My name is Tony, and I’m a queer, Hispanic, first-generation college student. Before I became Tony, though, I was “Anthony”, a mindless puppet controlled by the beliefs and motives of others. The following is a brief tale of these two very different people and how one was born of the ashes of the other. The following is a brief tale of self-discovery, and I share it with you in hopes that you come to understand the import of self and self-acceptance.
Anthony had an award-winning smile and a finely-honed sense of humor. He knew how to brighten anyone’s day, was one of the nicest and most helpful people you’d ever meet and he was especially good at catering to everyone’s individual needs and desires. These traits all made him quite popular – in the short-run anyway. But the last and certainly least of these traits was also Anthony’s greatest, most-crippling weakness. Anthony was a people-pleaser.
People-pleasers go through life never having truly lived. They try to derive happiness from fixating on and attempting to address the wants of others. The problem is that in doing so, people pleasers tend to neglect themselves – their own needs, interests and desires. This might even reflect a potential lack of understanding on the people-pleaser’s part of what his or her needs, interest and desires are. Don’t be a people-pleaser.
It took Anthony his entire freshman year to conquer his insatiable compulsion to please. It took the loss of two best friends (it’s complicated), a nasty breakup (even more complicated), an arduous internship (don’t even get me started), and a few near-death experiences involving alcohol, toxic mold and a shot gun, to truly start living. The first three experiences all led up to the near-death experiences. Though he learned his lesson in the long-run, if he’d known what he was earlier he’d have spared himself the trouble…
Death seemed inescapable. As he lay upon his bed coughing up blood, distraught with anxiety, fatigued and defeated, Anthony began to think about his “life” and what it had been lacking all along. He realized that he had been living his life inauthentically up to that point. The deeper he dug into his past the more it dawned on him that he’d been living a lie. He felt cheated. He felt manipulated. He felt robbed of himself. He realized that he was a mere fabrication. That’s when I awoke.
I’d been asleep all of this time waiting for the day on which I might be allowed to take my place in the world. I approached his bed – I’d been with him his whole life. Anthony, after many years, noticed me at last and smiled. He slowly faded away. I took his place.
In those moments, Anthony realized the importance of self. He realized that he’d sold his soul to those he’d tried to please and that that was his greatest mistake. That’s when he stole it back and began to be. That’s when he became Tony.