I hear the expression ‘be yourself’ everywhere. We live in an era where the ‘I’ is to be celebrated, and technology gives us the tools to do so every day – we share instant “reflections” (of parts) of who we are, every day. I am not here to question this contemporary trend … but I am interested in this: What does ‘being ourselves’ actually mean? Will it bring us the happiness that we are all searching, that seems so elusive? Are we being truly alive, here, now?
These questions have interested me ever since I became painfully aware of the challenges that life was throwing at me, some decades ago. And I summarize here the two simple answers that life has given me on becoming, living and touching joy.
Firstly: We are not all light and bliss. We encompass everything, at every moment – both the pain and the joy. I am not a distilled version of my wholeness; I am not the superficial glorification of the positive aspects of my personality. What makes the whole of me is my light and my darkness. As much as I too would like to believe that only shining light on the positive makes the negative go away, it just doesn’t – we might as well be courageous and admit this, and thereby free ourselves finally to embrace who we are. Who benefits, anyway, from us presenting ourselves diluted this way?
So, the first lesson I have learned is to not look away from what hurts. I have seen this time and time again in my coaching practice: negating our suffering is negating a part of ourselves, and we only truly find peace through opening the door to what is creating our discomfort. Counter intuitively, we find joy through becoming aware, consciously, of the roots of our pain. We learn to love truth for the sake of truth itself. And when we see truth inside us, we know it with all of our being – that is aliveness. This awareness, along with the attitude of taking responsibility for the whole of ourselves opens up a world of possibilities and choice for our lives.
And the second answer to my questions builds on the first one: when we start listening, looking, noticing, we start knowing ourselves intimately. We begin to understand the patterns of our minds. We encounter the deepest longings of our souls. And, crucially, we also start noticing the messages our bodies have for us, reversing the unspeakable disconnection most of us live with to our most accessible truth. We are not complete unless we include mind, body and soul in our experience and live in these with absolute integrity.
To be, to truly inhabit who we are, is a process, a journey through life getting to know ourselves, uncovering ever more coherence and unity within. Practicing living like this deepens our connection to our own innate joy. And I have not used the word happiness here: we are no longer dependent on finding it outside ourselves. If we are still for a moment, we all know what is more enduring.