I remember a few years ago sitting at a local hotshot restaurant with a group of women I barely knew.
Before I really understood how to be successful at these kinds of dates as an introvert, they were the thing that I saw people do on TV, so I thought they were a piece of American adult life.
And I mean, they can be.
But for me, walking into a restaurant that served food that I probably wasn’t going to like (I don’t do fancy well), dressed in clothes that I felt had to “impress” (I’m a jeans-and-a-hoodie kind of casual) with a bunch of people that I didn’t know well, led to huge amounts of anxiety.
And even worse, those interactions always led to me feeling depleted and frustrated from not enjoying these built-in aspects of adulting that everyone else seems to do so well.
Nowadays, I know that I can set myself up for success.
The keys for me are: smaller groups of people that I know fairly well, at fairly casual restaurants. In jeans.
Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash
Back then we had just recently moved to the Charleston area, and I was still trying to find my place. I had two young kids that needed friends, and I needed someone other than my (exceedingly patient and wonderful) husband to have grown people conversations with.
But even more than that, since having kids, I hadn’t yet taken the time to figure out what my goals and values were for my own life since children had arrived - which naturally shook all of my expectations of what life was supposed to be about.
So I walked into those interactions and conversations trying to be the best version of what I thought everyone expected me to be.
I faked it until I realized how little I actually knew about myself.
I realized my opinions on children’s products, and food, and television shows, and politics - they were shaped by the things that other people told me about them.
And if I felt myself disagreeing with what they told me?
To me, that was just more proof that there was something wrong with me.
Do you know what happens to your self-esteem when you fake it for so long that you forget who you are? But even more than that - you hate the person that you’ve created?
What Authenticity Is - And Isn’t
Authenticity has become this catch-all, sales-y word that has kind of lost its meaning over the past couple of years.
I think it’s interesting that people can market “authenticity” as though it’s something that you can put on a shelf and looks the same on everyone.
Because that is - legitimately - the opposite of authenticity.
Being authentic doesn’t mean that you do things the way that everyone else does. It means that you have taken the time to figure out what is important.
And what it means to your life that those things are important.
And once you have figured those things out, you no longer have to fake it at brunch. Because you will know that you’d rather spend time with your people over wine and a game night.
And there’s not a thing wrong with any of those choices.
No longer faking it means that we can be confident in the choices that we make. We make those choices because they help us to live a wholehearted life, doing things that we love with people that we love.
Comparison Steals More Than Joy
The problem with faking it is that you lose touch, just as I did, with all of the things that you value. It’s your joy, but it also derails you from the life that you want to live.
When we set up expectations for ourselves based on what other people think, we essentially begin trying to live their life for them.
The problem with that is that even though their life looks gorgeous from the outside - I don’t care who they are - they aren’t exempt from pain.
Maybe you don’t know how deep their pain is because they haven’t shared it with you. Maybe you do have an idea - but the bottom line is that even gorgeous lives have their wounds.
Don’t live someone else’s life.
Somewhere I read that “the grass is greener where you water it” - and this holds true in every situation I can think of.
If equal time and effort is put towards moving your own life in a positive direction as comparing and complaining, you’d be ten steps closer to the life you want.
Ready to move yourself forward and live your own life? Need some support? Reach out! You can schedule with me directly using my online scheduler (linked right here!) or by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brooke Williams, MA, LPC, is a licensed professional counselor serving South Carolina. You can read more about her here.