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I realized today that I have lived most of my life in fear and anxiety of not being accepted. In those many moments of crippling anxiety, it wasn’t always clear that the root cause was a need for validation and acceptance from others. A desperate fear of being rejected.

I’m writing this because I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. Most people are terrified of public speaking. I remember reading somewhere that it’s people’s number one fear, even more than dying. What’s behind that fear other than the fear of not being accepted?

I’ve done things and behaved in ways I’m not proud of just to fit in. I’ve also not done certain things for the exact same reason. I’ve held back many times. I’ve not been myself a lot of times. I’ve been fearful. I’ve not been present, so lost in my mind, and so out of flow at times. I’ve played small. I’ve given my power away to others.

This is why kids are so free. They don’t care. They’re not looking for acceptance because they accept themselves completely. This is the source of their freedom and spontaneity. They’re not worried about how they’re perceived. They fall. They scream. They cry. They’re themselves unapologetically at all times.

If being yourself means that your current friends or co-workers won’t accept you, then they likely weren’t meant for you in the first place. You need to make room to find your own tribe where you can be unapologetically you at all times.

This need for acceptance runs deep in most of us and has been so ingrained in us after years of social programming. But the first step towards change is to recognize this in ourselves. It’s also important to understand why we have this need. This will usually reveal deeper layers. In my case it was my refusal to accept myself. Subconsciously, I believed I wasn’t good enough, or deserving enough of love and acceptance. This led me to seek acceptance outside. It made me weak. I don’t blame others for this, it’s something I gave away willingly by not validating myself.

I came to these realizations through some very painful lessons. But I’m very thankful for these lessons because they pushed me far enough past my comfort zone to question why I was feeling this way.

So it starts with being honest with yourself and recognizing your limiting behaviours. Face your fears and overcome them by truly accepting yourself. On the other side of this fear lies your freedom and a life to be lived on your terms. You are your bedrock so go get your back.

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