“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
I am a huge fan of Ralph Waldo Emerson. If you are unfamiliar with his life, his works and thoughts I recommend you explore the writings and teachings of this 19th century giant of intellect.
The quote above resonates with me more than any other sentence I have ever read or written. I know that might sound like hyperbole given the trillions of words and sentences floating around in space, but it is true. I have spent a large part of my life being who I thought I needed to be so I would be accepted and successful. The difficulty, as is the difficulty with any lie, is keeping the lie going and the harmful effects it has on your mental and physical health. The internal torment of living a life that is not your true life, or your true self, can be very destructive.
This is where I found myself about 10 years ago, trying to do everything I could to sabotage or kill the lie that I had become. It was kind of like a slow suicide. Subconsciously I thought if I could destroy the old me, the real me would emerge with an opportunity for a fresh start, an end and a new beginning. But like most subconscious, irrational ideas the loose ends are never tied up in a nice little bow.
The pressure to conform begins early in our lives, starting with our Mother’s and Father’s. Each of us has a certain path, a certain expectation we are forced to follow and conform to. Other than our parent’s influencing our early direction we can also blame teachers, friends, faiths, neighborhoods, and geographic regions, just to name a few, as environmental influences of who we are supposed to be rather than who we truly are. Given all the pressures placed on each of us every day it’s a wonder our lives aren’t a clucked-up mess, 10 years ago mine certainly was.
It has taken me 40 years to find my true self, my voice. 40 years that I was able to meld my outside with my inside. It came at a cost, and it came with some loss but fortunately it came in the nick of time, before I had no time left to live a life as myself.
Rather than squirm at the sight of the kid that seems to have every part of his body pierced we should admire his public display. I bet if you asked him, he is just as comfortable with his inside as he is with what you and I see on the outside. It’s our conformity that is the problem, our preconceived notions of what is right, true and factual. We can challenge our bias by following the sage advice of this Buddhist Proverb “Change the way you look at things, and the things you look at will change”. But implementing this takes effort, heart and the comfort in knowing that we are truly who we are and I am sure most of us live with some doubt. If you are searching for your true self, not just the person you want to be but also the one you need to be I hope you will continue the journey. Your arrival will be your “greatest accomplishment”.