(Hint: It’s Not What You Think)
The saying throughout life, heard time and again by well-meaning folk, “just be yourself.”
Is this easier said than done? I think so. From birth we are being conditioned, in every millisecond of relationship with our caregivers, our siblings, our peers and larger community, to behave in a way that works for the relationship. This is survival for a social being. We need others to survive, not just for food and shelter, but for love. Love is the most essential nutrient that we need. And love has many branches: security, belonging, acceptance, kindness, patience, confidence, support and companionship.
We are wired to turn towards these qualities, because our very survival depends on them. But for the most part, in our human reality, love comes with conditions. I daresay, we have all experienced an obstacle when it comes to being ourselves, or belonging to a peer or family group. This is deep stuff and of course we will most often sacrifice ourselves, and our own authenticity in order to belong. That pull to survive, to be part of the tribe, it runs deep and unconscious for most of us.
In fact, we need to conform to survive for the first part of our lives, and not conform to survive for the last part of our lives.
This suggests that we eventually reach a point in our trajectory, when we awaken to the knowledge that our conformity to the tribe is too small for us anymore, that we must grow beyond it. We feel a desire to explore new territory of ourselves and who we think we are, or could be. We become aware of how challenging the tribe, or confronting the status quo as we’ve known it, becomes the new necessity to our survival.
Perhaps it was a significant life event that caused us to look at things with fresh eyes.
Perhaps we encountered a person who, just by their presence, challenged core beliefs we had long held to be true.
Perhaps an illness humbled us.
Or perhaps it was the arts, a film, a song, or a poem, that knocked on the doorway of our hearts, awakening us to deeper truths about what love is, that in fact it might be grander than we ever realized.
This is exciting territory.And as thrilling as it is, it does come with anxiety, and awkwardness, and even shame. Those are the things of the conditional love of the past. The big question then is, will you continue to allow shame and fear to dominate your very being? Or will you, in the midst of that discomfort, choose into a larger you? A you, that can encompass your present challenges, be they relational, political, or physiological, and transcend them with acceptance and transformation.
The shame and the fear is not you.I recognize that within us, the voice of shame and fear sounds like your voice, but it is not you. We’ve all grown accustomed to believing these negative things about ourselves. The solution is not to fight those thoughts, or to argue them or debate them until you win. You will never win the argument with your negative thoughts. The solution is about remembering who you really are, and the shame and the fear, is not it.
The good news is that I cannot tell you who you really are.
That gets to be yours to discover and share with the world as you are ready. But each step you make, to listening beyond the shame and the fear to your real voice, and responding to that voice, the easier it does become to discern the truth. It may seem trite, but diet changes can be a way into this rich territory. Letting go of foods that really do not serve us, and choosing more nourishing options is a concrete way of choosing back into our vibrant self, which often is not the self that is highly managed by fear and shame and doubt. We make changes because we choose life. We choose our life. What works for another likely will not work for you. It can be a place to begin, to start where someone else has gained success, but then continue on from there. Keep going with fine tuning your daily practices (which includes eating!) so that your life feels ever more like your very own. Small changes lead to big changes, so take it one step at a time. And remember, you just have to be yourself. 😉