This week, I received an awesome and very touching message from one of my readers. In it, he said the following:
I guess if I had anything to ask I would wonder if you had any comments or advice as to cope with an unfamiliar environment such as being in a house with a bunch of strangers. Stepping out of your comfort zone and trying to be accepted for who you are and what your beliefs are is definitely easier said than done.
Dennis, I want you to know that I truly appreciated your words, and this post is for you!
Stepping out of your comfort, and adjusting in an unfamiliar environment is a skill that takes time to cultivate, but can be wildly helpful in a variety of different scenarios. Starting a new job, moving to a new city (things that I have done several times in my career as a professional athlete), or simply making the decision to follow your own dream of success, can be a daunting endeavor. With new surroundings, new people, and new circumstances come new challenges. The key to being successful in these situations is establishing a strong sense of self.
It is my belief that “trying to be accepted for who you are” is not quite the goal you should be aiming for. You should aim for trying to accept yourself for who you are. Knowing and accepting yourself instills a sense of grounding and stability that breeds confidence and self-assuredness. Once you have these traits, external factors such as new surroundings or circumstances, become a minor factor in your overall existence that you are equipped to handle appropriately.
First and foremost, you must be honest with yourself about who you are. This is likely the most difficult step. Acknowledging the person you are, strengths and weaknesses included, is key to building your confidence by becoming self-aware. Listen to your gut feelings, your deepest desires. Sometimes those things may be scary, or may seem difficult to deal with, but they are likely core to your being. Acknowledge that your feelings and emotions are real and valid and have open discussion with yourself about them.
Once you have been honest about who you are and what you want, you will need time to affirm and reaffirm these things to yourself. It is easy to begin to forget these core feelings or ignore them to try to be someone that you think you “should” be, or to be something that is easier to deal with. Remind yourself that it is ok to be introverted, direct, bookish, outgoing, timid, or anything else that you may recognize yourself to be. And remind yourself often. This step is the step I would recommend spending the most time on. Tell yourself every single day that you are who you are, and that is just fine.
Once you have acknowledged your truth and instilled within yourself the validity of that truth, you must cultivate it. Whatever you are can be capitalized upon to build toward achieving whatever it is that you want. If you recognize that you are introverted, maximize your alone time to read, or research, or do whatever it is necessary to build on your wants. If you are very outgoing, go out and network and focus on making connections. Whatever it is that is inside you can be turned into something great, and can be cultivated into skills that can help you succeed.
Once you accept yourself for who you are and capitalize on the strengths that come naturally, you will be able to cope in any situation you are placed in, because your self-awareness and confidence will shine through, and the feelings of doubt or worry will fade away. Accepting who you are provides you with the tools for dealing with external factors (people, places, circumstances) that are foreign or less than desired, because you will recognize that you can only control your actions and reactions to those external forces and you will be better equipped to do so.