My godfather is a man who loves wearing gaudy jewelry and loud shirts. His laughs are huge and originate from deep within his belly. He makes a fair share of lewd jokes, even when his wife is around. And when I was a kid he told me this:
"Que no te importe una chingada lo que la gente quiere que seas o que hagas. Haz lo que te de la gana"
"Don't give a damn what other people want you to be or do. Do whatever makes you feel good."
I don't wear shiny jewelry, and my shirts don't go up to 11, but I have finally come to embrace his advice.
Here's an example: I been going to the gym for some time now, and when I first started I was always trying to be cool. I only wore cool, stylish clothes and shoes. I was cool during my workouts, even when I got really pumped and wanted to express it somehow. I even walked around cool, meaning I was aloof, important-like, and strutting around ike an Egyptian prince. This intense, unceasing focus on what others thought of me eventually led to making going to the gym a stressful, joyless chore.
Fast forward to today: I pick clothes that are comfortable and useful, because that's what I need at the gym.When I work out, I bob my head, psyche myself up, and drum beat on my chest or on the treadmill when a favorite song comes on. I even grunt and mumble a little. I know that this all means I probably look like a meathead idiot to some of the other gym patrons, and that I am doing the opposite of being cool, and that's good.
I care less about what other people think, about being cool, and thus I am able to have a lot more fun and do what's right for me.
I sing along to "Only Girl in the World" at clubs, because that song is my jam.
I impersonate Javert in public places, because it makes my lady laugh, and that makes me happy.
I wear bright blue pants in Manhattan–where wearing sunny attire is a 2nd degree felony–because I love that color and it just feels right.
You, me, and everybody have unique cores, because we each have a very particular set of quirks, oddball tendencies, and silly things that make us giggle. But you can forget that sometimes, and if you let that focus on cool run uncheked you will end up following the script other people wrote for you. You will listen to the voices of others (some of whom are total strangers) more than your own. Your compass won't be yours, but one crowdsourced by a bunch of whoevers.
Trying to be cool is a disease you sign up for once you start trying to impress everybody but yourself.
You have to embrace, love, and foster your own type of weird. Say it with me, "My weird is good." Loving your weird is loving your unvarnished, unpretentious core. It's you being unashamed to be you, or, even better, you being in love with your quirky self and taking it on a parade.
This self-love helps you help others, too. Before taking care of others, you have to have taken care of yourself first, because it's easier (and more sustainable) to help others live and thrive authentically when you are already doing that yourself.
Not giving a damn about what other people think will allow you to help other people live a better life, and that will start with your own. Now go rock a satin, pink shirt.
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