I saw an interesting tweet from the homie Darryl Frierson last week:
The whole idea is people really don't want to be free to be themselves they just want to find a way to be accepted @IAmRichJones
— Darryl Frierson (@Diggame) September 13, 2013
Given my views on freedom, I’d never thought about it in this context. But when I did, well, the hamster started sprinting.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be accepted. In fact, it can be a great thing. Getting accepted into college. Getting accepted into a program you’ve been aiming for. Getting accepted into an organization — greek or otherwise. And on a deeper level, being accepted by family, friends, and colleagues for you who are. But what happens when you spend more energy trying to be accepted by someone or a group than accepting yourself and all your idiosyncrasies? Well, as far as freedom goes, once you’ve put your self-worth in the hands of others — in their acceptance — you’ve given up control. And when you give up control, freedom goes out the window with it. The actions you take are no longer based on what you like or who you are. They’re based on what the group or person will think. And while you’re trying to be accepted, they’re happily living their lives. Who is winning in that context? Let me give you a clue…
As someone once said to me, go where you are wanted. There are people that will accept you for who you are today and allow you to be your complete self. They will allow you to be free. To be your full you.
There is no greater right than the right to be yourself.
This also reminds me of the struggle some of us have with recognition. Let me flip the context a bit.
If you wait for people to recognize you before you accept your accomplishments and greatness, you’ll never be happy on your own merits. You’ll always act and wonder why no one is paying attention to you, or why someone who’s seemingly done significantly less continues to get all the shine. You don’t do what you do only for recognition. But let’s not kid ourselves, who doesn’t like to be recognized for their greatness or the great things they’ve done? The problem with recognition begins when we try to make a specific group or person recognize us. We are not owed anything by anyone other than basic respect due human beings.
When I think about recognition, I often think about all these superlative lists floating around. The 25 smartest women on twitter. Every category of Forbes 30 under 30 or Jet Magazine’s 40 under 40. The best this and the best that. Follow Fridays on twitter. People referencing the top folks they know in some craft or their favorite person for this and that. Exclusive events that you’re consistently excluded from because “no one recognizes you as worthy.” It’s easy to see these lists, the names, and the pictures from the parties, then wonder why you’re not there despite everything you’ve done and the lives you know you’ve changed, or at the very least, helped improve. It’s easy to wonder how some folks end up there when you know you’ve done just as much if not more, and all you need is someone to pay attention. You may even wonder why you weren’t good enough to make it in their eyes? Why do you keep getting passed over? And that’s where the acceptance issue resurfaces.
Chances are you have people that accept you and recognize you, but you discount them because they aren’t people in your line of aspiration. You know, the folks that live the life you wish you were living or achieving what you hope to achieve.
Every time someone thanks you for your help or shares your work with someone else because they think it’s dope. When someone comes to you because you’re the best at what you do and they need your help. When you get asked to be a part of something because people think you have value to offer. That’s recognition and acceptance. But you miss the chance to claim it because you’re so focused on being recognized on the bigger platform or by the bigger person. You have to ask yourself why this is so important? Why can’t you be happy with your progress unless the next big thing tells you? You have to ask how can you be happy when you’re continuously seeking external recognition for internal validation? How can you be free in that context? The answer?
And what does it say about you when you dismiss those that have made it clear they accept and recognize you? Why aren’t their words good enough? Again, ask yourself. You may recognize some things you never considered. The next step? Move toward acceptance and making the changes that set you free.