When I was a teenager growing up in the 70’s and Graham Nash was proclaiming to song to, “Be Yourself”, I remember thinking, “Yeah, that’s right!” and ended up using that as one of my anthems into adulthood. And, although my version of what that looks like today is probably unrecognizable to the 16 year-old me, the core of the message is still the same – that I be true to myself because, at the end of the day, all that really matters is that I lived my life according to my own inner compass, my own True North.
We can so easily be influenced by what others think of us that it often leaves very little room to genuinely explore and then go after what we really want and what would make us truly happy. The tragedy is that we’re then stuck with a life (read: job, relationship, career, body, home-life, financial situation) that doesn’t fit who we really are and what we could actually have. As Charlie Chaplin noted on his 70th birthday while reflecting back on his life, “anguish and emotional suffering were only warning signs that I was living against my own truth.”
And the warning signs usually first come as a quiet whisper, obviously the best time to catch them and, with practice, really does get easier. Or, if we’re lucky, it’s more like a tap on the shoulder – still not too shabby if you can catch it then. More likely though, for most of us, you might notice it as some very annoying finger-poking in the chest, and, if you’re still not willing to pay attention, a thwack across the head – think major, and often humiliating, take-downs for those in the public eye and, for many of us, the usual high drama of didn’t-see-it-coming flash floods like affairs, pink slips, loss of an important friendship, or, even worse and, in most cases, just a quiet desperation of a life unlived.
The great news is that these circumstances don’t have to be a crisis; rather, it’s life’s way of sending us smoke signals that we’re off-course and just need to re-calibrate. Wake-up calls can be a cold shower and, although unpleasant, nothing more. If we take these signals as a friendly reminder to follow our hearts, no matter what, life has a way of providing all the support we need to take the steps toward creating a life filled with peace, joy, and true contentment.
So, what does being yourself really mean? The first step is recognizing that anything in your life that isn’t going the way you had hoped and planned likely has some hint of inauthenticity in it and lacks the vitality of a rich connection – with yourself and your values.
This is where a real heart-to-heart with yourself can do wonders. One great way to get back on track is to ask yourself, “If I were completely being myself in this situation or dynamic, what would I be doing, seeing, or saying, differently? What beliefs about myself and life would I have to be believing in order to feel alive and connected and getting the results I want? What conversations might I be having with the people I’m closest with?”
Start with where you are, get curious about what’s going on, and trust that the rest will show up as you go along. It was Oscar Wilde who once said, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” Do yourself a favor and take his advice because it’s never too late to be the person you could have become!