To Thine Own Self Be True
I’ve done this type of blog before – but at the urging of a couple of people, I’ve decided to write another ‘be true to who you truly are’ piece. I guess people need frequent reminders.
There are so many articles that offer reasons why being true is so important - all self help specialists tout this; preachers make this the foundation of their sermons; and everyone insists this is the way to happiness. According to a recent study published in the journal of Personality and Individual Differences ‘ when you’re true to yourself, better romantic relationships will follow.’ Is any of that really new? I think the issue is not the ‘importance’ of being true to ourselves -that message has been beaten senseless. The bigger issue is ‘why the frigg can’t we do it?’ Because to be honest, most of us fail miserably – some in big ways and others in small ways that we ignore but still count all the same.
So why do most of us still struggle to stay true to our natures and our characters?
I have two theories:
- The existence of labels: Labels will really be the death of us, seriously. They plague us from the minute we’re born to the day we die. And I mean all kinds of labels – labels assigned to our looks, intelligence, character, life, faith, family, etc. Words like pretty, ugly, smart, challenged, stupid, boring, interesting, generous, stingy, kind, mean, honest, sincere, liar, deceitful, etc. There isn’t any aspect of our existence that isn’t labeled. Whether we like it or not, we assign labels and we have labels assigned to us. And for most of us, we naturally want to avoid the negative labels, even if those labels completely characterize who we truly are. You’d have to be a hardened sociopath not to care a little about labels. Only 1% of the world’s population is sociopathic so that means most of us care, a lot. And it’s funny how this ‘caring’ manifests itself – you have people on Facebook trying hard to sound smart so they Google quotes and post them (and some don’t even understand the quotes); sometimes people literally force themselves to go to Church every Sunday because they crave to be called religious; some people bite down hard on their tongues as they pick up the tab at a group outing because they want be seen as generous; others spend every last dime they have on clothes because they want to be stylish; and others pretend to be neat freaks when truthfully, they are plain slobs. The list of examples is endless. We are on edge all the time – conscious or unconsciously we are all victim to desiring positive labels. Let me use myself as an example. I took to Twitter slowly because I just didn’t get it. It seemed mindless and silly to me. So for months, I’d only post when I updated my blog. Eventually, I started tweeting about tidbits that I felt reflected my commentary on life. Eventually, it became a burden. I’m watching Hawaii Five-O and I want to tweet how super hot McGarret is, but I stop myself because I don’t want to tweet mindless things like everyone else. A couple of weeks ago, a blogger I regard as a ‘conscious’ blogger, tweeted about being hungry. I was stunned and I quickly replied and said I thought he was better than that. Right there, I assigned a label. I expected him to stay conscious. Honestly, if there were no labels, we’d be happier people.
- Reputation: “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are”. If labels restrict us, then reputations cripple us. Labels are almost temporary, but reputations are permanent. You can be mean today, kind the next, but a reputation is something you can’t take off and put on whenever you want. It is hard to recover from a bad reputation – near impossible even, and that is the crux of it all. This is what truly keeps us from being true to ourselves – reputations. Your true nature on the other hand is about what you do and think privately. It is a quality at the very center of your being. Unfortunately (and one blog won’t change this), in the battle between private intentions and public reputation, public wins all the time, hands down. This may sound overly dramatic, but you know when you watch movies and someone is caught stealing, and to protect the theft they kill someone who stumbles on them? I had a tough time understanding this growing up. So because you’re afraid to go to jail for theft, you commit murder? Which crime is worse? It’s almost the same in the war between your true inner nature and your public reputation. For most people, it is best to continue to lie than to have the truth be told. Sometimes the reputations we are trying hard to protect are ideals that were ingrained at birth. And sometimes it’s from the society we live in or grew up in. Whatever the case may be, we must continue to lie to protect the images we’ve built – at all costs.
Labels, reputations, all of that, none of that will change. For as long as we live and breathe, most, if not all of us will struggle with this. So what’s the antidote? I have a couple of suggestions.
- The most important thing is to admit openly that you are a work in progress. You might think this is simple? It really isn’t. Oh yeah some people may say, oh I know I am not perfect, but it is just words. They still continue to pretend. To say you’re not perfect is very different from living in a way that shows you own and acknowledge all the imperfections that exist. You have to truly mean what you say. Take a look inside you, and acknowledge what you consider to the center of your nature, good or bad, just acknowledge it. I’ve noticed on my blog that most people who comment, always want to come across as ‘good’ – oh I never do this, of course I don’t pretend to be someone different, I appreciate myself, ya da ya da ya da. Whatever you say dear.
- The second antidote is talk to someone. Another seemingly simple activity, but not really. Yes, we share stuff with our friends, but I’d bet most of your close friends don’t really know you. You talk, but you don’t really talk. Start with a shrink maybe, because yes, friends can betray your confidence. Whoever it may be, you need to talk, you need to share, you need to open up, and that is the only way you will be able to win the battle – a little.
My close friends know I ABHOR people who live a lie, people who pretend to be something they are not, and people are obviously weighed down by the turmoil that rages in their soul. Not to be self-righteous, but for all my flaws and issues, I strive to be me, above all else. It doesn’t mean I don’t falter. But I am the first to lay those flaws flat on a table.
Check out this article (very interesting): Hypocrisy Rooted in High Morals
What are your thoughts? Why do we continue to pretend to be people we’re not? And what can we do about it?