Be yourself. Just be who you are. Sounds good, right? Like a great hashtag or something catchy printed on a t-shirt. Who wouldn’t want this experience? But the truth is, this will absolutely be the single most difficult thing you will ever attempt in your life. If you even make the attempt.
Maybe it seems downright ludicrous to even be discussing being yourself as on some level who or what else could you possibly be? As it turns out though there are lots and lots of facsimiles, cheap copies and low-grade versions of ourselves that we take on. We do this for all kinds of reasons, but the result is always the same; our real self left out of the equation, MIA, downgraded, degraded, ignored, drowned and left for dead. Being who you actually are is not for the faint of heart; those unwilling to take responsibility for themselves, or those favoring an easy way out. Instead, it is for the whole-hearted. The bold-hearted. The brave-hearted.
Why? Because if you make the choice to be who you are, you must pass through all that you are not. This part alone is why so many of us stop. Or do not even begin. It is just too painful. Too arduous. Too complicated. Too confusing. Too demanding. Too provoking. And right along side that, too magnificent, too out of the box, too empowering, and too liberating to bear; with either side of the equation feeling like too much to be with. And so, we choose lessor versions of who we are.
I once had a practitioner I was working with say to me, “You are honest and you are transparent, but you are not always authentic.” She hesitated in the delivery of this observation, cautious and wary of my reaction. But I knew instantly and exactly what it was she was talking about. More than that, I knew it to be true. Instead of feeling hurt or defensive, this comment brought light to something that had always lived just beneath the surface.
That being, the regular and daily ways where I was most decidedly, not myself. Not authentic. Not true to who I was. Not true to my experience of being in the world. Maybe it was in the ways I pretended to like something when I did not. Or be interested in something when I was not. Maybe it was in the way I would smile that tight, forced smile when I was really upset. Or said yes when I knew the answer was no. Maybe it was in all the ways I pleased, placated and performed to appease another, to belong, to fit in, to feel safe, to avoid rocking the boat.
To be yourself is to choose and to choose and to choose again. Each and every day in ways large and small. In ways easy and seemingly impossible. In ways obvious and in ways hidden. Given the magnitude of this, how do we begin given all of the habits we have gotten into around who we need to be? How do we begin given how tied we are to what others expect of us? We do it by getting clear, courageous, and firm with ourselves, not others, that this is our one and only life. Our one and only chance to be our one and only self.
And then, we begin to practice. Every day. How might that look practically? One idea to try is something you can do while lying in bed right before sleep. Go back over your day. Not obsessively or critically, but in a curious-about-you kind of way. Locate a moment where you were definitely not you. Put a little circle around it in your mind. A red one. And then place that red line through the middle of it. This is not a judgment or a punishment. It it an awakener. A marker to help you remember what it feels like to not really be yourself. Something you want to become aware of so that you can catch yourself before you go in too deep.
Next, find a place in your day where you really felt at home in yourself. A moment where you were genuine, true to your feelings, authentic. Put a circle around that one. Let it be whatever color feels most true to you. Notice how that moment felt. Choose to remember it in any way that makes sense to you. And then, build from there. There is absolutely a very distinct feel to the real you. One that you want to memorize, get comfortable with, call in, and grow as often as possible.
As silly as it may seem, we really do have to consciously choose to build our way back into the truth of our authentic selves. One experience at a time.