I wrote a bit about belonging some weeks ago. And although I wrote as honestly as I could, about my own self, I was surprised to learn many others share my thoughts.
There are times when, after having said something particularly vulnerable, I look hard at myself in the mirror.
Often, I wonder out loud if that moment of vulnerability is going to help me or haunt me. I’d dredge up the past, digging up those times that did end up hurting me.
My friend in the mirror would always be just as honest with her opinion as I was.
“Perhaps,” she’d say, “those times are worth it. And if rejection should happen again, it shall end up teaching you one lesson you’ll need to learn over and over— doing the right thing is mostly never the popular thing. But then, being popular may likely mean you are selling out. Being yourself matters, even if it only matters to you.”
What is it about being well-liked that can be so intoxicating? Why do we willingly hide the parts that make us unique, so others don’t have to try too hard to get acquainted with us? Why would we rather be well-liked by many than well-known by a few?
On social media, why do we feel validated when people “like” the stuff we put out, knowing full well how easy it is to hit “like” without giving the matter deeper thought? It’s flattery, and yet, we build our day’s mood around it.
Maybe it’s because it’s so much easier to wade in the shallow end than to have to dive deeper and risk drowning.
I am not an adventurous eater. There are some people I know who would be surprised to hear that, because I eat some pretty weird stuff.
As an immigrant, that pretty much means a lot of the food we cook can be considered quite strange by the majority. But I grew up eating those dishes, so to me, they’re normal.
My normal, other people’s abnormal.
[Other people’s normal, my abnormal.]
Korean food is popular where I live. I wasn’t a big fan at first. I didn’t like the smell of kimchi, and I’m not into spicy food.
But my boys like Korean food.
And so gradually, I was converted.
Now we eat out at a Korean restaurant at least once a month, and I always look forward to it. We also learned to cook a few dishes. We even have kimchi in our fridge, which I used to not allow a few years ago.
My new normal.
It’s so much harder to try something new because I am naturally inclined toward sticking to what I know.
It’s so much harder to be different, because no one likes being the strange one.
But as with food, trying something new can be rewarding.
And being different can be freeing.
Maybe my friend in the mirror is right. It has never been about popularity. It’s simply about the story you want to write, and keeping that plot going.
Which means sticking to what you value, not what others like. And most of the time, those values would look abnormal to the people on the sidelines.
But those who matter will take a step forward, and give your abnormal a shot. And even if they don’t like it, they’ll respect you enough to accept it.
It’s easy enough to respond to that.