“Be yourself, everyone else is already taken”
– Oscar Wilde
I recently followed the personal quest: How to be Yourself
The quest took me to places in my mind that I had never had much familiarity with before. But on an act of faith, I continued as almost everyone says ‘be yourself’, ‘be present’, ‘be here’, ‘now’.
But the voice resonating in my head was how can you be yourself if you don’t know who you are?We all have inner conflicts between multiple voices in our heads, at least I expect you do!
So how do you find yourself amidst such turmoil?
Let’s take a look at, “What is it like to be yourself?”
Well, You started life as yourself. But maybe you lost yourself a little as you grew up. I am reminded here of some lines in one of Wordsworth’s poems that describe the experiences of a boy growing up:
“Shades of the prison-house begin to close, upon the growing Boy”
So change is inevitable as the society makes claims upon each growing child, and parts of that innate young person are buried in the personality.
The personal characteristics I selected to “be yourself” are:
- To be grounded in the certainty of who you are: My understanding of being grounded means you are present in your life, so not obsessed with the past or future. Also, you are mostly mentally and emotionally fairly stable.
- To know your purpose in society and in life: For me, knowing your purpose in life is characterised by the fact that you have the drive, the capacity, and the love to fill real needs of those people around you that you care about (generosity).
- To create your own personal brand for yourself: Again for me, that means just saying clearly what you do, and to say the values you stand for.
Where to Begin
To be yourself is the state you achieve at the end of the process of finding yourself or discovering yourself. It takes time, effort and concentration to work through this discovery process.
Only after that work is done can truly be yourself. And this is the state that you want to be able to act out of.
This process is going to be different for everyone because we are all unique individuals with our own ideas, stories, beliefs, etc. So I will describe here some of the tools that I used myself, but there are more tools in the arsenal for finding yourself that I use in my coaching practice.
Discover Yourself… There’s no one in the world like you!
Everyone is different and just because I find something useful, that doesn’t mean others will find those tools useful too. We need to co-create based on the ideas we both bring to the coaching table.
Useful Tools to Help to Find Yourself
Firstly, to find yourself, you need to start listening to both the world around you and the realm within you with more care and attention. You have to create a questioning attitude to your life and particularly to your habitual behaviours
Then you need to have the confidence to rely on yourself and your personal ‘good judgement’, which is based largely on your values aka your measure of fairness.
Then you need to listen to your heart and your intuition to know what to do next rather than follow your habitual pathways. Remember, from a previous article I wrote, any Personal Quest has the intention of “playing to win your own heart”. This means practising compassion and generosity of spirit to yourself (as well as later to others)
The next step is to have the intelligence to find out how to do whatever is required. This means you may need to seek out knowledge and wisdom from yourself and others. But be careful, that “reason” is sometimes more of an obstacle rather than an ally. It’s an old piece of wisdom that in the end game of finding yourself, you must actually let go of reason and rely on faith.
Finally, you have to have the courage to take actions and get on with things. That would mean that you also need the attitude to be good humoured and play with equanimity in your participation in life.
A Small Aside
I can’t help but mention here that I watched the old film of Wizard of Oz recently and I realised that Dorothy gets through her adventures successfully by just doing what comes naturally for her. There is no effort required because she is clearly ready to know who she is.
Psychiatrist, Carl Jung said that the “Collective Unconscious” comes from deep within our nature bodies, and we can notice that in the Wizard of Oz, the main characters that Dorothy meets on the road represent some of what I have said above as follows:
- The Tin Woodman lacks (and finds) intelligence
- The Scarecrow lacks (and finds) a heart
- The Lion lacks (and finds) courage
I should also mention Dante Alighieri, one of the world’s greatest poets and spiritual guides, who described the virtues of a mature adult in his day as being generosity, fairness, wisdom, and being of good humour. All of these virtues are incorporated above too in finding yourself.
This is quite a program of things to get through. But it’s ok to spend a little time on getting these things right. It’s your life and the cost of getting it wrong is huge.
I will confess that I have a list of the primary tools I have used myself and occasionally mention to my personal quest coaching clients. They are all direct personal experiences, that have been well tried and tested, and often yield good results. They are:
- Mystical experiences (eg. tarot cards)
- Social and cultural experiences ( eg. traditional stories)
- Personal experiences (eg. dreams, active imagination, etc)
Additionally, I find that other useful information to be personality test results and other psychological tests, existential coaching techniques and some positive psychology ideas, and more.
I know some people will look at my methods and say they are not always scientific, and I agree, they are not because science has some way to go yet in the realms of the exploration of consciousness. Whereas, artists and poets have known for a very long time what really determines our lives.