A Former People Pleaser Dared to Be Himself — Stirring Up Controversy in the Process

Keith Hayden
3 min readSep 2, 2022

This was my first day entering the school since I turned down the long term sub position a few weeks ago.

I had no idea that decision would make me a topic of hushed conversations at my school.

A circumstance that helped me shake my fear of being judged by others.

The reaction of the other staff members toward me was interesting.

Two fellow subs came up to me curious about my reasons for declining.

Others threw glances or nods hinting at disdain, admiration, and jealousy throughout the day.

I think there’s already an air of intrigue around me among the staff and students.

Others on the staff know me as

“the sub who has his own business” or

“the sub who pitched me about his business” or

“the sub who does podcasts, has his own website, and writes books”.

Among the students I’m known as

“the chill sub” or

“the sub who lifts” or

“the sub who remembered my name”.

A kid came up to me today while I was doing bench press in the gym.

He asked “Excuse me sir, uh didn’t you sub in my history class?”

I told him I did. He responded with a smile,

“You’re the sub that lifts and does podcasts. I thought that was pretty cool.”

A few minutes later, he asked me for a spot.

What’s interesting about all this is younger me would have enjoyed the attention,

but not the way it was garnered — or at least how the flames of interest were fanned-.

I never wanted to rock the boat back in the day.

I was too afraid the real me was too uninteresting.

That I would be punished for showing too many of my real opinions.

It might have something to do with me being a middle child.

When I was a kid, I was the straight arrow.

The one my parents never worried about.

I hid in the shadow of the middle.

Now I’m less afraid when the glow of the spotlight shines on center stage.

I’ve found lately by participating in the Ship30for30 class and meeting people from around the world, things just work better when I’m unapologetically myself.

It cuts through the disguises and bullshit.

It makes people be more transparent about whether they vibe with me or not faster.

And if they resonate with my attitude, personality or what I have to say, they’re quicker to let more of their personality shine.

I’m not saying everyone loves me. They don’t.

I’ve certainly had people I’ve recently met turn up their nose, dismiss and ignore me or treat me as if I didn’t know anything.

I used to flinch every time this happened. I hated the flinch. Feared it.

It prevented me from being myself (I didn’t want anyone to not like me.)

But now I’ve let that go to a great extent.

I’ve found that the people who don’t gravitate toward me tend to be in the minority.

There are certainly more that are drawn to me than repelled at least.

These are monumental strides indeed for this former people pleaser.

Find more of my writing and other projects on my website: https://keithhayden.net/