Once upon a time in college, a girlfriend of mine told me something that really stuck with me. I do not really remember the exact topic of the conversation, but it was something about how I really want and need people to like me and how I was working really hard for it. She said that I make myself “vanilla pudding.”
I have to say at the time I didn’t really get it. (I thought she was just being a bit of a jerk.) But over the years, I’ve come to understand the wisdom of her point.
Vanilla pudding is non-offensive. Not everybody likes it, but no one really dislikes it. When it shows up, it’s accepted with few questions and few remarks. Maybe just, “oh, no chocolate or tapioca pudding today?” But no real protests.
As a people-pleaser, someone who has for the majority of her life strived to be acceptable to all, being vanilla pudding was what I was all about.
Now I’m not saying that I was conforming to the desires and attitudes of others, I was simply just not rocking the boat. I hardly ever disagreed. And if I did disagree, I said nothing out loud. I was all gentle nods and small smiles and “mm-hmm”s. Nothing notable. Just nice. I was always nice.
But how did this serve me? From the standpoint of people-pleaser, people were pleased. I was accepted. They all thought I was nice. I was boring. And that’s the problem there. I was boring. I bored myself! I would walk away from gatherings upset that I didn’t speak my mind. But then again, I didn’t really allow myself to have a mind to speak from. That was dangerous. That was chocolate.
So I went on for years never saying what I thought in fear that I would say something to upset someone. I honestly avoided spending too much time getting into too many details of anything because details could cause opinions and those were bad. I was a generalist. I knew enough to be part of the conversation but not enough to challenge anyone.
And I continued to gain weight.
And I continued to be scared.
And I continued to be unconfident.
I continued to be boring.
But then I was turning 30 and didn’t like where my life was going. I felt as if I had no control. I had been so vanilla pudding that other forces were steering the boat and I was simply along for the ride. That started to sit not so well with me.
So I jumped.
An opportunity at work came my way and I said yes without forethought. I would have an opportunity to move out of my vanilla pudding-ness and be magically transported (by plane) to a place where I had no past, no history, no habits, and no one expected me to be my old vanilla self.
I tried on tapioca. I dared to be butterscotch. I even cha-cha’d into chocolate.
And I learned a lot about myself. I learned that I was different. I learned that I liked me. And I decided to kick it into a new gear. It was time to get my life, doing it my way, on the tracks and moving.
I left vanilla pudding at the door.
But, as I write these oh-so-personal blog posts, I still have panicked moments where I think, “oh no, will someone be offended?” But then I sit back, take a deep breath, and say to myself (sometimes out loud), “Fuck it. If I’ve offended someone, at least I was being authentic.”
What about you?