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Y is for Yourself

What does it mean to be yourself?

“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.” E.E. Cummings

‘Be yourself’ they say, but what does it mean to be yourself? And how do we know whether we are being our true selves or subconsciously losing ourselves and becoming just a product of other’s influence and manipulation?

“Be yourself, don’t take anything from anyone, and never let them take you alive.” Gerard Way

The expression of our self isn’t something that is static; it is constantly changing and evolving as we encounter and embrace new experiences; accommodating and assimilating them into our being.

It is important to question our beliefs and understandings and regularly review our ideas and behaviours to see if they are in alignment with our values. We also need to make sure that our values are not just thinly disguised prejudices!

“When someone is properly grounded in life, they shouldn’t have to look outside themselves for approval.” Epictetus

Your ability to be yourself is linked to levels of authenticity, courage, integrity, your character and the values you have and your ability to allow yourself to be vulnerable, for openness and to leave off social masks as you journey with intention through life.

Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” Bernard M. Maruch

Our lives are a journey to uncover ever deeper and different aspects of our selves and create better connections with each other.

Our assumptions, judgments and the way we define things affect our ability to see things for their true nature. When we make judgments about others through the eyes of assumption ,bias and prejudice, it prevents us seeing things for their true value and worth and they become diminished in our eyes.

It is only when we can learn to put aside our ego that we can see others for who they truly are and ourselves clearly. To get back to our true selves we have to remove the shackles of our prejudices and the constraints and dogmas imposed by others and recognise when our ego is causing us to do ourselves and others harm and preventing us accessing our authentic selves and establishing true connections with others.

So how do we bring our true self to the fore?

“The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” Friedrich Nietzsche

We are constantly being bombarded with others’ opinions – both those we know personally and others e.g. the media that is trying to influence every aspect of our being and belief systems e.g. our decisions about what to wear, how to look, what to do, what we shouldn’t do, what we should think and how to interpret things, who to vote for, which God to believe in… the list goes on.

Don’t be into trends. Don’t make fashion own you, but you decide what you are, what you want to express by the way you dress and the way to live.” Gianni Versace

To find understanding and meaning, it requires a conscious effort on our part, rather than just ‘going with the flow’ without thought and not being aware of what we are doing and why and whether it fits ethically into our belief systems and values.

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” Maya Angelou

When we were born we were like a blank sheet of paper but as we have gone on through life we have been consciously moulded and both consciously and subconsciously influenced by others all our life and it is up to us to examine and question everything so that the choices we make are based on our conscious choices and not just the projections and influences of others.

“Ogres are like onions… we both have layers” Shrek

Much like an onion, it can take a while of peeling away our outer layers to understand the core of who we are.

“You have to find what sparks a light in you so that you in your own way can illuminate the world.” Oprah Winfrey

Another analogy I once read described us as being pure light when we are born and to be our true selves it is up to us to rediscover that original light by opening our metaphorical iris, and removing any filters etc to be able to focus clearly.

“The more clearly you understand yourself and your emotions, the more you become a lover of what is.” Spinoza

We are all unique. That uniqueness comes from within and is shown externally by our actions and behaviours. Integrity and remaining true to ourselves is important for our health.

“Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else.” Judy Garland

Acting against our true nature sets up a dissonance that can be detrimental to our health at many levels etc. Whenever we compromise what we know is the right thing to do for the sake of what is expedient in the moment, there is always an unseen toll on us that often far outweighs the benefit derived from any apparent immediate gain.

“You were born with potential. You were born with goodness and trust. You were born with ideals and dreams. You were born with greatness. You were born with wings. You are not meant for crawling, so don't. You have wings. Learn to use them and fly.” Rumi

We can tap into our true self when we stop all the noise and chatter in our minds and find the stillness within through practices like mindfulness , spending time in nature and learning to love ourselves. Self love is all about balance and being in alignment with yourself; your thoughts, emotions, and opinions without judging yourself. It is accepting who you are and how you are i.e. aiming to live a congruent life.

“Don’t let others box you into their idea of what they think you should be. A confined identity is a miserable way to exist. Be you and live free. Trust that in living true to yourself, you will attract people that support and love you, just as you are.” Jaeda deWalt

Further reading:

Philosopher John Locke’s memory theory of personal identity suggests that what makes you you is your memory of your experiences:

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