Ralph Waldo Emerson once said…
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
At forty-two years old, I’m more convinced of this than ever. Too many personal growth “experts” teach us that modeling successful people is the way to become successful. This sounds wise, and it has some value – but only as a tool for self-discovery. If you become “successful” by modeling someone else, you may learn how pointless it is to gain the whole world, but lose yourself along the way.
I know how hard it is to live by this rule. But no matter how insignificant you feel, or how hard your life has been, there’s a voice and a vision inside you that belongs ONLY to you. If someone else can’t see it, or appreciate it like you do, it’s because it wasn’t given to them. If you want that voice and that vision to come alive, you have to get damn good at being, and remaining, your authentic self.
Why Isn’t “Being Yourself” Easy?
It seems like it should be. But it’s also easy to convince ourselves that we’re growing when we’re not. I believe most of what we mistake for growth is really just conformity. From the time we’re old enough to listen, people are telling us what we should say, or think, or do and how we should act. Some of this is fine. It’s how we learn to get by in the world and get along with others. But too often, we lose ourselves during this process of “growing up.”
I’ve known a lot of people who never learned the difference between growth and conformity. Instead of being themselves, they learn to build more sophisticated masks for getting by in the world.
I won’t exclude myself from this group, because I’ve had my moments. The pressure to conform is almost unbearable, especially when we feel like we have to do it to get by. I get that.
But think about the hobbies you’ve had in your life, especially the creative ones. What happened to them?
Maybe you used to paint, or draw, or write, or build, or sing or play music. At some point, you stopped doing these things. Maybe you stopped believing that it was worth your time and energy. Maybe that’s true. But how often do we trade these things for the mundane “responsibilities” in life?
What about our responsibility to discover, and to develop and to remain who we are? Maybe you’re reading this, because there’s a part of you that KNOWS its time to make this a priority again.
What’s the Secret to Being Yourself?
I don’t have all the answers. But I believe it starts with appointing yourself as the world’s leading authority on your own life. If you don’t assume this role, someone will. You’ve probably met plenty of people who tried to impose their will on you to get something they wanted – even if it was just for a moment. This is human nature and it’s not going to change. So why waste your energy trying to change it?
What you can change is who you become as a result of it all. This starts with dethroning ALL the people and ALL the ideas that have pressured you into living as an extra in someone else’s story. Maybe this is what Emerson meant, when he said that the greatest accomplishment is to be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else. This is the greatest gift you can give to world, and only you can give it.-Stay Awesome,