On Being Yourself
Article ID: 13693
Age Group: Adult
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Posted: December 20th. 2009
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It’s a fundamental saying. Everyone has heard it before, and most of us think it just means doing what we want. “Be yourself”. This means not being the unfortunate accountant who has always longed to be an artist. To most of us, it also means following one of many Pagan paths instead of bowing our heads in church. To many it means doing what works for us.
But in reality there are several facets to this statement.
The first – and probably most basic – is the one we all think we have figured out. Be Wiccan if Wicca speaks to you, be a writer if writing is your passion. Be yourself as opposed to being ‘someone else’. Don’t live someone else’s dream, live your own dreams. Don’t just do what works for someone else, do what works for you.
It’s something we learn primarily during adolescence. Actually, many of us have the phrase bouncing around in our heads a lot earlier, but we really only begin to branch off from what our parents and friends do when we reach the teenage years. It’s a milestone in our self-definition. We start to get responsibilities and make choices – we start learning that we want some things. Some of us want seven kids and a big dog with a spouse sitting in front of a fire.
Some of us want to be the starving artist in the big city. Some of us want a little cottage in the countryside with horses galloping in pastures. We learn that these things that we want speak about who we are, thus by working towards these we begin learning about our self-expression in all its uniqueness.
We work towards those goals, and the things we do each day become a part of who we are. You have to have your goals, not someone else’s. Because those goals will be your future. But at the same time, you’ll have to do things that aren’t a part of your life goals – they may even interfere, but they still have a place as what you will be (just don’t let them take over too much) .
But there is another way to look at it. Who would you be without your experiences? The good and bad times in our lives play a huge role in shaping who we are. But is it not also possible to get lost in the chaos that the universe throws at us and to feel as though we have lost ourselves?
What about being who you are, and not what the world throws at you? Is it ever possible to find a perfect balance between who we are and who we are changing into? It’s a tricky balance. It sounds easy, but it isn’t. We are not Anger. So we should not be angry because it is not being ourselves.
But anger has the potential to change us, sometimes for positive causes. I have learned many lessons from being angry, and I would not be myself without every single one of those lessons. There is a balance between who we are and the trials the world puts us through; and by being ourselves, we are finding that balance because it is a combination of who we are and what is happening to us at the present.
We have to accept who we are and what is happening to us at any given moment, and release whatever it is that may be holding us back. Experience anger because it is human and it is an important emotion – but do not hold onto it because you are not anger. Do not hate simply because you are hated.
Don’t give your love simply because someone says they love you. Do not grieve simply because you are near death. Do not rejoice simply because others are joyous. Do all of those things – hate and love and grieve and rejoice as much as healthy and experience those things in their nature, and learn to respect each one of them for what they are – but do not do them simply because the world throws you an enemy, a lover, a tragedy, or a party. Do them only if they are what you feel – if they have a place as part of you.
And there is more still. The road to change is a long one. Anyone who wants to lose weight, stop smoking, get a masters degree – or work towards anything for that matter- knows that. We always believe that we will love ourselves when we are more successful, beautiful, amorous, intelligent, spiritual or what have you. But can we accept ourselves before we reach that point?
Self-acceptance is a big part of learning to love who you are. If we can’t accept ourselves, we can’t truly be ourselves. For teens, you have to be proud of your B+ in math class, and know that you will someday make it better. You have to be able to look into the mirror and know that you are beautiful, even if you want to lose weight or get a tan.
Can you be yourself and still want to change? Can you love who you want to be and who you are in completely equal parts? You have to accept who you are at this moment. But you also have to accept your goals and work for them. You have to be yourself and also be the person you want to become, every moment of every day.
There is one last interpretation I come by a lot with Pagans in particular. “I stopped believing in reincarnation because some people who believe in reincarnation don’t value life as much”. “I stopped being Wiccan because some Wiccans are immature”. “I won’t ‘go green’ because some people who are ‘green’ are snobs”.
These are all unhealthy things to say. They violate every one of the above categories. Some parts of ourselves we can’t change.
For example, I could convert to Catholicism right now. I could wear a cross and read the bible and head off to church. But I would not be Catholic. Why? Because my beliefs would not ultimately change. Some beliefs I have are fundamental parts of myself. If you really believe something, if you really ARE something, you can’t change it on a whim. I believe a lot of things. I know lots of people who I hate that share my beliefs … but I can’t stop believing what I believe in the first place just so that I don’t have to associate with them.
Plenty of Pagans have stories about how they ‘became true to themselves’ by choosing their Pagan path. But the truth is, just because you broke away from something that definitely wasn’t you don’t mean everything else definitely is you. You can believe in Reincarnation and still mourn death, and value life, and live each day like it’s the only one you got. You can Draw down the Moon and hold a Sabbat ritual, and don’t pay any attention to people piling in and watching the Craft religiously, because you respect your path for what it is. And you can help the environment by doing little things like recycling more and taking shorter showers, no need for anything fancy.
Artists are artists even when they are not painting. Why? Because there is something in every artist that makes them who they are, the force that compels them to work. And Wiccans are Wiccans even when in a Christian church. How can this be? Being Wiccan is a spiritual thing, it is a way of life, and when you live Wicca everything you do is Wiccan. So an artist is still an artist even if they stop painting because some other painter is a snob they don’t want to associate themselves with.
A Wiccan is Wiccan even if they are in the broom closet and hardly ever practice. All these things are this way because they are not about the titles you give yourself, but they are a fundamental part of you. Some of these things, like the beliefs you have held dear all your life, or the morals you were raised by, cannot be changed (at least not quickly) . Respect that part of you.
In all of these, there is the importance of Balance. Balancing what you want with what you don’t want. Working part time as an artist and part time as a waitress. Both of those are part of who you are. You also have to balance who you are and what the world gives you.
You are yourself, there is a part of you that will always be, but there is also a part of you that is the sum of your experiences and your reactions to the world. And, there is who you are, and who you will be. There is being yourself despite people ‘under the same title’ as you that you don’t want to associate with – and finding the balance between being who you are and learning from their mistakes.
You have to balance all of these. And you have to love them for what they are. No more, and no less. You have to be yourself.
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