I watched the Grammy awards last Sunday, like most people probably did. As a huge music lover, I figured I'd see some of my favorite artists, catch a few unique performances, and maybe even discover some artists that I wasn't yet familiar with.
I never bargained to get a dose of straight talk from Sam Smith in the words of one of his acceptance speeches.
"It was only until I started to be myself that the music started to flow and people started to listen ... So thank you guys for accepting me for being just me." -- Sam Smith
For many years, too many years, of my life, I worked hard to fit in with everyone else. I didn't want to be an outcast; who does? It was exhausting to try to be what I thought everyone wanted me to be. It was heartbreaking to work extra hard to fit in, only to be rejected in the end anyway by a group of people that just didn't get me.
I tried to pay attention to the "cool kids" and emulate what they wore, how they spoke, even what they ate, in an attempt to just feel like I belonged somewhere. Not only was it exhausting -- it proved to be completely futile.
The fundamental problem with all of this trying to be liked was that I didn't even like myself. And I found that I didn't like myself because I wasn't being myself.
I'm quirky. I'm a dork. I cry at Hallmark commercials; I feed stray cats; my taste in music and art and food is eclectic; I am not like anyone else I know. You know what I realized? That last piece of the equation is the most important one. I am not like anyone else I know; and that my friends, is a good thing.
In a world of conformity and cookie cutter everything, it's good to be different. Different isn't better or worse by the way, it's just different. And different can be beautiful -- if it's authentic.
Living your life the way you want and being the person you want to be is liberating, and it's beautiful. You may not be perfect, you may have flaws, regrets, shortcomings, challenges, and obstacles to overcome, but the truth is, we all do.
No one is perfect. Social media, and media in general, want you to think that there are perfect people in the world, living perfect lives. Society will tell you that you can't be part of the "in crowd" without the right car, the right shoes, and the right "look."
What I've learned is that people who are conformists are afraid of people like us, the "different" people who don't follow the trends and don't buy into the notion that you have to do, be, say, feel, look, or act a certain way. We different people know better!
I gave up trying to fit in. I'd like to tell you that it was some great epiphany that caused me to rise up and claim my birthright, but the truth of the matter is, I just got tired! I got so tired of just trying to fit in. It was exhausting to change my whole being so that others would find me more socially acceptable. I think one day I just threw up my hands, shouted some expletive, and gave it all up. I went back to being quirky me and the most amazing thing happened.
Well, first the most rotten, but expected thing happened; the "cool kids" shunned me. The conformists turned their backs and shooed me away from their pretty little designer world where I clearly didn't belong. I shrugged my shoulders and as my friend Mark would say, "I kept it moving," and then the good stuff happened.
I started to connect with other people that weren't trying to fit in; they were just being themselves. I realized that I didn't have to tone it down to be with one group and ramp it up to be with another. The truth was I didn't have to change one damn thing. I just went along being who and what I was and the people that came into my life were then there for all the right reasons. It was refreshing -- and it was terrifying.
It had been years since I let the real me out, and I wasn't exactly sure how to do it. I hardly even remembered the real me. What if I didn't actually like her? What if all these years of trying to conform wasn't for everyone else, but was for my own self? What if I was trying to fit in to make me more palatable to me?
It didn't take long for the real me to show up. Slowly, I started rediscovering that I actually like bad reality TV and I hate going to fancy networking events. I like cheap sangria, and I hate pretentious wine. Most importantly, I stopped apologizing for things that I liked; especially my music. Yes, I still have my Milli Vanilli CD; and yes, I know it's not them singing, but I don't care, I still like it.
And now, I have a new artist to love: Sam Smith. Not only is Sam Smith talented, but he's authentic. He is real in a world that is fake, and true to himself when many others are falling over to conform so they can make it big. I admire Sam Smith's honesty, and I respect his artistry.
Be who you are, do what you do, like what you like, and stop trying to conform. Kanye West might disapprove, but hey, if being yourself is good enough for Sam Smith, it's good enough for the rest of us!