I think when you present yourself to the world in such a way as to not be disliked, you will be largely successful. Few people will dislike you, and most will in fact like you, though it will be in a lukewarm sort of way. If, however, you move through life with the boldness it takes to be fully yourself, or as much of yourself as you know how to be at this point in your journey, then many people will dislike you. They may even hate you. But the people who like you will do so with loyalty and intensity–nothing lukewarm about it.
I once gave a presentation at the Montana Environmental Education Association’s annual conference. Roughly five minutes after my presentation was scheduled to begin, with my stomach in knots of nervousness and not a single participant yet in the room, I was sure I’d made an embarrassing mistake. Why did I think I should plan this talk? Why was I so arrogant as to think I’d have anything to say that others would want to hear? And why did I drive three hours to say it and bring Aaron with me? (Truthfully, he came so we could go skiing afterwards.) Moments later the room began to fill. People were interested in hearing what I had to say, they’d just gotten out late from the previous session. I settled in, found my stride, and did the best I could exploring the subject matter. I put myself out there. I was me. I was Ashley the Environmental Educator. I was brave. And I was successful.
You may recall my former cyber crush, whom I’ve mentioned before. A man much like my husband in that he wears shirts with collars, goes to church, and rescues trafficked children. Oh wait, no, he’s nothing at all like my husband. Especially when he discusses here his aversion to criticism yet his desire to be fearlessly courageous, and therefore, open to it.
You know what you have to do if, like me, you want to ensure you’re NEVER called “Idiot of the Month?”
Nothing at all. You live your life as safely as you can. You never put yourself out there. You never write something that people can criticize, you never stick to your principles, you never suggest radical innovation. You never try anything new. You never risk failing. You never set out to make an impact on the world.
But when you strive to be hotter than lukewarm, you drive three hours to deliver a presentation that might be a total flop, you show your true colors and your true convictions, you will make a difference, and you will find admiration whether you look outside your door or just into the bathroom mirror.
“You are you. Now isn’t that pleasant?” -Dr. Seuss