The other day I was digging through some boxes in the basement when I stumbled upon a newspaper clipping from 20 plus years ago. I had been interviewed for the local newspaper, because I was the first person in my hometown to graduate from high school in two years instead of the usual three after completing a lot of my studies independently. (In case you are confused by the timeline here, I went to school in Finland. 🙂 )
In the interview, I said that I loved books and studying on my own, but that I didn’t really like going to school.
Reading this kinda made me want to cry.
At age 18, I had known I didn’t thrive in a group setting. I had known I didn’t work well in teams. I had known I needed autonomy and solitude to be happy. I had known I couldn’t stand being told what to do, when, and how. I had known I needed to feel free. I had known I didn’t belong in a school or any other organization for that matter.
At age 18, I had known I was an introvert maestro.
You probably already know about introverts and extraverts, but you may not have heard about maestros and tribals. According to Nicholas Lore, author of The Pathfinder: How to Choose or Change Your Career for a Lifetime of Satisfaction and Success,* about 25 percent of the population are “maestros,” while the remaining 75 percent are “tribals”. Lore describes maestros as “individual workers, preferring to be valued for their mastery of a particular discipline or subject… They tend to understand the world through a unique, personal, and subjective way of thinking… They often recognize at an early age that their perspectives are different from the group’s.” Tribal personalities, on the other hand, are “group workers, usually most successful and satisfied working with and through other people as members of an organization, group, or ‘tribe’.”
Why, why, why, I wanted to ask myself, holding onto that yellowed page of newspaper…
Even if I didn’t have the labels, I clearly knew that I was an introvert and a maestro back when I graduated from high school. I knew what kind of work setting I liked and what kind of work setting I didn’t like.
Then why didn’t I just stick the course? Why didn’t I design my life accordingly? Why did I lose sight of who I was and what I needed to be happy? Why did I graduate from college and become someone else’s employee? Why did I let my life be run by someone else’s agenda five days out of every seven? Why did I let my independent free spirit suffocate?
You wanna know why?
Because somewhere along the way I came to be ashamed of who I was.
I was ashamed to be the uncooperative misfit. I was ashamed to be the asocial loner. I was ashamed to always be different. I was ashamed to always disagree.
I wasn’t strong enough, confident enough, to stand apart. I wasn’t confident enough to design a life in alignment with my own needs and values. So I borrowed the mainstream life template. I took the easy way out.
Except it wasn’t an easy road after all. Because I had lost who I was in my core. I was playing a role that wasn’t meant for me, all the while slowly dyeing inside. And I played this role for years.
Until I got to feeling so bad that I finally snapped out of it. Came out of the waves at the last minute for a breath of fresh air. Rediscovered myself and redesigned my life. This time not driven by shame and poor self confidence, but my authentic needs in mind.
Good for me, right? But why am I telling YOU all this?
Because I don’t want you to make the same mistake I made and block your own happiness in the process:
1. Don’t Deny Parts of Yourself Just Because Someone Might View Those Parts As Negative
Here’s something I know for sure. Self awareness is KEY to happiness. The more you are able to recognize and accept (like REALLY accept) your authentic self and align your life accordingly, the more happiness you will find.
I promise. 😉
2. Just Because You Are Capable of Doing Something Well, Doesn’t Mean You Should Be Doing It
My authentic self was lost for a looooooong time. Because I was actually pretty good at being the other kind of person I was trying be. I was making the big bucks and living the life. An outsider would have never known I was putting on a giant act. An outsider would have never known that I was dying inside. I even kinda fooled myself and it took a lot of effort to figure out why I was so miserable.
Just because you are good at something, doesn’t mean it’s going to make you happy.
So, please. Don’t make my mistake.
Figure out who you are.
Happiness will follow.
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