Be careful. Be good. Be nice. The instructions we receive from parents and caregivers from our earliest days are rooted in a desire for our safety and socially acceptable behavior. They repeat these directives over...and over...and over...until we eventually internalize them and behave according to prescribed norms.
But long after the formal guidance ceases, we continue to look for cues as to how we "should be." We seek approval - consciously or otherwise - from family, friends, and colleagues - and strive to fit the expectations of a particular situation or setting.
It is natural, even necessary, to focus on the interests of others in conversation - and I know I am not alone in tailoring my presentation to my audience. When surrounded by fellow parents at a park or playgroup, I put on my mama hat and talk about kiddos and their antics. When with friends from my Hill days, I dust off my political cap for a discussion about current events. When with yoga clients, I don my teaching beret, offering instruction and guidance. The danger comes if and when we begin to deny certain parts of ourselves for the convenience of others and consequently lose sight of who lies beneath our hats.
Have you ever stopped yourself from contributing to a conversation because you were worried about what others might think? Have you ever missed an opportunity to connect by over-analyzing how your overture might be received? Have you ever held back part of your true self out of concern for what kind of impression it would make?
A new year is an opportunity to do things differently, and I am naming 2015 the year to "just be..." Won't you join me?