I’m a Weirdo and You’re a Weirdo Too
I’ve been hearing a lot lately about authenticity, being real, genuine. And I’m all for it – in fact, I consider it one of my strengths. Actually, I’m just not very good at keeping my thoughts to myself, hiding my emotions, applying make-up, and keeping ink off my clothes. When you meet me, you get ME in all my graceless, grinning, sugar-loving glory.
Most of my friends are genuine too. They tell me how they really feel and what they really think. They aren’t trying to impress anyone. I’m not saying we run around blurting everything that pops into our heads and not practicing good personal hygiene, but we are not trying to be anyone but ourselves. And here’s what I’ve discovered – the more of yourself you can let others see, the more of the right people and opportunities you will attract.
I was recently at a conference where I met loads of people. I was talking with one new acquaintance quite politely until somehow I mentioned my weird (I think I even said, “I know this is weird, but…..”) watching of true crime TV. Yep, Dateline, On the Case with Paula Zahn, even Who the Bleep Did I Marry? And you know what happened? Instead of writing me off, his face lit up and we launched into a huge discussion of which shows were our favorites. If I hadn’t taken the risk of disclosing my weirdness, I would have never found out that he was a weirdo too! Instead of just passing by at a conference, we really connected.
We hide ourselves because we don’t want to seem stupid or goofy or be embarrassed. We don’t want to seem less than everyone else. But who you really are is what allows people to relate to you. Perfect people are intimidating. Angelina Jolie and Victoria Beckham come to mind.
Now I’m not saying you should start letting your freak flag fly at every opportunity. We do live in a civilized society. (If you watch Southern Fried Homicide, you may come to question that.) But you can bring more of yourself into your interactions and you’ll experience more success as a result. Here’s how:
- Stop lying to yourself. You can’t be real with everyone else if you aren’t even real with yourself. Some common examples: you are not an athlete if you haven’t played sports since high school. 40 is not the new 30 – 40 is 40. Your kids aren’t as perfect as you think they are. Your married lover is not leaving his wife. I think most of us know the truth, being genuine is accepting it.
- Share, but don’t over share. Let’s say I had mentioned my weird true crime watching and no one responded (or worse, everyone recoiled in horror at my low brow entertainment choices). If I kept talking about it, I really would be a weirdo. Not everyone will connect with everything you share and that’s okay. If they do, you can share more. If they don’t, let it go.
- Appropriateness and timing are key. Being genuine is about finding your tribe – the right friends, clients, associates. It is not just about revealing everything about yourself to everyone. You don’t walk up to a stranger and say, “You know, I’m bummed out by these spider veins I’m getting on my legs.” That would be random and definitely weird. But if you are having a conversation about getting older and you are brave enough to share that, you are being genuine, real. And it allows the other person to share their concerns. (If they have no concerns, they are perfect and clearly not genuine. Or they are 20 and the timing’s not right. Give ’em 20 more years and they’ll be right there with you. Of course, by then your spider veins will be lost in your wrinkles and you won’t care.
- Be brave. The world needs more authenticity and truth and less celebrity and political correctness. If you are being genuine, someone may not agree with you or like you (but someone else may adore you!). Someone might get their feelings hurt. Every advance we make is because someone was brave enough to tell us what we were doing wrong or how we could do something better. That takes guts. And I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have someone tell me the truth, even if it hurts, than lie to me. Be brave, speak your truth! The world needs to hear it.
- Share the warts. I used to blog regularly (now I’m lucky if I get this newsletter out three times a year) and the posts that were the most popular were my bad dating stories. Or when I talked abut how scared I was to get my hip replacement. I’m not encouraging regaling others with your latest health problems or your crummy love life; I’m saying showing your weaknesses lets other people in. When a dog rolls over and shows its weak underbelly, you can’t help but rub it. When it shows its strength, it’s scary. There are times when you share your strengths, but sharing your quirks, your weaknesses, your silliness – that’s what makes you real. Confessing you ate an entire box of Krispy Crème donuts is easier to relate to than your recent completion of a marathon 20 minutes after giving birth. (Donuts – yay!)
- Don’t confuse being genuine with being complete. Being genuine is a way of travel, not a destination. Being genuine today might mean you joke about your struggles in school. Being genuine in ten years might mean you joke about the gang in the NASA lab you run.
- Don’t be fake. Or if you are going to be, admit it and embrace it. Dolly Parton’s appearance is about as fake as you can get. But she freely admits it and jokes about it. Thus she’s genuine! Fake is disliking someone, but sucking up to them when you want something. Fake is when your words and actions don’t match. Fake is never revealing anything about yourself, but expecting others to do so. There are a thousand little signals that give fake away. We just know it and it repels. Authenticity attracts. I think what it boils down to is this – I want you to be yourself with me so I can be myself with you.