What Does it Mean to "Be Yourself?"
bliss personal discovery self yourself
The Book that Wants to be Written
I always wanted to write a book. It was a thing that called to me. The idea of writing an epic adventure made my heart sing. It just felt perfectly right, to write.
But I never did. I never sat down to write consistently, and when I finally got myself writing regularly, it was in the form of short blog posts, rather than the long-form writing I wanted to tackle in a book. It was as if I was afraid of writing even though it was the one thing that felt more natural than anything else.
I had my excuses. I wasn’t ready. I wanted to make sure I was skilled enough to do justice to the story. I told myself I would take some time after I was done with whatever I was doing to really study writing and get it down. Then, I would write my masterwork. I didn’t want to try to write now, when I wasn’t sure I’d have time. Better to wait until I could dedicate an entire six months.
Then, I had two years after college when I didn’t write my book.
Two years, living at home with my parents, making good money working 3 hours a day, when I had nothing to worry about and all the free time I needed. And still nothing got written.
I knew after that it wasn’t a matter of time or skill. It was a matter of aligning my life with my dreams. I needed to stop accepting my infinite excuses and just do what I kept talking about and dreaming about.
So, in Korea, I started to write a book, even though it was sloppy, I didn’t have much time, and it messed everything else in my life up. It isn't even the book I dream about, but it's something.
Despite all the problems I created by insisting on writing at the same time every day, and despite how surprisingly hard it is to maintain that commitment, I feel completely free now that I am writing something long. I feel more in tune forcing myself to write (even when I don’t feel like it) than I did trying to balance my life and sacrificing the writing for more ‘practical’ things or letting myself just take it easy.
That, I think, is what it means to ‘be yourself.’
It Feels So Right
It means to follow your bliss in the face of everything that gets in your way, including your own resistance.
It means to finally start doing the thing that makes you happy, despite practical considerations. It means finding a way to make your dream happen. I have to account for the real world—the need to cook, go to work, exercise, sleep, etc.—but after carving out just enough space, I sometimes feel like I’m jamming writing in there regardless, forcing other things out of the way. Sometimes I don’t prepare meals quite on time and have to buy dinner. Sometimes I am up a bit later than I need to be. Sometimes I have to take the writing to work and rush a bit in my class preparations.
But, it feels like it’s worth it.
What does it feel like, to ‘be yourself’?
It feels like a breathe of fresh air, when you didn’t even realize you’d been holding your breath.
It feels like finally running after holding back for so long. Your muscles thrill to be stretched and to power down the road. Sure, they ache and burn, but the feeling of speed and freedom overpowers the discomfort.
It doesn’t mean you never face obstacles, but you find that you have the willingness to tackle anything that challenges you.
Suddenly, things feel easy, even when they’re not, because you’re doing what you were meant to do. You’re eager to face challenge, even if you’re not sure you can overcome it.
Buddhism talks about Nirvana this way, as the ultimate freedom from ignorance, fear, attachment, and habitual thought. You are you, in every moment new and spontaneous. Nirvana is being yourself in everything you do, every moment of every day.
People will scoff. They will tell you that you can’t just drop all that baggage. A responsible member of society doesn’t just walk away from all that. You have no right to be yourself, and that it is the most selfish thing you can do. People who love you will say this. If you meet absolutely no resistance, you’re probably still going with the flow.
When you start ‘being yourself’ you find your own flow, and you go with that instead. So even as you face resistance from the world around you, you are bolstered and supported by your internal energy. And things start to align for you, and the universe conspires to make your dream come true. Not because the stars line up just for you, but because you’ve finally lined yourself up with the stars.
Ok, this got a little new age-y. But in a way, it’s true. When you’re out of tune with yourself, you’ll always be fighting yourself. Your energies will be divided. This is as true in athletics as it is in life; if your body is too tight, half your strength will go to overcoming tight muscles. If you can align your entire body to one task, you find you have more strength than you thought.
If you align your entire being—mental, emotional, and physical energy—with the one thing that feels right, you find that you have more passion and energy than you ever thought possible, and things that seemed improbable or impossible suddenly are within reach.
You probably think I’m an idealist with my head in the clouds. You won’t know until you try.