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“The easiest thing to be in the world is you. The most difficult thing to be is what other people want you to be. Don’t let them put you in that position.”
― Leo Buscaglia
I stopped subscribing.
To what, you ask?
Literally, I stopped subscribing to a publication I had long received for years in order to simply be myself, so that others would not perceive me as aligning solely and close-mindedly with a singular ideology. I know I am open-mined, I know I read from various other publications of differing ideologies regularly online and in print, I know this to be true of myself, but the delivery, the subscription, was proof. Physical proof so that I wouldn’t have to have the actual conversation: to share what I just shared above and engage thoughtfully with anyone about anything and dare to have a civil, informed discussion that may open my mind, that may open their mind, that may introduce new ideas and I to them when done with respectful dialogue.
However, I found myself never actually reading the publication, becoming frustrating with their bias from time to time, so I asked myself why keep paying for something you do not read?
That question was asked two years ago. I kept subscribing . . . for appearance’s sake.
Admittedly, I would come across an inspiring piece from time to time, a thoughtfully written commentary, a profile piece on a artist’s work that I was elated to learn about, but for $40/month – a couple of articles? I couldn’t justify it when I could read a couple of articles a month for free online.
But this month, I finally called and cancelled. What reason did I give to the voice on the other end of the phone? Respectfully and truthfully – I was no longer interested. The publication shared quality work, the publicaton was informative, but the publication wasn’t being read by me. I didn’t want to keep up appearances any more for the sake of avoiding the conversation of explaining all that I shared above.
Part of the reason it took me so long to unsubscribe was that I was and am aware of the tribalism in the country, and I didn’t want to appear or unconsciously fall prey to this. I wanted to remain, and still do, a critical, independent thinker. Someone who isn’t automatically with this side or that side, but someone who looks at the entire event, the players behind the scenes as well as in front. As I teach my students, knowing all sides is key to having a thoughtful, reasoned, respectful conversation in order to come to a conclusion that will sit well with our conscience. And even then, we may learn something new, so long as we keep an open-mind.
At this point or earlier, you may have asked, well, what publication was it, Shannon? Truthfully, it doesn’t matter which publication. What matters is that I recognized the truth as to why I was subscribing. It wasn’t because of continued, sincere interest, but rather for the reasons shared above. Logistically, this decision saves me money, but more personally, it felt good to pull off the mask and become, yes a little bit more vulnerable, but now I felt clear in my choice. I felt more comfortable because I had clarity, all the while keeping an open-mind and broad perspective, of where my values were concrete and where they were flexible.
Perhaps part of the reason we wear masks, we pretend to be someone we are not, is because we, ourselves, do not know who exactly we are. Perhaps that is part of the journey of self-discovery, trying on different masks so that when we do finally decide wearing one (or many) is no longer necessary, we appreciate the lightness more fully and totally and will not be easily encouraged to put on another mask.
In 2011, yes, seven years ago, I shared a list of 17 benefits of being yourself. And while we may intrinsically understand what is shared in this list to be true, sometimes we don’t realize when we have accepted details or behaviors into our lives that are not authentic to who we truly are. Sometimes we may be doing so because we think it will make it easier to get along with others. Sometimes we may be assuming, it would be less stressful. And sometimes we may even believe it is better to be someone we are not based on where we call home or who is in our lives.
The truth is, the best gift we can give ourselves and the quality of our lives moving forward is to be authentic to our true nature, our true temperament, our sincere curiosities and passions. Initially, you may be right, it will be uncomfortable, frustrating, exhausting and even emotionally draining, but as Cassandra Clare states, “The more you try to crush your true nature, the more it will control you. Be what you are. No one who really loves you will stop.” And don’t we want real love anyway? Who wants conditional love? Who wants love that is for someone who we actually are not?
Your authentic style, your sincere passions and curiosities, your unique outlook on life, even as it grows and changes and evolves is how the world will grow as well. It is how the world will come to understand how beautiful and generous a diverse world can be when we recognize the unique gifts each individual has to offer.
So today, consider your behaviors, your routines, yes, even your subscriptions. What is being done out of expectations or to project a particular image? Maybe it is what you are wearing, maybe it is how you are presenting yourself to the world through artifice rather than your unique beauty, maybe it is the questions you have about the world but are too timid to reveal you just don’t know, as you fear it may make you appear less of an expert? Or maybe you are appearing to the world as less than capable than you actually are as you don’t want others to think you are showing off. Be who you are, show your strengths, your curiosities, your passions, show the world yourself. So long as you do it honestly, thoughtfully, tactfully and from a place of goodwill, you can only inspire others who are either being themselves as well or who want permission to be themselves to do so.
In other words, stop subscribing to being anyone other than exactly who you are.
Yet, another gift of being exactly who you are is you quickly learn you do have amazing strengths as well as areas to improve. And that is actually a gift as well, because when we are determine to always be learning, we remain forever young. And life becomes sweeter, it becomes easier to live in the present moment, and we are less likely to compare ourselves to others. After all, so long as we only compete with who we were yesterday, the tendency and the pressure to keep up with the rest of the world subsides, and a life of less stress is also a byproduct.
I don’t know about you, but with all of the practices, habits, subscriptions and even ways of thinking that limited my perspectives of what was possible has been akin to taking off very constricting skinny jeans with no stretch and a very stays-in-place strapless bra. Yes, we become more vulnerable, but in many ways, we become stronger as a result.
“Oh, never mind the fashion. When one has a style of one’s own, it is always twenty times better.”
― Margaret Oliphant
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~Authenticity: The Courage to Be Yourself, episode #6
~Why Not . . . Get to Know Yourself? 3 part series