With the passing of Robbin Williams, I can’t help but wonder if he ever had the chance to be his whole self. Did he have a hunger to be recognized for more than his comic genius? Was he starving for community, to be seen for his whole self? I will never know.
We tend to categorize everything as humans. It is our nature. But what happens when praise or recognition or categorization makes us feel trapped or marginalized? Can you think of a person, in your life, whose personality or specific talent overshadows the rest of their abilities? Can recognizing a person for the same thing, over and over, make them feel pressured to behave a certain way or feel like the reset of their being is unimportant?
I can’t answer this question for anyone else but myself. What I can offer is this:
1. Really think about the praise you are about to give. Is it the same thing you’ve always said to someone? What else can you say? Think about this person as a whole being. Say something new.
2. Promote yourself in a new way. It there a skill people don’t often see or know to recognize? Start talking about this more. Give your skill (or part of you that needs air) some light.
3. Have the courage to stop performing to other’s expectations. This is not an endorsement to be a jerk or slack off. This is a chance to stop covering your true self.
For example, do you feel pressure to be funny all.the.time? What about feeling pressure to be a great listener, the person people always tell about their problems? Does the pressure stem from how people introduce you to others? “This is my friend. He’s hilarious” or “You are always the best to talk to. Thank you.” Humor and listening are wonderful traits. But the listener needs to be heard too. The funny-man needs to be free to express other emotions. These “unhelpful praises: might be causing you harm , especially if you internalize them as a non-recognition of your other attributes.
It is scary to pull back the mask. What if no one likes us? What if people leave us or abandon us? What would happen if I loose my job or family? Give people a little credit. Give people a chance to know the whole you. There is always a natural ebb and flow to relationships. You might find some people are not interested in the whole you–because it doesn’t serve them in their life. It has nothing to do with you. People leave for their reasons.
Exposing your true self opens an opportunity for you to attract new people, who hold no preconceived notions about you or your abilities. Forge new relationships. Reach out to others as you courageously show your true colors. Feed the hunger you feel by identifying what part of you is under-served, and then actively feed it by loving it yourself and introducing it to others.