How to be, or rather: how not to be yourself
“Be who you are!” “Just be yourself!” “Be as you are!” One more version and you throw something at me, right?
After all, there’s hardly any pop song, self-help program or fizzy drink commercial that’s not trying to sell itself with this profound-sounding yet empty and annoying phrase.
This message is puzzling on many levels:
- Who the heck could I possibly be if not myself?
- Does this mean that I must accept myself exactly the way I currently am and display myself unfiltered to the outside world?
- But what if I’m not happy with the way I am? How about growth, development, change? Can I be myself and want to change at the same time?
- And to be perfectly honest: around some people, in certain situations, I do feel more me than in others. But how is that possible? Which one is the real me and who are all the rest who take control over my body, mind and actions oh so often?
Well, in the following few posts I’m going to walk around these disturbing questions while also giving you an accurate list of the clear signs that you are being yourself (most of the time at least).
So let’s start with a somewhat radical statement: other than a cluster of cells and measurable biochemical reactions, you are just the creation of your own and other people’s imagination.
You are a fictional character, if you prefer it that way.
A network of thoughts is how you define yourself. And how others think of you. And as many versions of you exist as people who interact with you. Every second a new you is being born.
The way you are in your everyday life is an embodiment of yours and others’ thoughts. And the routines, life experiences and beliefs that make up your memory are responsible for maintaining your continuity of character.
So what else could it be when you’re not feeling yourself?
- An unfamiliar experience that – due to a pre-existing set of beliefs – is not received with the utmost, welcoming acceptance by your mind (WHAAAT?? Have I just sent my boss to hell and danced on the table for the whole night? That couldn’t be me!)
- Others’ expectations of you, real or assumed (What would my father/wife/thewholedamnedworld say if they found out that I’ve always hated my profession as a lawyer and all I ever wanted was to keep goats on a far-away farm???).
- Your own expectations of you (generally related to others’ real or assumed expectations of you): “but I’m a Christian, and good Christians don’t do such things, do they?
- Others’ real or assumed opinions of you: (These people think I’m a genius, what if they find out I haven’t got a clue?).
- Your own, often very limiting opinion of yourself: “I’m such a loser, see, I told you”.
- A lack of awareness (I didn’t know, I didn’t choose this, I was told, I was given, so does the rest of the world”).
- All kinds of fears, such as “I hate my job and the constant humiliation, but I can’t stand up for myself ‘cause who knows what might happen” or even “personally I’d love to do X, but everyone thinks it’s crazy, so I’d probably just fail”.
Have you recognized any of these representations of self?
Then why, why, why do we ignore the truth whispering from the depth of our souls (and from Bee Gees songs too!) and choose to act the exact opposite way?
Although it might seem like there’s numerous reasons you may not feel “yourself”, they can all be reduced to one of these two factors:
- Conflicting beliefs within.
With the first one, you’d be shocked to know how many of your bitter experiences are caused by your fears. They can appear in all kinds of forms: “they wouldn’t accept you”, “they will think you are stupid, boring or ridiculous”, “you are not good enough, you are going to fail…”.
Any time you choose to fulfil some kind of expectation instead of following your heart, instincts and curiosity you can be sure there’s some kind of fear driving your actions in the background. And more often than not the result of this is bitter frustration, dissatisfaction, resentment and blame.
But your beliefs are just as good when it comes to tricking you. I’m gonna borrow Martha Beck’s metaphor to better explain to you what’s going on inside. Imagine there’s this fun-loving, playful, restless, stubborn and rebellious child living inside your mind, and also a merciless dictator that knows all the rules and wants to make sure they all are abided by, desperately trying to reduce his constant anxiety.
These two archetypes, two conflicting voices, co-exist in every single one of us. They are unstoppable, unavoidable, unchangeable, inseparable. And they are both necessary as well. Without the dictator you’d either be dead or locked away from society, without the child you’d have no purpose, no direction and not a second of joy.
The issue is that due to their nature and functions, they live in constant fight, and you constantly identify, mistakenly, with one or the other.
When you swallow the second chocolate doughnut, that’s the kid. When the next day you punish yourself with a half marathon, that’s the dictator. On the third morning, when you convince yourself that you need to take a few days break from your fitness routine to heal, that’s the kid again. It’s a vicious cycle and the only way to break out is to learn how to identify who says what, take a step back, seperate yourself and just listen to what these voices have to say. Then, as a true leader would do, you make a well thought out decision that everyone inside can accept and act upon without feeling oppressed and neglected.
I’ll give you a little break to digest all the information above. Not long though, because now that you know what a narrow path you need to walk if you want to remain authentic, you are ready for the next important lesson:
So, until you next hear from me, think a bit about the following question:
Who is the person you'd be proud to call yourself?
…aaaaan, if you haven’t yet done so, join
and let all your friends know about it too! You only have a day left, don’t waste time!