Be yourself; everyone else is already taken. Oscar Wilde
I find myself so often thinking about what it means to “be yourself.” It seems that there are lots of quotes about being yourself, that we give lots and lots of lip service to the notion, but when it comes down to it, “different” is still not “cool,” no matter how old we get. Honestly, don’t we still very often want to be what the world tells us to be? A little taller, a little thinner, a little younger… We (almost) believe that notion that those who are famous, rich, or successful are more important or more deserving than we are. (And this most likely accounts for the glut of crappy reality TV shows that are so popular.) Maybe it’s not the celebrities that we compare ourselves to; maybe it’s our friends and neighbors. The ones who LOOK like they’ve got it all together. All of us, no matter how well adjusted we seem to be, have those secret aches, those things that we think will make us more worthwhile or fulfilled. We want to have and be what we see in others. I think that’s OK, as long as you use that for inspiration of maybe what you could be and do, and not comparison of what you think you should be and do.
To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment. Ralph Waldo Emerson
So what does it mean to be yourself? I think it starts with being honest with yourself. It means knowing yourself- what do you really like? What are you really good at? And what are you NOT? And are you OK with that?
Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom. Aristotle
There is a ministry leader in our church who is pressuring me to take part in her ministry. It is a good ministry, a valuable ministry. But I’m involved in a lot of other things at church, and at this point, I just don’t feel called to take part in that particular ministry. It would be easy for me feel guilty and just start participating because someone is telling me that I “should.” But I would resent it, I would not enjoy it, and ultimately that would not help the others involved. There was a time (not so long ago) when I would have let this person pressure me. And it doesn’t help that lots of others are asking me (quite innocently) if I’m going to the meeting. I feel a little guilty when I say no. But to be honest, each time I say no, it feels a little more exhilarating, a little more like freedom, because I know that I am not chained by others’ expectations of me. I know that I am being honest to who I am and where I am at this point in my life.
I know that there are some people who think that because I have a blog and do speaking and design fabric, and occasionally appear in a magazine, etc. that I’m some “big thing.” Wrong!! I do not feel that way at all. In fact, the joke around my house is that I am on the “K” list! (As in, there is an A list, and then a B list, and then a C list….. you get the idea.) Up until very recently, I wanted to be and do everything. I am getting more and more honest with myself about what I am able to do, and what I am best at. There are some things business-wise that I really wanted to do, they were my goals for a long time… but now I am realizing that maybe I’m not really cut out for those things. Maybe my talents lie elsewhere. I am slowly becoming more OK with that. It is becoming easier for me to let go of envy and wishfulness because I know who I am, and every day I know myself a little bit more.
And let me tell you- that is liberating!!! Because when you let go of what you’re NOT, it frees you up immensely to be who you ARE.
When I walk through the woods and listen to the birds sing, I am so grateful that the song birds aren’t trying to be eagles! Because eagles may soar high above the clouds, but they don’t fill my ears with beautiful song.
Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best. Henry Van Dyke
Today I am encouraging you to be OK with YOU and your particular talents. Perhaps your gift is working with children. That may not seem glamorous, but it’s such an important gift. I don’t have a lot of patience with kids- and if everyone in the world were like me, you would really have to worry about the next generation! But I am so grateful for those in our church who are dedicated to children’s ministry and nurturing those little souls. It is something that I am not good at, but I am glad that there are people who do it so well! Likewise, maybe you are a good listener, and an excellent friend. These things will not bring you fame or fortune, but they are priceless in the eyes of God and your fellow humans.
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
How do you feel about being yourself? Are you OK with who you are? Are you getting to know yourself a little better each day? What are your particular gifts and talents?
PS If you like the bird art at the top of this post, it is available as a print or note cards in my Etsy shop :)