“If you want to identify with me,
ask me not where I live,
or what I like to eat,or how I comb my hair,
but ask me what I am living for, in detail,
and ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully
for the thing I want to live for.”
— Thomas Merton
Do you know where are you getting ideas of who you are supposed to be? These messages can be coming from a myriad of sources: family, friends, peers, work environments, media, to name a few.
With all of the input surrounding us suggesting who we are supposed to be, we can find ourselves unconsciously striving to live up to other peoples’ ideals or trying to “keep up with the Jones’”; who we actually are can get lost in the noise. Attempting to be someone not consistent with who we are takes a lot of energy and can add a great deal of stress to our lives. It can be as wearing as trying to swim upstream or it can feel as awkward as wearing a shoe on the wrong foot.
What if, instead, you were able to accept yourself as you are, not needing to change, or to be someone or someway different? This can be done by turning inward rather than searching for answers outside ourselves and judging ourselves by what other people think or say or by whether they approve of us. It may be possible to be more comfortable with yourself as you are – to look less to others to find out who you should be, “and settle back more comfortably with this mind, this body, this sense of limitation.” When we stop trying to become somebody, we can discover who we truly are.
One way you can take steps toward being yourself is to take 15-20 minutes each day to sit quietly, away from interruptions. During that time, bring your attention to your breath. Notice your breath as it enters your body and as it leaves your body. Each time your mind wanders away from your breath, as soon as you notice this, redirect your attention back to the simplicity of your inhalations and exhalations. This basic practice of mindfulness can help you begin to develop awareness of what is truly driving your thoughts and actions so that you can have more choice in the matter.
Reference: Sharda Rogell, Reinforcing Patterns of Loving in Voices From Spirit Rock, Edited by Gil Fronsdal and Nancy Van House. Clear & Present Graphics, 1996.