Throughout my lifetime, I’ve always tried to be polite, respectful, and kind. I think most people share these same basic principles. However, when these virtues are misconstrued into political correctness and people pleasing, we face wicked consequences. When we’re preoccupied with worry about what other people will think or say about us, we can’t fully be ourselves. We desperately try to fit into the mold we believe is expected of us. We conform. We compromise. We hide our true personality and character or we reveal just a little bit to see if we’ll be accepted or rejected before letting it all hang out. Our fear keeps us from being REAL….but what are we truly afraid of? We fear OFFENDING someone and this is the #1 fear that keeps us from being real, telling the truth about who we are, and living an authentic life.
There’s absolutely no point in fearing that you will offend someone, because it is an absolute given that YOU WILL. (Yes, you heard me right. You have a 100% chance of offending someone). How can I have such certainty about this? Because we live in a society filled with entitlement, judgment, criticism, and hypersensitivity that results in people becoming offended for no other reason than they WANT TO be offended. Let me tell you a story about how I’ve experienced this in my own life:
About a year ago, I had a job opening for a massage therapist so I advertised the position in various places. I reviewed national databases listing licensed therapists in the local area and shared the job posting with them by email to help spread the word about the opportunity. It seemed reasonable to me that they might like to know about professional opportunities to either consider for themselves or to share with someone who might be interested. I’ve always been of the thought that the more you know, the better off you are, and if the content isn’t useful, all you gotta do is delete it.
I was incredibly surprised when I opened my email the next day and received this message from a local massage therapist who had received my job posting, “Your position would be wonderful if I was new to the massage field, but I'm not. I have worked extremely hard to get where I am today, and have no intentions on giving up my business to work for you! I would never think to share job opportunities with your staff and I would expect the same professional courtesy from you.” What I thought was an innocent, even nice thing to do, was perceived negatively by this individual and she was clearly offended.
It was in that moment that I realized no matter what I say, do, believe, or feel, someone will perceive it in a negative way and become OFFENDED. The other thing I learned from this experience was that what other people say and do is about THEM; not me. This woman’s response was completely about her own previous experiences, expectations, beliefs, and perceptions and had very little, if anything, to do with me or the information I sent.
The goal toward living authentically, being your true self, and speaking with your own voice doesn’t include CONQUERING your fear of offending others. It’s about prioritizing sharing your true character with the world ABOVE the fear you have. The fear will always be there, no matter what. Even as I write this, I can see the shadow of fear on my shoulder and hear it’s voice saying, “Don’t write that. It’s not going to go over well. You don’t want to expose yourself too much and have someone be upset with you for it.” But being myself supersedes that fear because the alternative to being authentic is so much worse than the fear of offending someone. The alternative is living a lie, being phony, being a copycat, or walking around on eggshells all the time. No thank you to that.
So, how can YOU rise above the fear of offending others and be real? Here are a few steps you can take right now:
Always rank your own opinion higher than everyone else’s.
Your opinion is the one you have to live with and it will always be more constant and consistent than the opinion of other’s. Other people can change their mind for no reason what so ever (other than just wanting to). It’s helpful to consider other people’s opinions because having feedback provides good insight. However, when it comes right down to it, your opinion is the only one that matters.
2. Don’t take anything personally.
What other people say and do is because of THEM; not you. Learning that we all have “response-ability”, or the ability to choose how we respond, will help you to only take responsibility for how you react to certain situations, rather than blaming yourself for how other people react to you.
3. Always do your best.
Your best is your best and there’s nothing more to give than that. Keep in mind though that your best will look different when you’re sick, tired, and stressed as compared to when you’re healthy, rested, and relaxed. Give yourself permission to have “your best” look different. By always doing your best, you’ll naturally let your unique strengths, talents, abilities, and creativity shine through (which is the whole point).
4. Remember you are one of a kind but you won’t be for everyone.
No one else in the world is like you, nor can anyone do what you can do in the exact same way you do it. You are one of a kind and the world needs that special gift only you can give. There will be so many people who love and appreciate you just as you are, but you won’t be for everyone. There will be people out there who just won’t get you, appreciate your quirks, or like what you have to offer. AND THAT’S OK! You don’t want to be everyone’s cup of tea. Differences are what makes the world fascinating, interesting, exciting, and bold rather than boring, mundane, and bland.
Now is the time to go out in the world, claim your power, and create a magical life, and the only way to do it is by being REAL. Always be your true self, no matter what. No matter what other people think about it or say about it, you are you for a reason. Embrace your authentic self, speak your voice, and share your creativity with the world….without letting the fear of offending someone take hold of you.
Nicole C. Iacovoni, Founder & Executive Clinician of Willow Tree Wellness & Counseling, received her master’s degree in Clinical Social Work from The University of Denver. Utilizing scientific based techniques, she is masterful at helping clients navigate and address family transitions, mood management, relationship issues, life trajectory, and general self care concerns. She also provides financial management coaching to help clients break down the psychological and emotional barriers to maximizing their earning potential, managing money effectively, and building true wealth.