by Sonia C. Solomonson
A STARGAZER LILY doesn’t try to become a rose. A cardinal doesn’t aspire to be a robin. That’s ridiculous, you’re thinking. Yes, of course, it is. So why do you and I so often try to be something or someone we’re not?
God created everything to be a unique version of itself, the seed of that being embedded within. This is true of you, too.
You are a unique and special human being, designed to be one-of-a-kind. Your job is to become that person, be as authentic as possible, and let the seed that is you grow to its full potential. In a world filled with a competitive spirit and a good deal of copycat syndrome, that isn’t always easy, is it? We’re often told by advertisements that to be popular, we need to wear certain clothing styles or act in specific ways. Where’s the room for authenticity in that?
Children of heroes and famous people especially have a tough time with this. Trying to be like their parent(s) has led to many problems and mental health issues.
We want approval
Even for those who aren’t famous and don’t have famous parents, many forces pressure us to be someone we’re not. After all, we want to be liked. We want to be accepted. So we spend a lot of time figuring out what people around us like, and we bend, twist, fold and mutilate ourselves into that shape to meet their approval. Does that have a familiar ring to you?
Being authentic means looking at what you learned as you grew up—and what you learn as you travel through adulthood, too. What are some of the messages you heard—explicitly or implied—growing up? Are they helpful to you now? Or are they holding you back from being the real you?
For example, I learned to be responsible when I grew up—overly responsible, in fact. I learned to be strong, to keep going until the job got done, picking up the slack if others didn’t do their part. My task now is to let up a bit, admit to hurt and pain, realize that I don’t always know what’s best—in other words, be more vulnerable. I need to learn to ask for help sometimes. I don’t have to “do it all.” I don’t have to leap tall buildings in a single bound, landing backward with high heels! All of us humans on this planet struggle, succeed, fail, fall, pick ourselves up, succeed, fail, and succeed again, no matter where we fall on the continuum of good emotional health.
Who am I?
It’s possible to get to a particular stage of life and not even know who we are and what we want. Don’t despair if that’s where you find yourself. It’s common in midlife and beyond, sometimes earlier, as you begin to reassess your life. We all wear masks at times to hide who we are. We don’t think anyone would love us if they saw what we really were like. After a while, the masks seem so natural that we think it’s who we are. And it’s time to stop and ask: Who am I? Will the real me please stand up?
Think about the messages you picked up as a child and those you added on as you aged. How have you adapted to fit those old tapes that play inside your head? Sometimes these messages are positive and serve as a good guide to life. Often, however, they turn out to be lies or at least thought distortions that have long since become the assumptions on which you base your life and decisions. Now is a good time to check whether those work well for you anymore. If not, shed them and replace them with new and true beliefs.
Be fully you
If, for example, you grew up with the assumption that you weren’t smart because a teacher or two told you that, but you now realize you graduated from college with honors and have several career achievements, isn’t it time to rethink that belief? Isn’t it time to shed it and replace it with a more realistic and authentic one?
If someone told you that you were ugly, too loud or that no one liked you, isn’t it time to think about who gave you that message? The problem might have been with that person, not you. Isn’t it time to replace such negative messages with positive and honest views of who you are?
You may not think assumptions based on these old tapes matter. But they make a huge difference in how you walk through this world, in the decisions you make, and in your interactions with others. The important thing is to be authentic—to be fully you. Steve Jobs said, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”
Show up in your interactions with others as the person you were meant to be. And love that person!
Sonia C. Solomonson is a life coach with Way2Grow Coaching and a frequent contributor to Gather magazine. You can find her at way2growcoaching.com, where you can sign up for her monthly e-zine or request a session. She offers a complimentary strategy session if you would like to discuss being your true, authentic self.