When I opened Instagram the other day and started scrolling through my feed, the first thing that popped up was an inspirational quote: “Surround yourself with people who feel like sunshine.”
I scrolled on without giving the quote too much thought and, believe it or not, the very next post was another motivational quote: “Surround yourself with people who are on the same mission as you.”
Being an extraverted introvert, I shuddered at the mere thought of being surrounded, and quickly closed Instagram before I was told to surround myself with yet a third type of people. Don’t get me wrong, I like people, but to be surrounded? No thanks!
Okay, okay, I know these quotes aren’t necessarily meant to be taken literally. And I also know that they have a point, at least the one about people being on the same mission as you. Kenieshiear Czetty, the wise, talented, and absolutely charming person behind The Opting Out Podcast, talks about the importance of finding people who can walk with you on your opting out journey (because not everybody can) and I know that is what that second motivational quote is about. But the first one is a bit problematic I think.
It is as if we, today, feel that happiness is a human right and that anything that hampers our happiness can and should be cut out of our lives, even people. But there is more to life than happiness and only keeping people in it who make us happy (or who feel like sunshine) makes us miss out on having a real life. Because life is not only about happiness, and happiness is not the only important emotion. But not only that, it seems to me it also makes us lose part of our humanity…*
Which leads me to another thing that Kenieshiear said.
Okay, let me backtrack a bit. Kenieshiear found me and my research a few months ago through the internet and in many ways, we are kindred spirits; opting out sisters. We have similar approaches to opting out and last week we spoke for the very first time. During our conversation, she said one thing that I found particularly profound, and that has stayed with me all week.
We were talking about the importance of feeling like you can be yourself, of being authentic, and how many people don’t necessarily feel that they can be themselves at work.
We talked about how we have both reached a point where we just want to be ourselves and if we are “too nice” or “too colorful” for someone or for some organizations, so be it (although to be honest, I don’t think either of us think we are too much of anything).
She talked about how when you are authentic, you are real, and you wear your feelings on the outside. You are honest, you say what you mean, and (here it comes) you get things done.
Now, I didn’t think to ask her what exactly she bases that on, and I definitely want to continue discussing this with her soon, but it really resonated with me.
After my discussion with Kenieshiear, I continued the conversation with my husband. He and I were speculating about why that is, why is it that authenticity leads to getting things done? Is it because when you’re authentic you only say you’ll do things if you really mean to? Or is it because if you’re authentic you don’t have a hidden agenda and you only promise what you know you can and will deliver? Or is it because it’s just easier to know what you will and will not do and can therefore be forthright about it without giving it a second thought?
I’m not sure, but this is something to think about. What do you think?
*For more about this see my post ‘The Search for Happiness’ and Barbara Ehrenreich’s book Smile or Die.