Nobody gives feedback like a teenager.
When I was 14-years-old, my best friend told me that I was copying her too much. Everything she liked, I liked. Everything she did, I did.
“You’re driving me crazy,” she said. “Get your own identity.”
It was honest feedback, but it made me cry. Yes, I was mirroring her every move. Yes, I was copying her. But my behavior came from an honest place. My childhood had some bumpy moments, and I was imitating my friend because she was resilient and stable. She was bold and made the right choices. And, despite severe and significant family challenges of her own, my friend was happy.
My friend’s candid feedback changed my life.
Nobody wants to be friends with a superfan. Most of us want friends who offer new experiences and help us learn more about the world. Now that it’s 2015 and I’m a grown-ass lady, I try to watch my behaviors. I still jump on bandwagons and emulate my friends, but I do ask myself a few questions.
- Am I intellectually curious enough on my own, or am I too being too dependent on other people?
- Would I like this band, idea, art, quote, etc., if I found it on my own?
- Am I coming on too strong?
When I catch myself being a copycat, I try to back off and create my own story. My best friend from 25 years ago, who is still one of my dearest friends, gets credit for helping me to understand the difference between admiring and engulfing somebody.
But there’s another aspect to this story.
Since I’ve started blogging, I’ve felt the effect of being mimicked and imitated. Because of my experience with my best friend, I am sympathetic. I know that readers find me on the internet in uncanny, magical ways. People get excited about new trends or ideas on my blog, and they work through it. And that’s cool.
But imitation is not the sincerest form of flattery. Turns out that being overwhelmed by somebody’s attention doesn’t always feel very good. When I see myself reflected on my laptop screen in extreme and annoying ways, it feels uncomfortable.
So let’s all get through life and strike a balance together. I will continue to watch my behaviors and make sure I’m not a superfan or being too weird. (Too late!) And if you find yourself totally immersed in someone — and mirroring someone at work or life — it might be time to tease out how you can be a fan of an idea without being a frenzied fan of a person who’s just trying to do his or her thing.
Maybe it’s time to believe in yourself and be a fan of your own ideas, too.