Written by Renee Masur
“We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.”― May Sarton
Be yourself. Since I was a kid, I’ve been told that who we are is exactly who we need to be. No one should be able to change us. And if they try, we shouldn’t give them the power. We are the ones who change us. It takes some navigating to figure out how to be yourself. We learn to be ourselves. It takes plenty of mistakes, which personally, provides me with some comfort.
I’ve learned a lot about my personality so far: what I look for in other people, in my work, how I react in good and terrible situations, what my strengths and weaknesses are, what I value, how I lead or follow, when I speak my mind, when I feel afraid, what gets me excited and what takes my energy. There are so many facets to who we are that we discover all the time. Being yourself is not trying to hide anything. When who you are by yourself is consistent with who you are around other people, you are the most authentic version of yourself.
When you are being yourself, you radiate a sense of realness that attracts people. They like you. They care enough to build a relationship with you. I read somewhere that people who embarrass easily are perceived as more trustworthy, as if their rosy complexion was a like a fire where people gather for warmth.
To be authentically you is creating your own fire because you radiate warmth from your own authentic fire. We can all tell when someone is putting on another voice, or personality, or speaking to us over their metaphorical wall. Walls are symbolic signs of protection and keep out-ness. When someone puts up their walls, the people who interact with them naturally back off. No one wants to show up to the party uninvited (unless you’re *that* person).
Authenticity puts the Be in Be Yourself. To be is to find contentment in yourself. To be. Or not to be. Someone once said that was a question. But I digress…
Being is not a question mark, it is a firm period punctuation. You are what you are. Find contentment in who you are by being happy with yourself. It’s not necessarily something that you need to strive for. Finding contentment with who you are can happen right now. One of the hardest times for me to find contentment is on a sunny summer day when I have no plans. It drives me crazy! I’m riddled with thoughts that I should be doing something awesome and usually think that time I spend idly that day is a waste. Basically, on a day when I should be enjoying the sunny day for its own sake I can’t, because I think that what I am doing (or not doing) isn’t good enough. Part of being is letting go of those things that make us anxious and enjoying the present. Why is that so hard?
Part of the reason is that I do not trust that I’m making the right decisions for myself. Finding contentment in your life is to trust yourself. Leo Babauta, author of ZenHabits, and The Little Book of Contentment compares trusting ourselves as the way we trust other people. “Your relationship with yourself is like your relationship with anyone else. If you have a friend who is constantly late and breaking his word, not showing up when he says he will, eventually you’ll stop trusting that friend. It’s like that with yourself too. It’s hard to like someone you don’t trust, and it’s hard to like yourself if you don’t trust yourself.” Pinpoint which promises you’ve been making to yourself that you’ve broken. Trusting yourself is believing that you will follow through with the promises you make. Where there is trust, there is contentment.
Authenticity puts the Your in Be Yourself. Who you are is made up of your experiences, your circumstances, nature, and the way you were nurtured. These are things that happen to you, but they also happen with you. You own all the experiences that come into your life. Human beings do not develop in a vacuum. We are part of a larger community of people, attitudes, traits, education, and the general stuff that comes in and out of our lives. We learn every minute. Owning up to who you are is accepting that these things that influence who you are do not make or break you, they just are. When you acknowledge these influences for what they are, you can do anything you want with them. You can choose to overcome all your obstacles, feel gratitude, learn lessons and put the past behind you. Your life is your prerogative. Own it, however that looks.
Authenticity puts the Self in Be Yourself. This is something that I’ve been trying to cultivate for years. Love yourself like you love other people in your life—-your closest friends, siblings, parents, and spouse. Relationships take time and maintenance. One of the most important, and I will even argue the most important, is the relationship you cultivate with yourself. To maintain a relationship with yourself you need to check in and see how you are really doing. Spend time alone, meditate, take yourself out, whatever you feel like doing. One of my favourite things to do is grocery shop and clean my home by myself. It’s very easy to get irritated by the other people in the crowded grocery store when I’m in a rush to do other things: crowded parking lots, screaming babies, those people that stop their carts in the middle of the aisles (you know the ones!). When I’m intentionally having me time, I’m filled with patience. I have nowhere to be and I can use all the time I want to take care of my own business. At the end of an afternoon, I have a full fridge, a clean house and a light glow of satisfaction.
Being authentic is trusting yourself to be who you naturally are. Who you are with yourself is how to be around other people. Besides, carrying around building supplies for that wall is so burdensome; just bring matches. Lighten the load, and you’ll be surprised how many opportunities will gather around your fire.