I want to learn all I can, live as wisely as I can, and savor every moment on the journey.
Lately I have noticed that I tend to act differently—worse—when I’m with a certain group of people, with whom I am working on a particular volunteer project. I like each of these people as individuals and share many values and beliefs with them, but I don’t fit in with them socially. And that’s okay with me: I have other friends, and I don’t need the social approval of these people in order to feel okay about myself. But I seem to somehow forget this when I’m with them. In the moment, I feel compelled to cross our social divide by changing my own persona (that is, the set of personality characteristics and character habits that I’ve chosen because they feel right for me) to try to mesh more with their personas. And this causes problems.
Last time, for example, I got caught up in the effort of trying to join in with their general conversation and social banter, and before I could stop myself, I found myself saying something negative about one of them who wasn’t there. I instantly felt terrible! That’s not the kind of person I am, or want to be. I guess I was subconsciously trying to fit in with them, and that took me outside of my own true self.
Maybe this is what it means to say someone “brings out the worst in you.”
This situation reminds me of my preteen-years observation that I acted differently with different people all the time—but that was because I wanted to please everyone and because I was still figuring out who I was; I’m pretty sure most of us go through that at some point. Now, in adulthood (hooray!), I know who I am, and pleasing people doesn’t really matter to me because I like who I am. Still, I seem to take on a different persona when I’m with this particular group of people, and I don’t like that. I want to stay true to who I am. But how?
One obvious solution is to simply stop being around them. Maybe I will, eventually, but right now I believe in our cause too much to let myself be derailed from it.
A possible part-solution might be to find myself a task I can focus on during the events, in order to escape pure socializing. Photography is always a good way to accomplish that goal; I’ve used it in similar situations in the past. That might help for a while, at least.
But I still need ways to cope inwardly. We can’t always escape people who bring out the worst in us—like when they are our family members. I’ve faced that, actually, come to think of it. I’ve dealt with it (and am still dealing with it) by much reflection as well as trial and error. Some things that have helped me in that situation:
• Coaching myself ahead of time to remember my goals
• When I’m with them, finding ways to help myself relax (knitting works well) and, thus, be better able to keep a hold on myself
• Giving myself permission to not try to please and fit in with them, but to be my own true self (beyond basic good manners)
So I’m going to initiate those coping techniques (and any others I might discover—perhaps you have suggestions?) from now on as I spend time with these people. I want to commit unapologetically and consistently to my own persona, not anyone else’s. That’s my goal, anyway. We’ll see how it goes!