We often hear this phrase: Be yourself. We live in a culture obsessed with individuality. It dictates that each one of us is born unique, and the highest form of fulfillment that we can find, comes as you learn to truly ‘Be Yourself’. However lofty and noble this pursuit is, I have found through much of my soul searching this year, that I am left puzzled and disillusioned. What does it mean to ‘be myself’? How do I make sure, as Oprah’s well-known mantra puts it, that I am ‘living my best life’?
This type of contemplation can get pretty heady, pretty quickly; I can easily get wrapped up in my own, often lonely, existential cloud! In an effort to ‘skip the trip’, I have decided, that for my own purposes, the phrase ‘being myself’ pertains to being authentic.
Merriam Webster’s online dictionary offers these definitions for “authentic”:
- real or genuine; not copied or false
- true and accurate
Instead of demanding “Be yourself” what I really need to be asking is, am I being real? Am I being true and accurate to what I am feeling or thinking? Am I copying someone else’s persona, or trying to fit into my own perception of what others need from me?
Although I consider myself to be quite authentic (or being very true to my thoughts and feelings) when I am with loved ones, I must admit that I find this extremely difficult to do with others who don’t know me well. I often envy the person who allows themselves to have an ‘off day’ or to be a little grumpy or sad. Why must I envy them? Why can’t I have an ‘off day’, or be a little grumpy or sad?
When I perceive this envy of another’s ability to be honest, coupled by my own longing to be ‘imperfect’, almost simultaneously, my negative mind or inner critic casts judgment on this desire. “Don’t be a burden. No one really cares what you are going through. You are always trying to make it about yourself.” In an instant, I have managed to squelch what may be true or accurate to my mood, and I adjust my feelings to a more appropriate or more palatable responses.
I think it needs to be said that I do NOT believe that we should ALWAYS wear our heart on our sleeve and express whatever emotion we are feeling at the time regardless of circumstance. There are social skills that I appreciate in myself and others that take into consideration the audience or company, and the situation at hand. However, what I desire most is to be able to ‘own’ my feelings, without judgment or categorizing. I don’t always want to hijack my undesirable emotions to replace them with what I believe to be more acceptable emotions. I believe, that at the very heart of my nature, I have a desire to be honest, it is my hope that I learn to allow myself this honesty, even when it’s not pretty or perfect.
Becoming Ordinary: Day 45