“Be yourself, everyone else is taken.” Oscar Wilde
It’s been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But, if you think about it, the moment you try to imitate someone, you’re stuck. Imitation is the opposite of being your authentic self.
You were born to fill a niche no one else can fill. You are on this earth to create a song which no one else can sing. Yet sadly, many of us mindlessly stifle our voices in order to meet the world’s expectations and maintain the status quo.
Too many of us fail to radiate our inner light and play the music within. We are either too afraid to be our true selves or we’ve lost our essence so that we no longer know who we are. We get caught up trying to impress and project a public persona that is at odds with our original selves. Interestingly enough, we are born knowing how to live. If you watch really young children, you’ll see them shine as they exude confidence, revel in their own uniqueness and unashamedly express their needs, wants, and opinions. As we grow up, we are taught to hide our authentic selves so we don’t draw unnecessary attention or criticism. We learn to fear what others think of us.
In order to be accepted and to fit in, many of us follow unwritten social norms. We pursue wealth, material possessions, fame, a youthful appearance, and particular jobs. Some of us may bow to the pressure to get married at a certain age and have the “appropriate” number of children. It takes courage to risk judgement and listen to the inner voice which may lead us down a different path.
While it is true that being your authentic self could offend people, living to please others will also offend people. Ilyana Vanzant says, “Until you are willing to live beyond the opinions of other people, and without the company of other people, you will have no idea of what your life is all about.” Many of us are people-pleasers; whether we realize it or not, we want people to like us.
In fact, we may become easily offended or upset if we think someone doesn’t like us. This triggers feelings of rejection, abandonment, or inferiority – feelings that unknowingly stop us from radiating our true selves. Living an authentic life means sojourning down the road less travelled. Though the road may be very dark, hilly, tumultuous, and at times lonely, the key to our personal power lies in persevering down this road despite what others may say or do to us. Keep going. You’ll never please everyone so stop trying.
Maybe you don’t even know who you are anymore. When asked the question, “Who are you?” perhaps you would answer with your occupation (“I’m an accountant”), your role (“I’m a mother”) or where you live (“I’m a Canadian”). But this is not your true identity.
Ask yourself these questions in order to rediscover your original self:
1. What is my purpose?
Knowing your purpose gives your life meaning. Write your purpose as a mission statement to direct your life.
2. What are my values?
For example: security, freedom, family, health, spiritual development, learning, honesty, etc.
3. What are my needs?
To be appreciated, to be in control, autonomy, responsibility, freedom, flexibility, etc.
4. What are my passions? What brings me joy?
Is it nature, writing, painting, music, sports, learning, spending time with loved ones, etc.
5. Is my public behaviour and image at odds with what I listed?
Love yourself enough to let your voice rise above other people’s expectations. Don’t let others’ jealousy or judgements convince you to hide who you are. Celebrate your magnificence. As James Poland says, “Like the sky opens after a rainy day we must open to ourselves…. Learn to love yourself for who you are and open so the world can see you shine.”
Listen to your inner voice rather than the fear-based voice of the world. Don’t live your life as a whisper. Pump up the volume and start living your life out loud!