My third grade teacher was quick to give out red light cards and time outs. She used her outdoor voice indoors. And when someone got a question wrong, she rarely said “good try.”
She was mean.
And I was terrified of becoming like her when I grew up. So I made a seemingly innocuous decision to always be nice.
Cut to: me saying yes to going to the school dance with a boy who gave me the creeps because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, me not getting enough sleep the day before a final because I’m up until 2am being emotional support for a friend in need, me not saying anything when a date arrives 30 minutes late, etc. etc. etc.
I had become controlled by my fear of becoming like my 3rd grade teacher.
How To Overcome The Fear Of Being “Like Them.”
You know that one person you swore you’d never be like? Maybe it’s your mom or your dad. Or maybe it’s an aunt or sibling. Whoever it may be, these are the people who you absolutely do NOT want to be like. They were too mean, too judgmental, too selfish, too overpowering. You never want to be those things.
In fact, you’re so afraid of becoming like that person that you live your life overcompensating to ensure you’re nothing like them. You live your life afraid that one day, you might turn into them.
This topic comes up so often with my coaching clients and at retreats. If this resonates with you, I’m here to let you in on how this mentality – of avoiding becoming like that person at all costs- is actually preventing you from being your happiest, freest, you-est you.
Without further ado, here is how you can overcome the fear of being like someone and start being authentically and unapologetically you!
First, Here’s What Really Happens When You’re Afraid Of Being Like Someone
When we’re young and we decide we don’t like something about someone, we create something called a protective decision. In this case, our deciding to not be like someone is supposed to protect us from turning into them. But, this type of decision making just generates fear. Because once we decide we cannot be a certain way, we’re constantly afraid of being that way.
Every time we make a protective decision like, “I’m not going to be overbearing like my mom or mean like my dad or self-centered like my aunt” we’re just building the walls of a constrictive identity box. These protective decisions also give rise to corresponding decisions. Every time we decide “I’m not going to be like this” we also form the corresponding decision, “so I have to be like this.”
In these moments we create what is called a “strong suit”–a part of our personality that we construct in order to avoid negative personal experiences, like embarrassment, rejection and disappointment. For example, when we decide “I’m never going to let anyone walk all over me like my dad did,” that’s also when we decide “I’m going to be fiercely independent, I won’t need anyone else ever, and I’ll always speak my mind no matter what.”
Essentially, we limit the possibilities of how we can show up and lock ourselves into fixed ways of being. We think this is productive, but really, it just keeps us in a vibration of fear. It keeps us locked in a strong suit.
What’s The Difference Between Making Choices Based In Fear Versus Inspiration?
Instead of inspiration guiding our choice to be a certain way, it’s fear that calls the shots. For example, we choose to be independent and speak our truth because we’re afraid of being dependent and silenced.
Therefore it’s not our authentic self deciding, but our fearful self instead. Because of this, we also begin to shun the parts of ourselves that are somewhat like the person we’re afraid of becoming.
Even if we are a little bit like our mom or our dad, we refuse to accept it because we perceive it as a negative way of being.
Enter, The Connection Between Fear And Your Shadow Self
Your shadow self is the part of you you’re unwilling to forgive or acknowledge. But, surprise! It’s still there. Instead of recognizing our shadow selves, we hide them in a dark dungeon within our souls.
A lot of our shadow self stems directly from the fear of becoming a certain kind of person – like our parents. But what we need to understand, is that rather than working so hard to control ourselves, we need to accept and embrace all the ways in which we are like these people.
Instead of denying that you may have similar traits to your mom, dad or whoever, try thinking this: “hell yeah I have aspects of myself that are weak or selfish…hell yeah, I can be aggressive and opinionated and manipulative. Hell yeah, I might be like my parents!”
Now, instead of shutting those parts of you down, you’re claiming them.
Because anything that you don’t fully own, owns you.
Until we claim the sassy girl within us, the one that is overly confident, the one who can be harsh, the one that likes to manipulate, those aspects of ourselves have power over us.
It’s Time To Choose Between These Two Ways of Being
You can be one of two ways.
- You can be your authentic self by basing your choices in love and inspiration.
- You can force yourself to be a certain way by allowing fear to guide your choices.
Remember, simply ignoring a certain part of ourselves doesn’t make that part go away. Avoidance and denial only makes us work extra hard to hide it.
Basically, what you resist persists.
Whatever aspects of ourselves we are unwilling to acknowledge will dominate and control us.
When you resist seemingly undesirable parts of yourself, you give up the power to choose who you want to be. We all do this. We put so much attention on who we don’t want to be. But, where we should focus our attention is where we want to grow.
It’s like if I say “don’t think of a green Jeep.” A green Jeep just popped into your head, right? So when you say “I’m not going to be manipulative,” you manipulate yourself out of being that way. When you think “I don’t want to be judgmental like that person, I hate how judgmental they are,” at that moment you are being judgmental!
What you resist persists. The more you own who you are, the freer and happier and you-er you’ll be.
Identifying Your Undesired Ways of Being
The self help industry talks a lot “core desired ways of being,” (i.e. generous, connected, smart, playful) but we don’t talk about our core UNdesired ways of being. Our aversion to our undesired ways of being often has a much stronger hold on us than our attachment to our desired ways of being.
We need to break ourselves out of that box we created at age eight or nine when we were decided “HELL NO am I going to be like that person, I’m going to be the opposite.”
Identifying your undesired ways of being is easy. Just ask yourself the following questions:
- Who are the people in your life that you’re afraid of becoming? Why?
- What undesirable traits have you constructed your identity around?
- Who did you decide you needed to be to compensate to not be like your mom or dad or sibling?
- How does that decision confine you? How do these fears force you into a fixed way of being?
Now that that’s covered, it’s time to stop living in fear.
How to Stop Living In Fear Of Becoming Like Someone
- Forgive the person (your mom, dad, sibling, family member, friend).
Forgive whoever it is you are afraid of becoming. Try jumping into their perspective. We are all an accumulation of our experiences. See if you can forgive them for being who they are. See if you can accept them.
- Forgive yourself.
Look at yourself and see the ways you are like that person. Forgive yourself. Can you think, “hell yeah I can be manipulative and I own that and it works for me!” Stop denying or shunning that part of you, and the shadow self you create will stop fighting you. You’ll be free to be who you really are.
Whatever you’re afraid of becoming, you become. Let go of the fear.
If you’re committed to being a loving, respectful, independent, free etc., then that’s who you are. It’s who you’ll be naturally when you let go of fear. You are you.
Drop the fear and you’ll instantly become your authentic self. Because that’s just what’s inside. You are you.
Ready To Further Free Yourself From This Fear?
I created a guided meditation on how to heal your relationships with your shadow self. If you’re still struggling with how to overcome the fear of being like someone else, it’s here to help you.