For the first post in 2012, and with the help of my dear friend Doris Kendrick to whom I dedicate this, I decided to cite one chapter of my book "It's Not About How, It's About Now" in witch I write about being the true self.
Never before I considered being truly yourself, always and everywhere, as important as I do it today. We are living in times where morals became as rare as the rarest of the diamonds. People live constantly in doubts about what they see and what they hear. We do not know who we can trust and who not. Many don't even know if they can trust themselfes!
So why don't we put a hold on all this and start within ourselfes ad re-discover the real person that lives in us. It doesn't matter if your neighbor joins you or not, important is that you do what you believe to be right and good for you. And if just one follows your lead, than the world has a true chance to become a better place.
I hope with this I could help making this first step a little easier.
"We all wear masks. Different masks for different people and different situations. The mask one wears at work is most likely very different from the mask one wears to a social event with old acquaintances, which is different from the mask they wear at a small gathering of close, intimate friends.
People wear masks to protect themselves from scrutiny and judgment – wondering inside “what would they think if they really knew me?” or “what would they think if they only knew the truth?”
The masks people wear to protect themselves are like ‘personas’, that is, each mask carries with it a different personality style and a set of rules or behavioral parameters for what people think they can and can’t say, as well as, what they feel they should and shouldn’t do when in the presence of different groups or types of people.
We wear masks because we all want to be and feel accepted by others – belonging is a very strong and basic human need. In Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, it falls right in between Personal Safety and Self-Esteem.
Wearing different masks for different situations (using different sets of rules for different groups of people) can seem like a sensible approach – it’s playing it safe to avoid being judged, hurt or even losing the acceptance of others. It’s what people call being “appropriate”.
Being appropriate may have saved someone from judgment but it never brought anyone lasting happiness.
We, as unique individuals, are embedded in the paradox of “being & expressing our true selves” and “fitting in” to a system of other individuals and groups of people. If we consider Maslow’s Hierarchy again, for most people, fitting in & belonging and having the respect of others is more important than having respect for ourselves and high self esteem.
Though people wear masks to protect themselves, most of the time they’re not even aware that they’re actually hiding from the world. In the end, wearing too many masks too much of the time will do more harm than good to a person’s self esteem.
There’s another paradox – on the one hand they’re trying to protect themselves but they’re really hurting their true selves on the other.
It takes massive amounts of personal energy to keep wearing those masks – it can drain you to your core and deplete your very life essence to incessantly hide, censor and even lie to others about who you really are, what you really think, how you really feel and what you’re really like in the good times and the bad. Hiding yourself just to belong, causes much suffering in the form of loneliness and feelings of isolation, which further perpetuates putting on a brave face (another mask) and a fake smile (yet another mask).
Authentic, genuine, people might still wear a mask once in a while but they have fewer of them and they wear them less often than inauthentic, so-called ‘appropriate’ people. They ‘show up’ as their true selves, warts and all, wherever they go and whomever they’re with. They are being themselves.
At first, it takes great courage to make the decision to be yourself and to start shedding those masks, one by one. It can feel like you’re walking around naked in the middle of a battle where everyone else is covered from head to toe with body armor, a full head mask and multiple weapons. You will feel vulnerable, a word that most people, especially men, can’t handle very well.
It takes a higher form of self esteem and confidence to share your true thoughts and feelings, your fears and failures. But for some people that’s easier than sharing their successes and their true greatness because they believe that that might threaten others if they speak highly of themselves, as it bears the risk of being judged and losing acceptance. This reminds me of a famous passage by Marianne Williamson (author of “A Course in Miracles”):
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
That still gives me shivers every time I read it.
Being authentic means you are being yourself at the very deepest possible level – the level of true spirit. Your mindset, your behaviors or actions, your ways of being in the world are guided by your true nature, not by the dictates and rules of society or the particular group or individual you are with at the time. Your true nature, who you really are, is calm and relaxed but so alive at the same time. You are honest with yourself and with others. You have personal integrity and you honor your true self, your inner spirit.
There comes a time in people’s lives when they begin to value how they feel about themselves more than they value what others think of them; where they value self respect more than the respect or acceptance of others. There is an astonishing power and sense of freedom and lightness that comes from being authentic. It is so powerful and fulfilling that after a while, being ‘real’ is the only option worth considering.
When you are authentic everything in life gets easier!
The first step to being yourself is to know yourself and that means increasing your level of self-awareness. Knowing yourself means being, first and foremost, honest with your ‘self’ without self-judgment and condemnation.
Be a passive observer of your life. Reflect on how you are, or better said ‘who you are’ in different situations with different types of people. When do you feel more ‘yourself’ and when do you feel like you need to put on a mask? Questions like these spark reflection, which then increases self-awareness.
That covers who you have been being but who are you really and how do you get to know your self better?
There are many ways to get to know yourself and it is primarily an inside job, that is, only you can really decide for yourself who you are. However, the process or approach to discovering who you really are will be mix of internal and external evaluation. Ultimately, it’s all about CHOICE – choosing who you want to be from now on. (I know I am repeating myself a little, but truly this is all what it is about, and we cannot hear it enough!)
The ultimate inner work is to decide for yourself who you want to be because it feels right. Choose to be yourself and begin to play and experiment in your life each day by taking off one mask at a time and showing up as your true self more often.
And lastly, enjoy your ‘self’!
True, I still wear masks sometimes, and with all, I still believe that once in a while a little protection can be adequate. But most of the times I manage to be all me. By doing this, again, I came one more step closer (step five) to my goal - unconditional happiness!"