“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you someone else is the greatest accomplishment.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Who am I?
A question many of us seem to contemplate in our daily lives; Who am I? Or, who am I supposed to be? Two very similar questions; with two very different underlying principles.
We live in a society that appears to have become so existentially frustrated with the endless amount of possibilities and social demands of living in this modern world.
The truth is that if we are not truly ourselves and we do not live with integrity then we will find it extremely hard to be happy and fulfilled.
Who am I? – A question we can use to empower us to continuously seek to discover what we love most, to define our greatest self and to grow along this journey through life.
Who am I supposed to be? – A question that holds us back from being the best version ourselves through concerning our self with whom we think we need to be in order to fit in with society.
Where does it start? – Growing up.
I am going to speak first, of my personal experience of growing up from childhood to young adulthood. Some may be able to resonate with this and some may not. Either way, growing up certainly has much to do with who we are.
When we are at school, we experience many changes and get exposed to many different factors in life that are all new to us. I remember going through school wanting to ‘cool’, often making decisions about how I acted and presented myself based on what I thought the other kids would think of me. I could never really work-out which ‘social-group’ I was supposed to be in, probably because I was so focused on trying to fit-in with all of them, rather than just being me.
My Mum and Dad always said to be that school would be the best years of my life, and that when I grow up, I would simply wish I could go back; I always disagreed…
I can state quite clearly now, how I was right, and they were wrong (much to my satisfaction of course). It wasn’t that I had a bad childhood, I was very lucky and very loved, and I am still best friends with a couple of people from then to this day.
I guess I just always felt lost…
This continued into my years at university, where for the first couple of years I felt I had to fit-in with people and make my life decisions based on what the people around me would think. This inevitably lead down a path, which I almost never found my way back from.
Growing up I think we feel pressured to be friends with the people around us and act and ‘be’ as these people do. It is only once we grow up that we realise we have the choice to decide who we keep in our lives and what we accept.
There is no strictly defined timeline as to when this will happen, it all depends upon our subjective experience.
Other people’s opinion
We seem to have become a part of a cultural phenomenon that constantly seeks approval, giving the responsibility of how we feel to other people.
We have become dependent upon what other people think of us, giving other people’s words and behaviour the power to upset us.
Depression is often caused by our thoughts that we have to be something for the world.
We look to society to take care of our emotions, expecting it to cater for our change in emotion on a daily basis.
When we worry about what people think of us, we start to worry about worrying what people think of us, and then we start to worry about worrying about worrying what people think of us; it’s a never ending and vicious mental habit. Viktor E. Frankl labelled this concept as ‘Anticipatory anxiety’.
We become attached to the idea that our lives are supposed to be a certain way. It is drummed into us from a young age, whether that is by our parents, or by the education system we are apart of, of the community and culture we grow up in.
Too fat. Too skinny. Too small. Too big. Too loud. Too quiet. Too excitable. Too boring. Get the picture? We are always going to be labelled ‘too-something’ by someone and something different again by someone else. It’s important we just focus on become a greater version of ourselves and not what others would like us to be in order to meet their own needs.
WE ARE NEVER GOING TO PLEASE EVERYONE!!! (Sorry, but I had to emphasise this point.)
Society is important for all of us, but we cannot allow ourselves to be ruled by it and cultivate a fear of other people’s perception of your behaviour.
What is it we Fear?
Perhaps we are afraid of, uncertainty? We live in a very unpredictable world. Uncertainty of an outcome with a shift of perspective can simply be seen as endless opportunity; and which is more empowering? Allow yourself to see how many possibilities there are in life.
Or perhaps what we fear most is, not being liked, or fitting-in. Most of our worries and unhappiness and fears stem from our imagined reality – not our actual reality. Discomfort. Inadequacy. Doubt, disappointment and failure.
Basically, we need to stop giving a fuck what people think about us and the decisions we make in the context of our own lives.
When we look back on our lives and reflect upon those times we were rejected, or not accepted for genuinely, it is more than likely we will find that those events had no effect on our lives long-term.
It’s important we learn to care less about what other people think – it’s the only way we’ll become our true-self.
Then let us recognise when we have chosen fear. Then let us choose again, and then choose happiness and fulfilment.
What is it we fear most then? Maybe it’s the fear of being rejected and what that really means is that we are scared that we won’t be good enough for people. Maybe that’s why we feel that we are obliged to please others; but as Jim Carrey said, “our need for acceptance can make us feel alone in this world.”
If we are not careful, we end up becoming someone we are not, and that can slowly lead down a path of darkness.
Globally, we are currently facing a loneliness epidemic with recent studies discovering that over half the population feel lonely at some point of their lives. Loneliness can of course be a catalyst to other health problems, whether that be physical, or mental.
Feeling depressed and anxious can often make us isolate ourselves from the world and prevent us from doing the things we want to. This can develop feelings of loneliness, which will re-enforce the feelings of anxiety and depression.
Unhappiness, depression and anxiety can be a result of the feeling we have to be a certain way in order to fit in. When we fail to ‘be that way’, we develop this sense of loneliness, not realising that the reason we can’t be like that is because it’s not who we really are.
If we do not become aware of this at this point, we can recluse ourselves from the world through fear of not fitting-in, but what we’re actually doing is neglecting the world of having the gift we each have to offer by being genuine and connecting with those who are likeminded and thrive off the same energy.
The truth is that it is very easy to cultivate feelings of unhappiness if we are pretending to be someone we are not. We do not choose what we like and dislike – our genetics have evolved over thousands of years and it has a lot to do with why we are the way we are.
One of our deepest cravings as humans is the need to feel appreciated by others – but that appreciation will be meaningless if we’re being appreciated for someone we’re truly not.
Wayne Dyer once said, “you cannot be lonely, if you like the person you’re alone with.”
We have an intense human need to connect with one-another. But we must distinguish the difference between ‘loneliness’ and ‘being alone’ and having the strength to embark on a path alone, rather than following on the path of others, but in the wrong direction.
Courage and resilience
Our greatest quest is to remind ourselves not to be afraid to stand-out in a world that so often is ‘easier’ to fit-in.
Have the courage and resilience to stand-up for what we believe instead of confining ourselves to the demands of society.
One of my favourite quotes, is by Irish poet, Oscar Wilde, who said, “to live is the rarest thing in the world, most people exist, that is all.”
Your most important asset in order to thrive in your life will be your vision of where you want to be and who you want to become.
Follow your inner self and if anyone tries to change that, or at least enforce change then we need to have the courage and resilience to remove them from our lives and continue on our own path.
If someone doesn’t like you, I’m sorry, but fuck them!!! If you are being a genuine reflection of yourself and a good example of a human, then why does their opinion matter anyway. Their opinion will only have an effect on you if you let it.
This is not meant to sound stubborn; it is just as important to create a great support network around ourselves, with people’s opinion who we really value. However, we must me selective in who we choose to listen to, connecting with people wo we know off their genuine thoughts and just want the best for us; and who we can offer the same for.
Ultimately, we can be whatever we want, not what we think we’re supposed to be…
We take-off on a journey through life, constantly refining ourselves along the way in order to become better versions of our self. None of us are supposed to stay the same our entire lives
Paul Coelho, author of the beautiful fable, ‘The Alchemist’, said, “when we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”
We must follow our own path, watch out for the omens that will guide us along the way, listen to our heart and our true callings; we get one opportunity to create our life – let us not do it based on the opinions of others.
The truth about happiness
Neal Donald Walsch said, “the point of life therefore is to create – who and what you are and then to experience that.” This is not our duty. This is not up to others. It is an offer to each of us as individuals to choose to make the most of our time in this world.
Self-investment is the most important investment we will ever make; it will improve the lives of those around us. If we do not care for ourselves and love ourselves, how can we ever expect to do that for others.
If our happiness is dependent upon others and getting others approval based on how we convey ourselves then we are guaranteed to feel pain at some point.
Real success, real wealth, is about being true to who you are and loving that – nothing more, and nothing less.
We need to show the world authentic self. We have an opportunity here to achieve true success; and by success, I mean grow and develop our own character, to be proud of who we are and who we become.
Tony Robbins discusses the concept of identity in depth in his brilliant book, ‘Awaken the Giant Within’, recognising that our identity ultimately comes down to the decisions We make about who We are. Tony expresses, “The way you define your identity defines your life.”
We are not here to please the world; we are here to enjoy our life on our own terms so long as it does not harm the rest of the world. It’s not about being perfect, it’s about being a great human, but being a perfect example of who you truly are.
I was gifted a book called ‘Quiet’, by Susan Cain at a time in my life where I really needed it and I cannot put a value on the impact it had on me and the understanding of who I am. Susan writes, “spend your time how you like, not how you think you’re supposed to, or worse, how someone else tells you to.”
Let us live with integrity, and whilst we focus on ourselves, let us inspire others to become the best version of their self and share our journey’s.
We can all excel and thrive as individuals on this unique human experience, but if we want to live our greatest lives, we need an empowering team of people around us to reach our true destiny.
Every moment we exist we are writing the story of our lives – let’s allow others to come on the journey with us. The right people will show up in our lives if we are being a genuine example of our own character.
So who are we supposed to be then? Ralph Waldo-Emerson says, “to be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else, is the greatest accomplishment.”
Your life is your life, no matter how long it lasts – would you rather spend it living others lives through you? Or would you rather experience who you really are.
Love your life no matter what. Don’t bother with the opinions of others.
Be true to who You are!