Knowing And Being Who You Are

Being who you are

by Jayaram V

Unfortunately, most people do not live their lives. They do not like to be themselves or express themselves freely. They live their lives according to the expectations and desires of others. They allow others to pull their strings or make important decisions for them.

This trend is especially more pronounced in countries with totalitarian regimes, rigid religious and social systems. It is also experienced considerably in traditional communities where parents and elders have a greater control over their children and where social pressures are acute.

From an early age we are brainwashed to live in a certain way and believe in certain things. When we are grown up, we are constantly bombarded with propaganda to buy certain products, support certain belief systems and ideologies and pursue interests and goals that are not entirely conducive to our personal well being or our economic welfare.

We know that we cannot have everything our way and we cannot always push our personal agendas at the cost of others. However, if we do not have enough opportunities to express ourselves or use our unique talents and skills we may suffer from great disenchantment or become mechanical in out thoughts and actions. We must have opportunities to grow individually and responsibly.

There are many powers and factors in the world which limit our freedom and restrict our choices. Even in the countries which boast of democracy and individual liberty people are not truly free. Their lives are chained to ideologies, group think, racial and gender biases and religious pressures.

Sadly such conditioning and invisible influence greatly affect our lives. It not only limits our freedom but also prevents us from being genuine to ourselves. Most importantly, it limits our ability to use our greatest asset in life, which is our own uniqueness.

Every human being in this world comes with a great asset, and it is the individuality shaped by life and experience which is distinctly unique. Unfortunately, we have to barter away this uniqueness in return for acceptance, belongingness, approval and appreciation from others. In our eagerness to blend in and be part of the world, we compromise our values and beliefs to the extent we forget who we truly are and rely upon others at the cost of our own individualities.

Indeed it is very difficult to be yourself in this world. In this regard we are our own worst enemies. We tend to deal with the known and the familiar. We prefer dealing with people who are predictable. People usually do not trust those who are assertive or want to be themselves. The same goes with organizations. They speak about leadership but prefer the sheep to perform routine jobs. In the recruitment process, they want to see how much you will fit in rather than stand out.

I can tell you from my own experience that people are generally apprehensive of those who want to be different and themselves. They mistake your individuality for impudence or arrogance. You may be called rude if you speak your mind or reveal your true feelings. The odds of success will be stacked against you if you want to follow your own path and stand your own ground.

It is not my intention to suggest that one should be a social rebel or question the authority of established institutions. I am not suggesting that you should live your own life and do whatever you want, ignoring the hurt and the damage you may cause to others.

It is necessary for us to respect established traditions, laws, and institutions because they are products of humanity's collective wisdom and they aim to ensure the order and regularity of various processes that are vital to our survival. Also, we have to respect our social relationships and obligations towards others if we want to live in peace and harmony with others.

However, at the same time, we should remember who we are, what we can do as individuals, and how we can express ourselves creatively and freely without being corrupted by fear and dependence mentality. If you can harmonize these two by following a middle path, knowing when to follow and when to be yourself, you will have greater chances of accomplishing much more than just being a cog in the wheel.

The following suggestions may be useful in this regard

1. Accept yourself unconditionally whatever may be your weaknesses and shortcomings.

2. Be honest with yourself, your thoughts and feelings. Accept them without rationalizing them

3. Learn to be self-forgiving

4. Avoid judging yourself.

5. Acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses.

6. Pay attention to your deepest thoughts and feelings and your gut feelings.

7. Rely upon your own experience rather than the authority of others.

8. Learn to trust your own decisions.

9. Learn to say No.

10. Learn to be assertive without being aggressive.

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