What does it mean to be true to myself?

The best advice I’ve ever received comes from my immersion in Buddhist teachings: “accept what is.” Not what I wish it could be… not pushing it away or clinging or judging… but simply holding it — whatever “it” is — loosely.

Conversely, the worst advice might be the phrase, “You can be anything you want to be.” While it’s extremely well meaning, it’s also misleading. It’s a seductive phrase, implying that our identities are like a giant Indian food buffet: I’ll take this but not that. That spicy dish is really popular so I’ll eat it too, even though it gives me awful indigestion and I won’t be able to sleep tonight. This idea of infinite possibility elevates a wish above truth.

Truth – /truːθ/: that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality.

To be clear, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t go after what you really want. If you love music, by all means invest the time to be a musician or conductor or whatever floats your boat. What I am suggesting is that we need to accept what is when it comes to our fundamental strengths and limitations. And let’s recognize certain limitations for what they are — weaknesses, not opportunities — and be incredibly grateful for them instead of wishing they didn’t exist.

I believed I could be anything for decades, and gawd, what a burden. The choices are endless. How could I possibly begin to decide what I want to be? What if I make the wrong choice? Our brains like choice and variety, but not too much. Like the wall of 100 brands of toothpaste, too many options become paralyzing.

When we’re caught up in analysis paralysis, the easiest route then becomes the abdication of choice, getting swept along in the current of life and ending up in a place far away from what really lights us up. And that’s the story of most of my adult life, until I realized this truth:

Be anything” negates the beauty of individuality.

You can’t love yourself, nor can you be loved, while trying to be something you’re not. And you can’t truly love someone else if you hold the belief that they could be anything, too. “Be anything” introduces toxic should’s and expectations into the equation… because if you could be anything, why aren’t you already?

Here’s why we adore animals so much: they never try to be anything other than what they are. A mountain goat would quickly fail at trying to be a lion or a bear, yet she thrives while perched precariously on tiny ledge jutting from a sheer cliff. A hippo doesn’t berate itself on its inability to run like a gazelle; instead she relishes in her graceful swimming in cool water.

If you’re failing right now, perhaps you’re simply failing at being true to yourself… and that’s not a bad thing. It’s a gift: it’s the universe saying, “hey, you’re looking in the wrong place!” Living your truth is simpler than you think; this is where flow and joy can be found.

I vividly remember the moment when I finally accepted that I couldn’t be anything or anyone. You’d have thought I’d just won the lottery: wooo HOOOO!!! Not only did it explain my past failures and bullheaded resistance, but it’s incredibly liberating to sweep a bunch of options off the table because they’d require more effort and energy than they’re worth… and would likely make me miserable in the process.

“Being who you are is no luxury reserved for the idle rich, or the very young or old. Being who you are is necessary for the completion of the universe.”

Perron, Mari. A Course of Love: Combined Volume

What I teach in business and in life is that NO is one of the most powerful words we can employ. NO defines the boundaries of where I stop and you begin. NO defines the safe container of YES — what I call the ground of power — and from this rooted place of YES we gain the nourishment to grow in all directions: deeper, higher… vaster.

Standing on our ground of power means we’re not running around chasing happiness out there, but rather we magnetize what brings us joy; we allow it to find us. This is how the law of attraction works: like attracts like. Joy comes to me because my ground of power is defined by joy. Love comes to me because a wellspring of love is not only on my ground of power… it is the source of my power. The less I seek, the more I find.

Our purpose in life is to simply be ourselves.

How do we identify this ground of power? Not by analyzing our strengths and weaknesses, but instead, following what we love — what we’ve always loved — like a trail of breadcrumbs back home to ourselves. I’ve previously written that our purpose in life is to love more… to choose love as a state of being, not as a limited resource to give to special people.

The way we start achieving that is by remembering and honoring what we love, and bringing more of it into our lives. Here are a few questions I ask the women I coach:

  • What did you love as a child? In what small ways can you bring that into your life today? Can you give yourself permission to do it badly?
  • What do you love most about yourself?
  • What do you love most in others… and can you see yourself in that mirrored reflection?
  • What do you dislike about yourself… and can you embrace and love that part of you, like holding a small child or a puppy?
  • How do you really want to feel in your life and career? If you want to feel free like a bird, how is that fluorescent-lit cubicle job really working out for you?
  • What kind of people bring out the best in you? How can you surround yourself with more of them?
  • What no longer serves you that you can say NO to?

If you’re questioning your career, don’t worry so much about how to monetize what you love. Some of you are spinning around wondering how to create a job out of walking in the woods. That’s not the point of this exercise. Ask yourself: how does walking in the woods (or whatever it is for you) make me feel? Are there other times or situations in my life when I’ve felt that way? What are other opportunities that might elicit that emotion?

Maybe walking in the woods becomes a guideline for where you live, not what you do. It’s simply one more way of aligning the outer world with your inner truth. Living a joyful life starts with one question: what really lights you up? What’s your YES?

Now go do more of that, and say NO to everything else.

love, Jen


An open invitation

Do you want to be more true to who you are? Let’s spend an hour together. I am doing research for articles and potential group coaching sessions; I’d love to hear more about what’s on your mind, and you’ll get a collaborator to help you solve an issue of your choice. You can access my calendar here.

Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash