Staying true to who you are
“When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.”
― Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man
We’re obsessed with control in every area of our life.
Perhaps it’s part of our DNA, but it causes immense angst when things don’t go as planned.
To live with uncertainty (or an acceptance of what is — paradoxically it’s often the same thing), is a rare gift. But of course, it’s never taught, rarely experienced, and even holding the tension (in standing in the tragic gap) between where we are and where we’d like to be is impossible. (We normally default to the rubric fear, but it’s not fear — rarely is our life put in arm’s way — but, rather, the tension that’s created in holding a space that makes us uncomfortable.)
If you look back on your life, you’ll notice a point where you went from independence of mind/action to following the crowd. Dress or speech is a good place to start. At this stage, we’re often confronted with the fact that fitting in is more comfortable than showing up in the world whole, i.e. as our true self (see the work of Thomas Merton). And, as we grow further into our crowd-like skin, we lose our hutzpah, namely our ability to push back and challenge the status quo. Or, at least, that’s what I’ve observed over the course of my life.
In my work (and actions), all I’m really trying to do is invite you to show up fully in the world. Of course it’s hard, particularly in a vocational setting, where we often have to shapeshift even to make sense of the day, but what else is there unless we want to go our grave with our song still in us?
The reason I’m inexorably drawn to this paradox — the true versus false self — is because so much of the brokenness I’ve experienced and see in every setting arises because of people doing what’s expected of them as opposed to showing up with everything they have to offer, even if that means we get to see the dark and the light. Yes it’s scary, but when your very existence is at stake, why would you want to hide the better angels of your nature in pursuit of a consumerist ideal, where to fit in is more prized than being true to who we are.
If we are to live at peace in the world, it might feel that the best way to do that is to copy a model that seems to work but it rarely leads to anything other than the pursuit of more — more happiness, more things, more success. In the end all that does is leave us feeling tired, anxious and underwhelmed by life.
I accept that for many people they’ll never arrive at this place but the longer we ignore our calling the more likely it is we’ll never find inner peace.