There is SUCH a focus these days on being authentic and being yourself – on expressing your creative truth – in business, in creative pursuits, and in your relationships.
If I read another blog post that tells me to just “be myself,” I might have to yank myself bald.
“Being yourself,” “being authentic” is now the Holy Grail, the solution to all our challenges, whether you want to sell a book, get customers, or find your perfect partner.
As if it’s that easy to know who your “self” is, or to be authentic – let alone how to express that authenticity to the big ole’ world.
What makes you “you” can feel like a radio signal that comes and goes.
Sometimes it’s sharp and vibrant, and other times it’s lost in the static of comparisons, other people’s voices, exhaustion, and more.
You see a shade of palest yellow and your heart sings, then in the next moment you have no idea what you want to do with the rest of your life, let alone what you want for dinner.
If it were so easy to “be yourself,” you would have figured it out a long time ago. After all, you’ve probably been getting – and giving – this advice since grade school.
But Mom, what if they don’t like me?”
Oh honey, just be yourself.”
Even then we knew it wasn’t that easy – and even if we were “ourselves,” it didn’t mean the world would reward us.
So what’s a creative, aware soul to do?
How do you tune down the static of your mind and turn up the song of your soul, the boogie of your heart, the mojo of your mystery?
I have a few humble suggestions to share in this series of blog posts and, God willing and the creek don’t rise, a little e-book giveaway I’m working away on.
Let’s start with…
Humble suggestion number one: Turn off Everyone Else’s Broadcast
When it feels too hard to hear you among all the other yous out there, you aren’t suffering from multiple personality disorder, but you may need an Internet fish bowl break.
I say “fish bowl” because everyone’s voices and big plans and ideas can create a sort of invisible fish bowl that hems you in – without you necessarily noticing it.
The Internet’s intimacy and fecundity can make it hard to hear what is truly yours to say and express.
Consider this common scenario: You’re trying to express something – what’s bugging you about your marriage, what you need for a self-nurturing break, the images for a poem formulating in your mind – and having a hard time putting your thoughts and feelings into words.
The Self-Doubts start a-chattering:
You don’t know what you’re talking about.
You want too much.
You don’t deserve that.
You don’t have time.
You shouldn’t be wasting time on this.
You’ll never get it anyway
and suddenly, you feel an irresistible urge to check email or visit Twitter or surf the net “just for a minute.”
You can’t stand the discomfort of going within to find your own answers, or the fear of not knowing, so you distract yourself.
Before you know it, you’re reading a blog post that tells you what you must do to make your writing better or you’re watching a video about a business owner’s incredible success or you are being pitched THE system that will solve your relationship woes and without even knowing it, that becomes more real to you, more credible, than your nascent, tender soul yearnings.
You might think, “I’ll take that advice, and then I will be okay.”
Or “She’s said everything I wanted to say on the subject of tango knitting, what’s the point?”
Or “I could never make as much money as she did so I’m going to go eat a pan of brownies.”
It’s not the advice or the success stories or even the marketing messages that are the issue. It’s when and how they come into your awareness that can cause serious static.
Creating and expressing your “I” – your mysterious mojo that only you have – has always been a difficult, life-long birthing process. That’s what it means to be human!
But before the Internet, when you were struggling, you might have called one friend to talk about it. You didn’t have so many comparisons and other voices beaming straight into your head at all hours of the day or night.
It’s like a Greek chorus of disapproving, Martha Stewart perfectionists, all just waiting to tell you that you can never be good enough, smart enough, unique enough – so why try?
Here is some very good news: Lots and lots of people are too afraid to listen, to go inside and find out who that “I” is. You may be just as afraid, but you keep listening. And that makes all the difference.
You keep listening to the itch in your heart. That’s the most important thing that has to keep happening.
It’s not about scratching the itch, it’s about itching. Because it’s the itching that will lead you right to yourself – your true, authentic, never-to-be-duplicated lovely self.
Okay, here is the practical suggestion part of the post:
Notice when you go to the Internet – is it when you are struggling to know what you think, want, or wish to express? Do you go looking for information to tell you the “right way” or what so-and-so thinks? If so, it doesn’t mean you’re an empty vessel without an original thought! Our brains always choose the easiest path.
The Internet gives you a very easy way to avoid doing the aching, soul-chafing work, so that’s where your brain goes first. It’s completely natural and understandable. Your brain says, Why hack your way through the thicket of hedges using a dull machete when you can take the path forged by someone else? It’s your job to notice when this is happening and take note.
Next, when you’re on the information hunt, especially from the Internet, ask yourself, “Why? What am I looking for? What am I hoping to learn?”
Do you just “know” that there’s a particular blog or e-zine or forum where, if you don’t read it or comment, you will be “left out,” consider taking a break for one week. Notice if you can hear yourself more clearly in the space you’ve created.
Notice how the blogs and e-zines and Yahoo lists and people you follow on Facebook or Twitter make you feel. Drop the ones that make you feel static-filled or “less than.”
Here’s an idea for the very radical among us: Go offline for a weekend or, even better, a week. If you couple this unplugged time with a retreat focused on listening to your voice and honoring it, I guarantee you’ll experience a huge breakthrough in identifying your authentic voice.