By Barbara Meyers On Jun 18 2009, 1:00 pm
“I’d rather be loathed for who I am than loved for who I am not.” While flipping television channels the other night I ran across Dr. Wayne W. Dyer on the local public television station speaking to an audience about his latest book. This quote is his not mine, but it resonated with me and stuck in my head.
As an amateur psychologist, I’ve read lots of books on the subject, particularly self-improvement. I think the better you understand yourself, the better you are able to deal with other people. I’ve always been interested in what makes people tick. If I weren’t writing fiction, I might have gone into psychology. Except I don’t think I could do counseling. I’d have no patience for people who whine about their problems but do nothing to change their own behavior. I learned a few things from a therapist though, and I think she set me on a path to seek a better understanding of myself and my own behavior. One thing she shared with me that I never forgot was this quote from Albert Einstein: “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
As I’ve aged and studied and grown, I like to think I’ve become more my authentic self. I spent too much of my youth trying to be someone I wasn’t instead of being myself. It’s easy to look back now and see why I did that. I believe much of it comes from childhood. I never felt acceptable the way I was. As a child I wanted to please my parents, so I tried to do or be whatever would win their approval. If you feel you’re unacceptable the way you are, and you crave attention, love and approval from the most significant people in your life, you will attempt to change yourself in order to get what you need. But it seemed no matter how much I changed myself, I was never going to win the approval I sought. This is a pattern I repeated into adulthood and practiced on other people without success.
It’s taken me a long time to become my authentic self, to be me and to be okay with me. I stopped doing things I didn’t want to do and trying to behave in a way that wasn’t natural to me. I also gave up being made to feel guilty about my behavior, especially by my family of origin. If a feeling isn’t there, I refuse to pretend that it is. I am done having pseudo relationships. You can respect people without loving them. You can be civil without opening yourself up to people who will only wound you.
I think when you are who you are, you tend to draw people to you without any effort. You don’t need anyone else’s approval. You don’t need them to like you. In fact, you don’t care about other people’s opinions of you. As long as you’re okay with yourself, you’ve got it made. And that makes other people like you more. Probably because you are also not expecting them to be anything other than what they are. You find them acceptable as is.
I wish it hadn’t taken me so long to figure this out. I used to have a little plaque on my kitchen wall that said, “Children are not things to be molded but people to be unfolded.” That’s how I tried to raise my kids. I never wanted them to think they had to be something they weren’t to please me.
Think how many people in the world aren’t being genuine. Some in your own life. Maybe even you. Politics, in particular, is riddled with those who can’t possibly be authentic. They are playing a role, seeking approval, presenting themselves in a way they’re truly not. When the media comes across politicians who are their genuine selves, they are seen as threatening for some reason, aren’t they? They are usually mocked and vilified in the press. I wonder if they also prefer to be loathed for who they are rather than loved for who they’re not. I can’t say. I only know that I would.