The Art of Being Yourself
When I thought about writing this article, the first thought which came to my mind was, so we have come to this point, where we will have to train ourselves to be ourselves... It’s funny as it is, but because of the pragmatism, the fast-paced lives and many other first world problems, we have don a cover of artifice which we think keeps us protected from the harm this world can do. We all (and when I say all, I include me in it as well) have this unsatiated desire to make a good first impression, to be socially accepted and recognized, and perceived with a positive acclaim. The perception of who we are in others mind governs our actions on the dail basis. And that’s what inhibiting us from being ourselves. Being ourselves should come naturally to us, but in the world of supplement food, things are rarely natural. And hence this article. But a lot of times, being ourselves is confused with not changing. This is the thing I want to explain upfront, with a story ;).
My uncle was visiting me from Dehradun and I was excited to meet him. The time was right after my high school and I was confused about the future. I knew what I wanted to do and all, but there was a general anxiety in me. And I was hoping to discuss a few things with him in person to help calm me. This is the thing, I have a large extended family and I am close to all of them. I can count on so many close family to help me in a difficult time and they will be there for me. After we had dinner that day, we sat in our usual round table with “THE CHAI” and just started talking about what’s going on our respective lives. The things were changing in my life and I was anxious about these changes: ending of school life, beginning of college life, change of friends, new freedom, no school dresses, etc and I was discussing the same things with my uncle. He listened to me with his wide open eyes, his usual grin and childlike curiosity (...I can envision him right now as I write this). After I burped everything out, he said something which has stuck in my heart forever. He said “Change is the only constant, Embrace it, don't fight it”.
Things change, people change, relationships change as change is the only constant. But there are certain characteristics which define who we are. If the characteristics which define you change, then you are not being yourself. When Wright brothers took the first manned flight in 1903, the aircraft they designed looked like this picture below. The primary purpose of an aircraft is to transport: people and goods. Keeping that view in mind, Wright brothers designed a one-seater aircraft. Today we have air crafts which can ferry nearly 800 people or more in one flight. So what changed? The primary purpose of the aircraft remained the same; to transport. But it just became a better version of itself after each iteration. Being yourself doesn’t mean we shouldn’t change. It’s about being a better version of yourself than yesterday. When we are born, we are raw. Except for the genetic memory, there is no memory. It's the upbringing of the newborn that defines who we will be.
We all behave superficially in certain situations. But that’s what inhibits from forming deep meaningful relationships. Artifice is everywhere in the world, but to chose it or not is our choice. Let me explain with a story. I am a person who cannot lie. Even if I try to, other people can just tell it from my face that I am lying. When I used to be sad as a kid, my dad used to keep coming up with jokes to make me happy and lighten up my mood; some of them were good but some of them weren’t. In order to respect him, I used to laugh at his all jokes irrespective of how the joke was. Initially, he didn’t say anything, but one day he said, “Jhothi hassi mat hasa kar, mujhe pata lag jata hai” (I can tell when you are faking a smile). And here I was thinking that I am doing a good job faking a laughter, but it was not enough. It never is. From that day onwards, I used to keep my straight face when it would be a PJ. After he would finish his PJ, we both used to laugh at the quality of the PJ but not the joke itself. So at the end of the day, he would be able to lighten me up. People are not blind to artifice, they can tell when you are honest and when you are faking. Sooner or later they will get to know.
As I have grown, I have noticed, people are best at being themselves, in two stages of their life. One when they are very young and the other is when they are old. The kid’s consciousness doesn’t develop until he/she is 7~8 years old. Before that, he does/says what he wants to do or say. After consciousness begins to set in, by default we tend to lose who we are. The kid hides things in fear of the consequences or keep things within which he would normally say. And older people have nothing to hide, they don’t fear the consequences and over their lifetime worth of experiences, they value human relationships over pretense. It’s the age in between, where we tend to behave who we are not. This is the stage where we have to socialize, adapt, form connections and compromise. We are conscious about actions because we fear consequences. We regulate ourselves by what the society wants us to be. Other people’s perception about us, governs our action. The parameter of our happiness is social acceptance. And that’s what kills us. By imitating others, we lose who we are and can never be that person either. We are all born different. The quest of life is to find how we are different.
Making decisions and choices which will define our lives is the hardest thing we all have to do. We love asking other for opinions to help make our decisions, which is great. But most of the time what happens is the opinion of others drown our own inner voice. All an opinion is someone’s experience about something. We form opinions based on our experiences. A good experience would yield a positive opinion and negative one will yield a negative opinion. And we may very well have a different opinion about the same experience. Hence, we should listen to people but not follow them. There are 7 billion people in the world and the same number of opinions. But the good part is there are 7 billion brains and hearts as well; which means we have one for all. So use it, because if you don’t, you will lose it ;).
Someone asked Gandhi once: What is your message to the society? And his answer was “My life is my message”. So my question to you all is, WHATS YOUR MESSAGE? ;)
"Just be yourself because everyone else is taken"