To Thine Own Self Be True
Guest Post by Rebecca Lacy
“Today you are you, that’s truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” -Dr. Seuss
Being ‘authentic‘ is a relatively new catchphrase. To me it means being true to myself, and that requires looking within to see what makes me feel alive – what touches my soul. I don’t know about you, but this isn’t always an easy thing for me to do.
Truthfully, I’m still a work in progress. I suppose I wouldn’t have made it as far as I have if it weren’t for the fact that I got tired of trying to be someone I’m not. Frankly, it’s exhausting, and I would rather use that same energy to be the best me I can be.
Why do so many of us spend our lives trying to live up to another person’s ideal? Intellectually, we know it’s stupid. When we watch movies of people trying to change themselves for the opportunity to hang out with the ‘cool kids’, we yell at the screen – telling them that they’re idiots to change so someone else will like them. Yet, most of us are guilty of doing the same thing.
When I go to the 30,000 foot level and look down on the world, I see how things work. One of the things I’ve seen is that there are a lot of people who feel like outsiders – like they’re a round peg trying to fit into a square hole. Well, from this great altitude, I can also see that almost all of us feel that way at some time or the other. That means that when we are feeling like the ‘only one who _______ ‘(fill in the blank), we are more than likely surrounded by people who feel just like us. They might just be better at faking it.
That is where a lack of authenticity begins to choke the life out of us.
Pretty soon we learn to adapt in order to feel like an insider. Sometimes it is better to feel like one of the ‘cool kids’ than it does to feel ‘real’.
So, who is to blame for this life-choking blight on authenticity?
We all are at some level. We reward those who are like us or behave in a manner we accept, and we punish those who don’t.
Sometimes it is our parents who decide who we are supposed to be. I have a friend who wanted to be an astrophysicist when she was a kid. Really! The thing that held her back was being told by her parents that there are only two jobs appropriate for women: Nursing and teaching. Being an obedient child, she went on to become a nurse. She chose that path to satisfy her parents’ definition of what she should be, and it left a hole in her.
For others, it is society that sets the standards we are expected to live up to: what clothes to wear, how to live, the type of job we should have, where we should go to school. The list of do’s and don’ts that inevitably shapes who we are goes on and on.
For example, a woman I know has been programmed by her parents, peers and employers about how she is expected to behave if she is to be considered a ‘nice girl’. Nice girls, it is implied, aren’t assertive, but rather pleasantly passive. How can you be true to yourself if you don’t speak up and let people know what you think and what you need?
The answer is simple: you can’t. For most of my life I’ve gone with the flow, and I’ve been relatively happy. However, I always felt as though something was missing, but self-imposed barriers kept me from looking too deeply or acting on what I knew to be true.
For as long as I can remember, I was drawn to words. I loved drama, literature and language. So the natural thing for me to do was to go to business school. Not! Anyone could see that was not the best option for me, but perhaps it was the most expedient. Don’t get me wrong, I love business and have owned my own for 17 years. However, it isn’t something that feeds my soul.
When I worked in Corporate America, I knew people who kept a count-down on their calendar of the number of days until they would be eligible for retirement. Think of that! Wishing your life away, thinking that maybe someday they can start the life you really want.
Are we training our children to avoid this? I don’t think so. We show them that to be successful they need things – material things. In order to acquire the trappings of success we often have to turn our backs on our gifts and talents, and become a slave to our acquisitions and the lives that others have suggested we live. This is not something I would wish for anyone.
When I finally decided to start doing something about that little light in me that longed to burn brighter, I felt free. Indeed, my two-year journey to become a professional writer has been the most liberating thing I have ever experienced.
I believe that God gave each of us a gift that He wants us to share with the world. If we choose to be someone else’s ideal of perfect – live according to someone else’s movie of our life – we are denying that God-given gift. What would the world be like if each of us mined that gem within us and brought it out into the daylight where it can shine?
What about your gem? Remember authenticity knows no age boundaries. If you are just beginning your life’s journey, you are lucky. You have fewer bad habits to unlearn. On the other hand, when we are young, sometimes it is more difficult to be true to ourselves. One thing to always hold on to: no matter your age, never let someone tell you that you are being selfish if you insist on being the best ‘you’ you can be.
So, whether you’re very young or very old or somewhere in between, hold up your light and let it be seen.by