“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.” – Oscar Wilde
About 7 years ago, I ran a local program called, “Let Go Of Who You Aren’t: Be Your Perfectly Imperfect Self.” It had a few brave people in attendance. Honestly, like so many of my ideas it was simply ahead of its time. More and more, I’m hearing people discuss that topic. Sometimes, I’m just too early for the party.
Okay, we come into the world screaming to be ourselves and for awhile we are. Little kids tend to be honest and forthright. They speak their own little truths and its so refreshing. I worked with some children a few years ago. One of the little girls — an old soul in a young body — gave me a wonderful compliment: “You let us go wild in a good way.”
I loved that!
As for myself, I was wild for a lot longer than most because my mother did not send me to kindergarten. I went briefly to a nursery school in the bottom of our church where all we did was sit on our blankets, take naps and eat crackers. I remember doing little else and I have an excellent memory.
Other than that I spent my time playing in the woods behind my home. I climbed a lot of trees, going really high up. I didn’t have any fear of falling out because I viewed the trees as my wise friends who would support me. Every day I climbed as high as I could go, sometimes near the top. I loved to sit on the branches and look down and around at my little childhood kingdom.
I attribute my sustained wild spirit to that extra time spent chasing butterflies, wading in streams and communing with trees. When I got to first grade, I found it really confining and had a difficult time adjusting. Honestly, I was never able to adjust to working all day in an office. It felt unnatural to me, like I was in a cage – which, quite frankly, I was.In school and in Sunday school, I felt like the adults wanted to shut me up and turn me into a polite mute that curtsied on demand. I was always being sent to the corner or outside the room — punishment, I guess, — for speaking my mind. That caused me trouble at work. When I saw an injustice, I spoke up about it. When something didn’t make sense, I spoke up about it. When I felt like someone was abusing their power, I spoke up about it.
Bad idea if you want to keep your job. Good idea if you want to be true to yourself. I shut myself up for awhile in my twenties trying to conform to the status quo and almost lost it. An unpleasant time in my life and not something I would recommend to anyone. Thankfully, I freed myself from myself.
I love to speak up and it is an ongoing challenge because people will try to besmirch me in an attempt to keep me quiet. They want something to go a certain way and anyone like me who points out anything that might jeopardize that want, gets labelled all sorts of weird things.
I’m guessing if they were being true to themselves, they wouldn’t feel the need to suppress others.
In my life travels, I meet a lot of people who tell me they want to return to being themselves. In fact this muse news is devoted to that. From day one in 2008, it was called “Take Back Your Self.”
The best place to start the journey back to who you are rather than who the people around you want you to be is to know something isn’t right with you.
You’ll know because life will seem off. You go through the requested motions but deep inside know you don’t believe them yourself. You will be in conflict with yourself. You will feel angry, something that can manifest itself in many ways if repressed, including illness and depression.
If you can find an assertiveness training class, sign up for it. In my pathological twenties when I was feeling the most unlike my self after years of being shut down by adults and, subsequently, my self, I stumbled on this type of training. It was great.
One of our first assignments was to buy something at a department store we didn’t want and return it. Simple, yet totally liberating. Prior to that, I just kept the unwanted item. And so did lots of my friends. Another woman in my program had a fear of driving into Boston. She was encouraged to try some smaller roads and work her way up to the Mass Pike. By the time we finished she had driven in!
The more you take your self back, the more powerful you will feel. It’s when we suppress ourselves that we feel weak and helpless. Got an good ideas to share with other readers? Please pipe in below. Thanks, J.
ps, If you are free on December 4, please join me for wild painting in Holliston. All supplies included. More info here