The real meaning of being yourself.
If you are a human just like I, chances are that you have experienced moments of awkwardness and self-doubt. Days in which you simply don’t feel like “yourself”, although such is precisely the only entity you have the ability to be. But what does “being yourself” actually mean? and how do you know when that is the role you are successfully portraying?
I admit that I’m still in the midst of finding out, the journey of self-discovery is lifelong after all. But I have learned valuable lessons in the process. What I’ve come to find out, is that painful experiences are inevitable but learning from them is a choice, and probably one of the most important, if not the most important one as we embark on our soul searching itinerary.
“Being yourself” can feel confusing since our selfhood is remarkably shaped by an array of external factors. Cultural biases, environment, social expectations, religious beliefs, our parents, and even our experiences all heavily influence our character — we conclude who we must be, hereby overriding any sort of emotional discordance. We hardly defy the fables that have been embedded in us since childhood and grow up believing in this false avatar that, at some point in adulthood might find itself staring in the mirror unable to recognize itself. That’s when something clicks and you suddenly understand that you have not a single clue of how you ended up there, maybe in the big city when all you’ve wanted was the mountains, or in a dead marriage you can’t recall ever desiring. We make decisions based on what everyone except ourselves suggests is best for us. We become the shadow of those whose opinion we value most while losing grip of who we truly are.
So how do you dismantle your fake identity and find that one with all it’s true potential? How do you remove the glare and start seeing YOU in clear? I might a few things that can be of help.
First and foremost:
Honesty. This is by far the hardest thing but the most essential. Being honest with ourselves is recognizing when we’re in the wrong. Is to stop making excuses for our foul moods, selfishness, laziness, and anything about us that’s rather unflattering. It is recognizing that perhaps us too, can be toxic because we spend our days complaining, criticizing, comparing, and neglecting. To admit to such is truly an act of kindness. It’s also brutally uncomfortable — We rarely see ourselves as the problem; it’s always them, not you. The thing is, if you aren’t exactly happy about your life it’s probably because you aren’t looking in quite thoroughly. You are only cherry-picking parts that seem worthy of consideration. All the ugly remains hidden (and trust me, we all have an ugly, and when I say ugly I mean an ugly attitude). In like manner, honesty with thy self also constitutes our insensible physical expectations. It means looking at our reflection without filter and unrealistic affirmations. Is looking straight into our crooked teeth and wide hips and acknowledging those “imperfections” as fundamental components of our being. No posing in the right angle trying to catch the version we feel most comfortable with sharing on our social media accounts. It’s really simply looking at us whole, unaltered, right here and now, and realizing that we are all worthy of a happy and fulfilling life regardless of what we look like. A pointier nose doesn’t make someone more deserving of love. Take note that as you start removing these pretentious layers from yourself, you must proceed compassionately and without judgment. This is not a self blame game.
Once you’ve come clean over the good, the bad and the ugly, you must practice Acceptance. Acceptance is coming to terms with our looks and our reality just as is. It’s freedom from the paradigm of obsessive thoughts about the should haves and would haves. It’s a liberation from yearning and comparing by solely welcoming our truth, however crude it may be. It gives us room to see the whole picture rather than just the tiny pixel we are fixated on. Admitting is also acknowledging our power to get through it, whatever “it” consists of. To change what we can and make the best of the rest. Instead of preoccupying about what you could have done differently in a particular situation or something you think you may be lacking, you’ll start noticing the things you do have access to and find a way to work with that. You’ll stop obsessing over your height and celebrate your olive skin. You’ll see a different realm of your persona. That’s the beauty of acceptance — it reveals new paths and options and meaning, things we never thought were possible. We start seeing ourselves with a different pair of eyes. We start getting creative. Only when we concede our truth we’re able to form a new one. Acceptance is focusing on solutions rather than problems. And believe it or not, things suddenly don’t feel so unbearable.
Next up is Courage. This a big one because it takes great fortitude to admit and accept our quirks and flaws. To see you and not wanting to be someone else, that’s courage. Some may disagree— But it’s really an act of bravery to like ourselves in a world that sets a model seemingly impossible to reach of how we are supposed to look like and live by; there’s even a quote about this on the internet somewhere. Correspondingly, it takes serious guts to decide on carving your own path and stop following the herd. To explore your mystical oneness and reinvent yourself; to dare stepping out of your limiting geographical safe zone and face uncertainty. It won’t be easy of course; Fear will come right in and attempt to barricade your plan to escape your falsified identity. Your job is to be aware and channel your intrepid spirit not to let fear win this time. Bravery is your shield — it’s like your coin of immunity. The jitters will not completely go away and you may feel as if you’ll never be confident enough, or funny enough, or simply and purely just enough. But such will change, just the moment you take the first step even if you’re freaking terrified. Once seeing your capability you’ll realize you’re stronger than you thought.
“Feel the Fear…and DO IT ANYWAY”! as Dr. Susan Jeffers says in her book with the same title (A must-read by the way).
Awareness follows next. You’ve heard of it, the ability to be in the now — present, and not just in body. Awareness entices our minds to stay put, to stop getting up for restroom brakes each time somebody is speaking. Is catching ourselves when we start over-analyzing, judging, and cowardly regressing into our comfortable little bubble. Awareness is the stream of consciousness. By being aware, we are regarding ourselves and others. We learn to observe and identify our patterns, thus to build new ones. Awareness refrains our “monkey brains” from staying in autopilot. It’s like a wake-up call, the first sip of coffee upon waking up. It’s the windshield free of dust and debris.
Trust. When I say trust, I’m not suggesting blindly giving out your social security number or signing a legal agreement without reading the fine print. What I’m signifying is trust in YOU. The choices that you make, the things that you like, the fact that as you uncover your purpose and passions, you’ll be able to confront the struggles and the unexpected turns. Is the feeling that you are getting closer to your genuine oneness. Is to keep going, to keep trying, to keep changing and adjusting as you go. Giving yourself credit and the benefit of the doubt, even when you’ve failed (which you absolutely MUST if you shall succeed). Trust is saying No to things and people, or both. It means setting boundaries and prioritizing your peace and safety. However, behold that what I’m saying here does not imply shunning others when they’re trying to help. Not all suggestions are evil. In fact, we need them. We learn from other people just like others learn from us. Trusting is listening openly and defenselessly, ultimately helping us build a journey that is entirely of our own. Trust is fundamental for any relationship to thrive, and that of course includes the relationship with yourself.
Compassion. As you begin to crack the shell, you must be easy on yourself. Mistakes were and will be made — without them we can’t grow. Every incident, decision, and physical aspect of us has a purpose. Such mold and direct us just exactly how and where we are supposed to be. We trust, remember? The key is to become our best friend. See ourselves with love, the way we see a sibling or anyone important to us. Talk to ourselves the way we would to this special person. Patiently and forgiving, remembering that if anything else fails, we are here for us — always. We must count in getting ourselves back up every time we fall and cheer even our smallest victories.
Ultimately, the real meaning of being yourself is living life with intent. A feeling of gratitude for the here and now and every single particle that makes you up. It’s facing adversity with trust and enjoying the wonderful individuality you possess. It’s unlearning those old patterns that have kept you stagnant and revisiting a new approach, excitedly redesigning a new future. If you are foreseeing your worth and how much you already have available to you, perhaps you haven’t unlocked your most profound authenticity. But remember, without our originality this world would be awfully dull. Always keep in mind that you are fully equipped with everything you need to thrive. All it takes is your will in wanting to see your package.