I advocate that we be true to ourselves, and be who we really are inside. My personal theme for 2012 is: be me.
But, how do I “be me”?
In fact, how do I even know who I am inside and who is “me”?
I have always had a particular image of myself – I was impatient, generous, versatile, adaptive, kind, friendly, strong… I also created an image for others to see, whether it was in the social or professional world – easy going, efficient, trustworthy, a manager, a leader, a friend…
I thrived on these qualities I attributed to myself. Yet I wonder if this is really me or rather, who I want to be?
Perhaps when something is not true to its core, it will not be sustainable in the long run. Fatalistically, towards the end of 2009, these images crumbled to millions of tiny pieces. As I lugged myself through major depression, ailing health and a few suicide attempts, I could not cope with the fact that perhaps I was not as strong as or easy going as I thought myself to be.
The reality that I could not cope with the stress working as an international executive prancing around the world was more than I could bear.
I hid away from the world. I felt I had let everyone down. The image I had so carefully constructed for others and maintained in the last 10 years disintegrated into thin air. Maybe it wasn’t a fake me, but it was definitely only part of me – the part of me that I wanted the outside world to see. So I crafted carefully the image prior to my demise, heeding to all the management training I had undergone about building a reputation, networking, and how to be a good manager.
As I sat at home everyday, mulling over what happened, I became bitter and angry. For the longest time, I did not understand why I had caved in under stress, or why I was wrought with depression. What was wrong with me?
Needless to say, I was put on anti-depressants, had to see a psychologist regularly, and ordered to take leave of absence from work. It took about 18 months before I became more opened about my fate with depression, or even admit I needed help.
I was pleasantly surprised. My friends did not judge me or think lesser of me. My company and bosses were supportive of plight, and gave me time and space to recover.
One day I picked up a pen and starting scribbling in my journal again, and noted down all these things I wanted to do, places I wanted to visit, what my ideal life was, and what kind of person I’d want to be. I started writing again and started a blog to note down my thoughts.
In the process of self-reflection and self-exploration, I slowly realized that I wasn’t as strong as I was – and that is actually not a problem! I was not invincible either, and that doesn’t make me any less of a person. I finally came to admit that I could not cope with the stress placed on me, and the pressure I placed on myself. I could deny no more that I was not happy despite the veneer of having my life together.
In short, I rediscovered who I was at the core. Personality traits such as strength were imposed on me from childhood – I actually am not so strong, I need a lot of help and support. I’m also not as versatile and adaptive as I thought I was, based on the international experience I had during school years. Moreover, I’m really not that outgoing or friendly; if given a choice, I’d rather stay at home all the time, watch DVDs, sleep, and not talk to anyone.
The psychological jargon I learnt was “Self Awareness,” a state in which we understand who we are, why we have certain emotions, the thoughts behind emotions and the actions as a result. Sadly, many of us plod along day by day, not understanding ourselves at all.
However, the quest for self-awareness is only the first step and it is by no means an end goal. Rather, this is an ongoing process. The process of introspection is in itself a piece of homework and you can find some great insights on how to achieve self-awareness here and here and here.
Yet, once we are aware of who we are, how do we go about being this person we are?
These are some of my humble suggestions after some 2 years of pondering, musing, and reflecting. In no particular order:
- Have courage to be different from others
- Know that some people may not like the “new”, or rather, “real” you
- Surround yourselves with people who are supportive
- Alienate those who try to make you the person they want you to be
- Open up to the world and admit this is who you are, the good, the bad and the ugly
- Laugh at yourself
- Take criticisms in a stride
- Do not apologize for who you are
- Trust in your own judgment, you know best for yourself
- Love who you are
- Don’t let others tell you who you are
Today, I am no longer afraid to voice my dissenting opinions for fear of not being accepted, or seen as weird. I am unique and have my own ideas and perspectives. I do not mind that people think I’m a silly idiot for quitting a job that offers me a permanent expatriate package until I retire. I know I’m impatient and hot-tempered, and I cry because I’m emotional. That’s all fine.
The more I love myself, who I am, and accept the good bits of me and the not so good bits of me, the more I am sure of who I am, and I’m not scared to be just that person!
Confidence to be oneself exudes radiance from within. No one else has the right to tell you how you should or should not be.
Once you can look yourself in the mirror, and smile at the reflection, that’s when you know you are being who you are at the core.
These are some enlightened perspectives I came about through my own introspection. I’d love to hear your ideas too on how to be true to ourselves everyday in the comments below.