Pretend to be someone else and you’ll end up with someone else’s life.
“You don’t look like an economist!”
I take that as a compliment these days. I like to think I don’t look like an economist. That’s not really a style I’m going for. I don’t walk into the hair salon, and say, “Something a little Milton Friedman today Stephan.”
But there was a time where I was afraid of a statement like this – where it came off as a stinging judgment.
I remember when I first started uni. I was like a cow-poke in the big smoke (as much as you can call Canberra big smoke). I was there to study accounting and economics. I was there to become a sophisticated business woman.
But I wasn’t a sophisticated business woman. I was a girl from a cattle farm. I felt like a fraud. I felt like people could smell the cow-sh$t on my shoes.
And so I did my best to fit in. I wore smart clothes. I was polite and lady-like (stop laughing you lot!) I tried to be less me, and more what I thought I should be.
If ever there’s a dud strategy in life, it’s this one. Be less you and more what people think you should be. In fact, if there’s a more direct route to unhappy town, I don’t know what it is.
And it’s not because you’ll fail. The real danger is that you’ll succeed. The real danger is that you’ll pretend to be someone else so well, that you’ll end up with their life.
This is what happened to me.
I was a good student. I got good marks. I got a good job. I convinced other people (and myself) that my life’s dream was to become a dependable accountant in a respected accounting firm.
I had successfully gone out and gotten someone else’s life.
But other people’s lives are like other people’s clothes. They just don’t fit. They don’t feel right. It’s hard to get comfortable.
When you become someone else, you just end up with someone else’s life. I just don’t know why so many of us are sold up the river on that one. Maybe we think that that other person’s life will be better than the one that’s truly ours. Maybe it will involve a more beautiful partner. Maybe there’ll be more money and more fancy material things. Maybe there’ll be more fame and social recognition.
But even if those clothes look a million bucks, even if they get us a tonne of compliments, if they’re not truly ours they’ll never feel right.
Luckily for me, over time, I became more and more myself. Because I’ve got a gift of the gab, I found myself in front of people, sharing knowledge. Because I enjoy helping people, I found myself developing tools and strategies to help people get ahead.
Fate and life thrust me down that path, (I had to go to the brink of bankruptcy to jump tracks) but I was able to let go of the person I thought I had to be, and that made space for the person that I really am.
Now often people think we’re only talking about vocation with this sort of thing, like it’s about not being a dentist when you really want to be a carpenter.
And it is, but we’re also talking about something much deeper. We’re really talking about every way the unique being you are is expressed in the world.
Say, you’re outgoing and gregarious by nature, but you think that people like you more when you’re mousy. And so you pretend to be more introverted than you are.
Eventually, your world will fill up with people who like the mousy, pushable version of you. They don’t want to know about the strong and independent version of you – the true you.
And so you’ve pretended yourself into a corner. You’ve created a life for yourself where there’s no room for the real you – no matter what your day job is.
Same story if you pretend to be more intelligent, or more polite, or more business savvy, or more interested in motor-sports or whatever.
If you’re really a long-haired, loud-mouthed man with more interest in origami than football, then be that man.
The people you attract into your life will be the people who are attracted to that man. The opportunities that come your way will be the opportunities attracted to that man.
Be yourself first, and then the life you want will follow.
Of course, all of this rests on an abundance mentality. I think most people are pretending to be something they’re not, because they think that they’d be poorer, more lonely, or less safe if they were truly living their lives.
Don’t live your life as a slave to these kinds of fears.
Be who you want to be and the life you really want will take shape around you. And just trust that that life will be beautiful.
Not that there’s anything wrong with being an economist.
How do you work on being who you want to be?