Be Unapologetically You

Don’t let the fear of judgment hold you back.

Sousaphone Selfie

This weekend, I passed up on an opportunity to do the running man challenge against the Tampa Bay Rowdies Mascot, Pete the Pelican, and I’ve been regretting it ever since.

I was taking selfies with the band (as seen above) and they asked if I would do the challenge against Pete if they played the song. At first I said yes, but as the crowd grew and the cameras came out, I started to back out. I watched with rising jealousy as Pete confidently started dancing without any hesitation. I slowly faded into the crowd. He was really going for it, so I regretfully joined the mob of spectators instead of becoming a participant. As I watched him dance, I thought about the insecurities holding me back, and I wondered about the person inside the suit.

Would they be dancing like that if they weren’t wearing a mask?

I’m sure it’s very uncomfortable to gyrate in the Florida heat covered in pounds of fabric and a heavy costume head, but it did provide them with a level of anonymity that I envied.

I imagined what I might have done if I was also wearing a costume that concealed my identity. I probably would have jumped into that dance off without being asked. I would have been requesting more songs, and I would have been approaching strangers and getting them to dance with me.

So what exactly was I afraid of? I was at a soccer game with a random people, most of whom I’d never see again, and it was very likely that everyone would have cheered me on. There was no reason for me not to go for it, but still, I was too scared to fully be me.

Why did I feel like I needed a mask to be myself?

I looked around at the rest of the crowd and wondered what reasons they might have for not joining in. What was holding them back from challenging Pete and getting into the dance circle too? Maybe they also wished they could wear a costume that would allow them to dance and be silly without feeling judged.

And there’s the answer: we’re afraid of judgment.

Judgement. The thing that holds us back from being who we want to be, and from being who we really are. We care about the thoughts of strangers sometimes even more than the opinions of friends. You’d think it would be the opposite, right? But if I was in the same position and it was a crowd full of my friends, I think I would have responded differently. I would have been doing that running man challenge, and I would have asked them to play the nae-nae next.

The core lie behind judgment is that it matters what people think.

The truth is, what people think is not important. You are responsible for the decisions that you make, and you’re going to make the wrong choices if you base everything on other people. The only way to break free from the need to wear a mask is to be unapologetically you. Do the things you want to do. Say the things you want to say. Jump into those dance circles and don’t apologize for being a bad dancer — especially if you really suck!

I got another chance to dance later in the night, and this time, I went for it. I was doing boxes around my face, krumping to One Direction, and forcing my friends to be the fish on my fishing pole. Basically, I did every move on this list.

Being you and not caring about what anyone else thinks is an amazing experience. I realized that day that taking a risk and being myself was worth it. People respect authenticity and confidence way more than masks and facades. When I got that second opportunity to dance, I didn’t wish for a mask anymore. This time, I wanted everyone to know that I was being my full, quirky self.

Pete’s mask would be pretty hard to hide.

The irony in hiding behind a mask is that it’s so obvious when you’re wearing one.

I know that it may feel safer to wear a mask in case someone might judge you or laugh at you, but if you can become so unapologetically you that it doesn’t matter what they think, it will set you free. You’ll take more risks. Accept more challenges. Fail and get back up. You’ll be the you that you’ve always wanted to be.

You’ll finally step into the you that you were made to be.

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