When I was coming up, there was a song at the time called ‘Garden Party’, and the refrain lyrics were “And it’s all right now /I learned my lesson well /See, you can’t please everyone /So you got to please yourself.” I have thought back to that song often in my adult life. On all fronts, there is tremendous pressure to conform to group norms that doesn’t end after junior high school. Our cultural oppression is so great that one of the top five regrets of the dying is that “I regret I didn’t have the courage to live an authentic life true to my heart.” I don’t know about you, but this is not going to be me on my death bed.

I remember realizing in the workplace that to stand out from the herd was to invite trouble. If we look at the example of animals running on the African Serengeti, we notice that it is neither advisable to be way out front or lagging behind. Animals in either one of those positions get tagged for attack. This is what happened to Jesus, Gandhi, and M.L. King – all met violent deaths as a result of standing outside of the center of the bell-shaped curve. All were murdered because each stood for love over the established hierarchy of violence.

Yet I stand firm in belief none of those men or any other great people who suffered, would have sacrificed their convictions about what their role was in human history, as a fair trade for their lives. This includes Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Lutheran Theologian in the Confessing Church in Germany, who’s stand against Adolph Hitler precipitated his death. Our examples throughout human history are numerous.

Yet we, in our small deviations from the norm, struggle. We want to be liked. We want approval. And sometimes we earn approval as a result of sacrificing ourselves on the altar of someone else’s desires for us, but to our ultimate detriment. If we have a mission that goes against the grain of the majority, perhaps family, community, and friends – do we sacrifice our internal pull toward authenticity to please others? 

Many do just that. Hence one of the top five regrets of the dying.

I had a professor in college who liked to say, “Know Thyself”. She thought it so critical I cannot tell how many times she repeated it in one semester. She considered it foundational to wellness and success in any endeavor. In my 20’s, I didn’t have the maturity to understand what she was teaching. Bless the memory of her. I get it. Whatever you decide to do, have the courage to live your convictions and mission.

There will always be people who don’t like you. They might as well not like you for the right reasons. Because of whom you are – not because of who you pretend to be. Some people are going to LOVE you for who you are.

For more information on my wellness and transformational change programs, visit my site at www.theomshanty.com. More classes will be coming soon. I hope to get to know you, and interface through my blog. Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti. (Peace in body, mind, and spirit.)