If I was asked to describe myself in two words growing up, I probably would have used extroverted and goofy.
I took pride in being the class clown and the one who can take a joke and even make fun of herself. I knew who I was when it came to my personality and I thrived in it. People would sometimes say I was loud or obnoxious but it never bothered me. Not until people close to me started to say these things.
The first time I really felt pressured to be someone I wasn’t was with my first real boyfriend in high school. When we began dating everything seemed great. He would tell me how he loved who I was, but with time he started trying to change me.
When we would go out and I would get happy or excited he would get angry and scold me for embarrassing him by being “too loud” or “obnoxious” in public. Even laughing at a joke, or saying “hi” to a stranger would set him off and would be his “proof” of just how childish I was. I always thought my outgoing personality made others feel welcome, but it turned out, in his mind, to be characteristics that needed to be snuffed out.
I had always been so confident in who I was. Now I started to feel like I needed change for him to like me. I have always been a big people-pleaser, so it is my first instinct is to make others happy. Instead of saying what was on my mind and being free to laugh and joke, I felt I had to be quiet and submissive. I felt like I couldn’t have a say in anything, I had to just agree with what my boyfriend wanted. If I disagreed, I just had to suck it up and deal with it.
I started noticing, that even with my personality muted out he still had things he wanted to change in me. Even in my quietest and most submissive moments, he would criticize me and say how immature and stupid I was. I started to feel bad about myself. The more I was tore down by how he felt and his words, the more I felt that there was something wrong with me. I began to think my unique personality was a curse, instead of a blessing.
We were together for two years before I had the confidence to finally leave for the last time. I realized he wasn’t worth staying with when I finally visualized what the rest of my life would look like with him. I would be spending the rest of my life feeling pressed down and put into this box, not free to be who I am.
I realized it wasn’t worth being friends or dating someone who just wanted to change you. I never wanted to feel that way again. I surrounded myself with people who didn’t want to change me, but just loved me for who I was. I found that I stopped being so consumed by being “perfect” in other people’s eyes and I could just be me.
That includes the man I chose to be my husband. He brings out the best and sometimes goofy parts of me. He encourages my extroverted nature, because he knows I thrive in reaching out to other people. I’ve grown to accept myself, just as much as I accept other people.
I was extroverted and goofy. That’s who I am. I was given those characteristics for a reason. I’ve added joy to the list of my personality traits because I know I have the support of the people in my life to be who I am. We were all bring something unique to the world because we are different. We shouldn’t hide who we are, we should embrace it.