I’m with some girlfriends lounging and splashing in Hawaii. The landscape is gorgeous, of course. And the chance to relax feels divine. But one of the other best things about a trip like this is having the opportunity/time/freedom to dig around in some of those dark inner worlds that might usually remain more hidden, like a bunch of broken furniture shoved in the back closet.

Yesterday we were invited to brunch with my friend’s relatives at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, a short walk from the house we’re staying in. As I was showering, I found myself thinking, “I wonder who I should be for this brunch.” It was startling to notice this thought and become acutely aware of my desire to “be the right person.” How I would dress, what stories I would share, what part of my career to focus on — all of these things could make or break my “likeability.”  I realized immediately that all my life I’ve had that unconscious thought — “who should I be— whenever I am meeting new people. Yowzer.

So as we were walking out the door, I said to my friend, “I am trying to figure out who to be so your relatives will like me.” And she laughed and said, “I’ve been doing the same thing all my life.”

It was great. Within a few minutes of walking down the path to the hotel as we talked about this,  I saw so clearly that what I truly wanted didn’t have as much to do with being liked, as it did about connecting. I really wanted to connect to these new people I would be meeting. But it was even more than that. Ultimately what I  wanted was to connect with myself. So the new question became, “Who did I need to be in order to connect to myself?” And the answer was simple: present and authentic. I didn’t need to be some plastic, perfect person. I just needed to be real.

What a relief! It’s so incredibly difficult trying to figure out who to be so other people will like me. I have to keep checking in to see if I’m presenting correctly. Making sure I don’t slip up and let something show that shouldn’t. I gotta keep my back against that closet door, making sure none of the broken pieces fall out or show through the cracks.

Just being me is easier and more fun. But there’s also this:  it means I’m not one of those annoyingly perfect people who are so uncomfortable to be around!

If you know what I’m talking about or have any thoughts on this, I’d love to hear from you. :-)