Hey, my name is Marta — and I am always being myself.
This morning I seem to be a writer — someone who writes — and that’s pretty straightforward. I am sitting in a sunny room with a cup of coffee on my desk and I am typing away on the keyboard. I have an intention to, later on, publish the very words that are right now slipping away from beneath my fingers.
This is what writers do. Therefore, I am a writer.
Okay, that was pretty easy so far. But this afternoon I am going to my parents’ house to help prepare their garden for the spring. Does it mean that I will then cease to be a writer and be a gardener instead? In that case, what happens with my morning’s identity in the afternoon? Does it go away? Where to?
And the next question is: am I being myself in any of these roles more than in the other? In which one? Or, in other words, which is more aligned with my authentic self?
Or maybe… I can be myself both in the morning and in the afternoon in equal measure.
Of course I can — and I am. There is no other way to be than to be myself.
However, in the pop-culture of self-improvement, we have seriously twisted the meaning of “being oneself”. While it is our natural state of being, we made it into a goal. We are telling ourselves to pursue something we already have. And by doing so, we are depriving ourselves of the feeling that we are already enough — just because we are effortlessly being ourselves.
Let’s change this narrative, shall we?
What does it mean to ‘not be yourself’?
First of all, we need to see that this is all just a story. A mental interpretation. A matter of the language we use.
And the language we use essentially gives us two possibilities — you either are being yourself, or you are not.
Let’s say your story is that, most of the time, you are not being yourself. What does it mean exactly? Who are you when you are not being yourself? And how do you tell the difference between the two states?
When I asked myself these questions while still operating within the “myself-not myself” duality, I made some really interesting observations. I realized that the state I used to refer to as “not being myself” was always connected to some kind of emotional discomfort. And that discomfort was often simply my response to the circumstances:
I felt too shy to make a dirty joke that I spontaneously came up with, because I was concerned with what the group of people I was surrounded with would think of me.
I felt embarrassed in an intimate situation because my partner was touching me in a way that brought me no pleasure, yet I struggled with articulating this to him.
I felt disappointed when nobody paid attention to a story I posted on Medium that I thought was exceptionally good — but I also couldn’t admit this dissapointment to my friends because of my pride.
Yet another opportunity to grow
In virtually all moments of my life when I am “not being myself”, a universal pattern prevails. When it plays out, I go through these three characteristic stages:
- The cue to enter the pattern are the circumstances which make me feel uncomfortable in some way.
- Because of the discomfort, I feel unable to behave in a manner that is aligned with the image of myself that I am trying to maintain. Following the aforementioned examples: I am unable to be “spontaneous”, “assertive” and “vulnerable” — although, please keep in mind that these words are also just arbitrary labels!
- The result is that I see myself behaving in an “undesired” way.
And that should mean that I am not being myself? Bullshit. All that is happening is that I am just not behaving in accord with my ego. It is yet again the problem of dissonance between how things are and how I want them to be.
The same old story since the times of the Buddha. The same old source of suffering which is most easily reduced by simply letting go of our desire for the present moment to be different.
From this angle, the experience of “not being myself” — aka “feeling emotional discomfort” — is best seen as an opportunity for personal growth. It puts a spotlight on the areas of my life in which I struggle to let go of my expectations. And only when I see these expectations clearly, time and time again, am I able to gradually abandon them.
It has to do with self-love, too
To be able to grasp that you are always being yourself, the resonance of self-love is what you need. Without it, you will judge yourself and make unnecessary assumptions about when you are, and when you are not being yourself.
Think about it this way: when you perceive yourself as worthy of your own love, you naturally allow yourself a wider range of experiences. You give yourself the permission to succeed and be happy — but also the permission to fail, act silly, be sad and even to disappoint yourself.
This essentially means that you have your own permission to be anything you need to be, and act however you need to act, in this particular moment. This includes the ability to see yourself as yourself – even if it comes in one package with discomfort.
How to be yourself — and be aware of it
The way we behave and feel is circumstantial — and the circumstances are often beyond our control. We do best to accept the fact that the way we respond to the world is fluid and sometimes falls out of alignment with who we are striving to become.
Being yourself is already the fact of life — what remains is for you to be able to perceive it. There is no benefit in being yourself if you don’t even know that this is who you are.
I invite you to notice that in every moment of your existence, with every breath you take and every feeling you experience — you are not any more or less of yourself than you were a minute before. You are also never going to be “more of yourself” than you are right now.
You may feel more or less comfortable, or more or less in control. But this doesn’t change anything about who you already are.
Today, I am challenging and changing my personal narrative about who I am.
I choose to believe that I am always being myself. Sometimes it manifests as engagement in writing and a few hours later — gardening. I need to accept that these physical manifestations are ever-changing. But that which I am — myself — remains, at its core, unchangeable.
Always, and all ways.