Growing up, I always wanted to be liked by everyone and had a need to gain approval for everything that I did, from what outfits I wore to my rad hair style. As I got older, I realized that was impossible. Not everyone was going to like my fashion sense of pinned jeans, crop tops and teased, poofy bangs. When it came to how I expressed myself, specifically when it had to do with my writing style, I realized I just wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea.
First just let me say that being raised by traditional Vietnamese parents left no room for creative writing. My parents wanted all 6 of their kids to be doctors, lawyers or computer engineers. In fact, I am pretty sure if I told them I wanted to be a writer, they would have immediately called the parish priest and asked him to pray that God help me to choose a different career path! This really would have happened.
It became evident to my parents that I was more than just an average writer when my teachers in elementary school sent notes home with praises about my work and asked if I could participate in competitions. In our household, expressive writing was pretty low on the priority list, but when it was a compliment that came on top of the other A’s on our report card, it was like getting extra credit. While it was nice, it wasn’t something we saw as a requirement to pursue a successful career. I mean, I wrote pieces about squirrels running up the tree and grabbing acorns; definitely not Pulitzer Prize material.
Then came high school…
The praises about my work rained down from the heavens for the last 8 years of my life before high school. But it was a different story when I started high school. My teachers thought my writing needed a lot of improvement. Having that need for approval, I viewed their opinion of my writing to be a reflection of their opinion of me. The feeling of being rejected and not being good enough for people who read my work kept me in a state of fear of writing anything ever again.
However, when I took those same writing skills, which were deemed completely incompetent, and brought them with me to college, to my astonishment, I really impressed my professors. One of them asked me where I learned how to write like this. I just kind of shrugged my shoulders and said that I didn’t think anyone enjoyed my work. He responded, very matter of factly, perhaps my work was simply not everyone’s cup of tea. Then it hit me. He was absolutely right. My writing just wasn’t their cup of tea.
It took me some time to come to terms with the fears around rejection and overcome my need to gain approval from others. Instead of always trying to seek approval, I learned how to get over myself and be free to make my own choices without the fear of criticism. Now I feel empowered again to write and get my messages and stories out into the world and hope to help others through my writing and through my business of creating women leaders.
Seeking someone else’s approval sucks
When you try to get approval from the outside world, so you can put it inside you can feel better about yourself, you give your power away. That is why it is dangerous. When we try to please others, we lose ourselves and lose our purpose. Get out of your head and into your gut. Don’t overthink it. And so, I didn’t. Enough was enough. I was going to live my life FULL-OUT.
The day I told my parents I was going to start my own business, start writing while working my full-time career, I think they were both going to stroke out. The expression on their faces were unforgettable. They thought I was being foolish, wasting my time and honestly, a little crazy. But despite their disappointment, I stayed the course and continued to surround myself with women (pictured here) who had the same vision and passion, which only gave me fuel and inspiration to continue to design the life I loved. And so I am here, living a life with purpose and intent. Waking up every day, knowing that I am making an impact means the world to me. I would never have gotten here if I was stuck wrapped up in my own insecurities.
It’s scary being vulnerable and opening ourselves up to disappointment, disapproval from others and hurt. This just doesn’t apply to writing but anything in life where you are putting yourself out there to be judged. But to be human is to be imperfect. If you continue to need others’ approval it will continue to sabotage your success and keep you stuck in a constant state of worry, stress and disappointment. You need to get to a place where you can make decisions based on what’s right for you. To do that, you have to validate and give yourself permission to be yourself and affirm that you have to have a life with purpose and passion. After all, it IS YOUR LIFE, and you have magnificent gifts to share with the world.
So don’t waste your time being anyone else but YOU. Go ahead and do something different and unexpected, even if you aren’t sure if you’d be good at it. Despite what others have told you about what you are capable of in the past, present or will tell you in the future, what matters is that YOU believe in yourself and that you share your gifts with those who recognize and appreciate them. You are not and will not be everyone’s cup of tea, and that my friends, is OK.