedback that you’re hurting people’s feelings, you probably need to make an adjustment. But just remember there are 7 billion people with 7 billion different opinions — you cannot please them all.
So when you take feedback from others, focus on doing the right thing rather than the thing that pleases everyone else. In short, stop trying to be okay with everyone. Stop trying to control the opinions of strangers.
Instead, figure out your values and live by them. Be your unadulterated self all the time regardless of the audience. Make mistakes fail publicly, get laughed at — you’ve got nothing to lose and as long as you’re trying to do the right thing, you’ve got no reason to ever feel bad about it.