The “Be Yourself” Contention

No one sees us the way we see ourselves.

Like many people, I have given and likewise have been given, over and over again, the advice: “Be Yourself”.

Pondering about it now, I realized the advice was, in some way or another, unwise and ridiculous, to say the least, terrible!

Now, before you furrow your eyebrows in rage for that comment, hear me out on this, first: because if I were to be “myself,” I would never overcome my inability as an introvert to confront uncomfortable situations such as speaking in public or in front of large groups (which I occasionally do at work as an executive and at church as minister of service) or, most importantly, never would have come up with this beautiful blog site which by the way expresses and represents  thinking and ideologies that are still considered unconventional or “out-of-the-box” to many—a manifestation of sheer boldness to trample upon “untrodden grounds”, literally quite the opposite from the makings of a “shy” person.

Going back to the subject of “being yourself”, I understand that we are currently living in the “Age of Authenticity, where “be yourself” is the defining advice in life, love and career. Authenticity is defined as erasing the gap between what you firmly believe inside and what you reveal to the outside world. Simply put: “the choice to let our true selves be seen.” 

But, would you agree if I say that being authentic does not have to mean being a slave to your inner life; acting on every impulse, sharing every feeling you have, or not caring what impact you have on others? 

In light of that, there is, to my opinion, a kind of authenticity toward which we could all strive—the kind of authenticity that entails choosing to be the you that you envision being. Of course that doesn’t mean we should try to be someone else. But if we never consciously choose who we want to be, to what “self” will we be “true”?

These are the big questions we should be asking ourselves then: Do we have the idea what we mean when we talk about finding our “true self.”? So what are we talking about when we talk about being “yourself”? Because the “self” is a highly complex array of one’s innate perspectives and responses combined with a host of one’s acquired beliefs, values, and actions.

So what does it mean to be “true to yourself”? To what “self” would you like to be “true”? If you have a biological tendency to be shy, but you want to make a difference in the world and in order to do so, you need to effectively make presentations to large audiences, do you want to be “true” to A) your biological tendency to be shy, or to B) the difference you want to make in the world? Which “self” is your “authentic self”? If you choose option A, does that mean it is “inauthentic” for you to become an incredibly good public speaker? Well, that was just an analogy.

Here’s where the difference lies, we tend to believe that we have fixed, concrete personalities or characteristics. “I am shy” or “I am outgoing” become descriptions of what we come to think are essential elements of who we are—our “true self” or “authentic self.” But, I strongly believe, that there is NO “fixed essence” of who we must be, because if that’s the case, then we are putting limits to our personal growth!

Another thing is that, many believe that being “yourself” means being true to that fictional, “fixed self,” and I stand contrary to that. Because the “self” is not immutable, is not “fixed, and is up to each of us to create, and choosing who to be is a deeply authentic way to be.

So “be yourself,” but choose wisely the self you want to be 🙂

Everything Worthwhile, Takes Time.

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Think about these…

You scan over the news, barely taking in the facts. Yet the headline and the emotion of the topic stays with you. You may even have skipped the actual article and just read the comments which dampen your mood even further. On your way home, you order at a drive through and let’s be honest – the chips or whatever you’ve gotten are finished by the time you get home. Information is instant and reaching out to the people who are not with you is fixed with a phone call. Just because you thought of something and because you worry you’ll forget about it, you send an e-mail. At least something has been done about that thought, right? We rush through conversations without really listening. How often have you thought “just get to the damn point so that I can move on to the next task!”.

 

It’s a blur. The traffic, the work, the family obligations. We are stressed out and worried and we forget to breathe deeply so anxiety takes hold. Depression follows the anxiety and when you finally have a moment to sit your fine backside down on the couch, you reach for your phone to scroll through Facebook and you slide into jealousy for all the holiday pictures and happy, smiling faces and you think “what am I doing wrong?”.

 

This obsession to get ahead, stay ahead, be faster, be quicker, get there FIRST, has taken over all people’s lives rapidly spreading like a viral pandemic. It has got to stop. Our mindset has got to change. Technology and the processes we live within are great tools – they have made our lives easier and we appreciate that. However, we don’t need to speed up to keep up with them. They need to service OUR needs. After all, we did create them for just that purpose.

 

Take a load off. Pay more attention. Instead of just replying to emails without reading them properly, take the time to understand the contents and offer a valid solution. Seventeen-odd threads on one email without a real solution is just a panic attack waiting to happen. Take time to really listen to someone else instead of just getting the crux of the story and moving on with your own perception of the situation. Read the whole story.

 

Everything worthwhile, takes time. Your finances will become a better situation if you take the time to manage them and set goals. No single individual on this planet (besides those who come from money) became wealthy, overnight. They worked and they failed and they had plans and now we read their stories and we want the same NOW. It just does not work like that. Your relationships take time. You must get to know people and connect with them to have those happy, smiling, holidaying moments. Otherwise, those moments are empty public relations snaps devoid of any real meaning. The cookie-cutter happy life on Facebook took WORK and disappointments and resilience. You are just looking at a snapshot of a piece of their story – not all the dirty details that brought them to that place.

We have been born into a world where everything must be fast and we’ve forgotten that this fast-rule applies only to certain elements of our lives. We need to remember that the good stuff, the real stuff and the stuff that means something – takes time. Stop. Breathe. Prioritize and understand that whatever it is that you are looking to create in your life is going to take TIME. Time, effort, resilience, humor, faith. No internet speed, no cellular connection and no amount of stressing will hasten the universal rules of time.

Take your time. It’s worth it.

P.S. If you liked this post, I’d be happy to hear your thoughts in the comments below. See you 🙂

Photo credits: Google photos

Your Word is your Bond

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Do you think before you make a promise to someone? What if you can’t deliver on your word? Does it really matter? The world isn’t going to come to an end, is it? Well, actually no, but have you considered . . .

Many people are pretty casual about making promises. As a result, promises are frequently made at the drop of a hat with no real intention of keeping them. “Let’s do lunch,” “I’ll call you later,” and “I’ll be there in five minutes” are all examples of throwaway promises that are frequently made but seldom kept. However, this casual attitude can have real consequences.Think about it — when someone else breaks a promise to you, or gets caught in a lie, doesn’t that make you feel violated or cheated?  You can’t help wondering whether you were wrong to ever trust that person.

There was a time when keeping your word held special significance. We took great pride in being of good character. Personal integrity was both expected and valued. That was a time when everyone knew each other’s family, and you wouldn’t do anything that would cast a shadow on your family’s good name. It was a time when integrity was instilled in children at a very early age and was viewed as instrumental in achieving success. The truth is, our world may have changed, but the importance of integrity has not. While we may not know everyone in our own town, the world is still smaller than you think. Create some bad news and you’ll learn this for yourself.

Every time you give your word, you’re putting your honor on the line. You’re implying that others can place their trust in you because you value integrity and would never let them down. It goes without saying that if you don’t live up to your word, you may end up tarnishing your credibility, damaging your relationships, and defaming your reputation. Most importantly, you’ll be letting yourself down.

But . . . when you operate with complete integrity, what you say will be taken at face value, your intentions will be assumed honorable, and your handshake will be as good as a contract. Most importantly, you can take great pride in the standards that you’ve set for yourself and sleep well at night knowing that your conscience is clear. As for others . . . just when they think they’re fooling the world, they’ll realize that they’re only fooling themselves. A promise is a promise after all.

What do you think? Are people too casual about making promises?

 

Light Enters Through Cracks

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FOREWORD: In light of the Lenten season, I wrote this post about embracing freedom and personal strength through brokenness.

Leonard Cohen, the legendary Canadian poet and singer who died on November 7, 2016 once wrote a set of powerful lyrics in his song “Anthem,” off the 1992 album The Future:

Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.

Cohen, who didn’t like explaining his music, reportedly made a rare statement about “Anthem” on The Future Radio Special, a special CD released by Sony in 1992. (Quartz hasn’t been able to independently verify the transcript, which was published on a fan site.)

The future is no excuse for an abdication of your own personal responsibilities towards yourself and your job and your love. “Ring the bells that still can ring”: they’re few and far between but you can find them.

This situation does not admit of solution of perfection. This is not the place where you make things perfect, neither in your marriage, nor in your work, nor anything, nor your love of God, nor your love of family or country. The thing is imperfect.

And worse, there is a crack in everything that you can put together: Physical objects, mental objects, constructions of any kind. But that’s where the light gets in, and that’s where the resurrection is and that’s where the return, that’s where the repentance is. It is with the confrontation, with the brokenness of things.

(Source: Quartz Media LLC)

There Is A Crack In Everything, That’s How The Light Gets In

Now there are people who resist the insights born of brokenness. One of the ways we most oppress ourselves is by assuming that we, alone, are shattered while everyone else is whole. We tell ourselves, “Look at that family, how perfect they are. Look at their home, how gorgeous and clean it always is”, and we assume that we are the only fractured and broken vessels struggling to make meaning of our fragmented lives. Not only do individuals try to mandate a false wholeness, but there are social forces that seek to impose that same impossible perfection on us, telling us that if we are broken, we no longer retain any utility or worth.

There are entire industries in this era — blogs, magazines, and films — dedicated to the self-hating proposition that we should feel fat, old, and ugly, that we should do surgery on ourselves, or straighten something, or bend some part, or snip something, or be lighter, or darker, and then, then we’ll finally have dignity; then we’ll be whole.

Where then does that leave us?

Let us take for example the iconic and symbolic Liberty Bell. It was hung in the Philadelphia State House in 1753, and it sounded to summon the pre-Independence Colonial Legislature into session, and it was used after the Revolution for the Pennsylvania State Legislature as well.

The intriguing idiosyncrasy of this bell is that when it arrived, it cracked right away. Not once, but twice, American craftspeople repaired the bell by filling in the crack with new metal. And yet it cracked again, and then it cracked again. Apparently the bell wanted to be broken; it had something to say. In the 1830s the abolitionist movement was gaining steam; Americans were awakening to the realization that slavery was economically harmful and morally repugnant.

Some bold Americans started to organize against slavery as an ethical and political imperative. The abolitionists were the very first to label this bell the Liberty Bell, and they elevated it as a symbol of American independence and personal freedom.

In 1846 the Liberty Bell cracked for the final time, and at that point people stopped trying to fill the gap or to ring it.

Now, taking such into considerations, to me, the Liberty Bell — now cracked and silent — resonates more loudly around the globe than any bell that is whole. Inscribed on that beautiful, broken Liberty Bell is a verse from the Book of Leviticus: “Proclaim liberty throughout the land, to all the inhabitants thereof.” Not to those who are tall, to those who are thin, to those who are young, to those are gorgeous — proclaim liberty to everyone.

Liberty belongs to us all, broken, shattered, struggling and striving. And beautiful because of our imperfections.

The medieval author, Menachem Azariah of Fano writes, “Just as a seed cannot grow to perfection as long as it maintains its original form — growth coming only through decomposition — so these points could not become perfect configurations as long as they maintained their original form, but only by breaking.” There is a crack in everything — that’s how the light gets in.

This life is not for the perfect. It is not for the flawless. It is not for the whole. If you are like me, there are parts of you that are very good, and there are parts of you that are aching. There are parts of you that strive and fall short; there are parts of you that feel broken. Those are the parts that let in the light. Don’t run from your imperfections. Don’t hide from your brokenness. Broken bones re-grow stronger at the very location where they are broken. Those are the spots where the light will shine through.

Personal Luxury

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Luxury is not about money. It is about living a truly authentic life. Contrary to what you may think, luxury products were not created to drive revenue. They were created to help people live a more comfortable life. Today, thanks to technology, that level of comfort is more readily available to anyone who wants to embrace it. Not through some new gadget, but by just slowing down and enjoying the beauty that exists in a life simply lived.

Don’t think you have the time? Read on…

Living simply is not a new idea. It is as old as time. It is just that today’s simplicity is not the same as it used to be. Nor is the idea of luxury. Somewhere along the line people got distracted with the idea that having “more” was the same as having “better.” It is not. Just ask anyone wallowing in credit card debt. Ask anyone fighting to keep a job they hate to pay a mortgage they don’t want and a lifestyle they lost interest in long ago.

You see, true luxury is about authenticity, and you cannot create authenticity simply by buying more. Nor can you create it by buying the most expensive items or by trying to keep up with the latest and greatest that someone else told you was a “must have” for the season.

Luxury is not a matter of more. It is not even about less. True luxury is, and always has been, about creating an environment that liberates your aspirations. This means removing the distractions so that everything around you supports your life, the way you want to live it.

Do not mistake this for living a Spartan life or the life of an ascetic. It is not about reducing for the sake of reducing. Living a simple life is about removing the distractions that prevent you from being who they truly want to be. What remains is your own personal luxury. The idea of giving away everything you own in order to be happy might have worked 2,500 years ago, but today the journey of life is about discovering the right balance between work and play, people and things to help you create a life that is authentically yours — the life you were meant to live.

I know when I mention the word luxury some of you may picture a Patek Philippe Sky Moon watch or a Bentley Continental GTC. Others may think of a Chanel jacket or a private jet, but those things are baubles that, more often than not, end up weighing you down. They can get in the way of personal luxury if you let them. You see, true luxury is not found in a catalog. It is not about brandishing someone else’s logo. It is not about being the first to have whatever the latest marketing campaign is pitching. True luxury is a very personal idea. True luxury is about creating the life that you want to live. True luxury is about being authentically you and being able to liberate your aspirations in your own personal way. True luxury is about creating the right balance in your life so that you have time for the things that matter most.

Those watches and jets and cars and mansions all cost time, not just the time it takes to amass their asking price, but the time it takes to maintain them and to dote over them. They demand your time as you cherish them and adore them.

It is one reason that time has become the new gold standard. After all, there is only so much time in the world. More cannot be created. It cannot be sold or traded. It can only be drawn upon, and the less you waste on the distractions of life, the more you have to spend creating a life that is truly yours; and that is a true luxury few can afford.

Today, the world has 24/7 access to you through technology. Work has become a non-stop schedule, unbounded by office walls. Staying grounded in all of this is the only way for you to create a life that is authentically yours. Only when you find YOUR own balance can you create the kind of simplicity that you need to be happy. Regardless of how much money you have or how many baubles you might cherish, learn to simplify your life and you will learn the value of a minute. That is when you can begin to make every minute count.

The next time you think about spending or splurging, do not think about the money it will cost. Think about the time it will demand of you. Think about what you could have been creating in that time. Would it have been real relationships with the real people in your life, like family, friends and even yourself? Would it have been better spent refining your world in a way that supports, nurtures and helps you grow?

When you are able to see the objects in your life in terms of the time they demand, you will understand the true value of a 20-minute nap. You will understand what it cost you to be home so that you could hug your son or daughter, husband or wife. That is true luxury. That is the real reward that balance and simplicity afford.

In the end, success and affluence and luxury is not about showing off the latest gadget. It is not about having a bigger car or larger house. It is about being able to manage your time and your life, YOUR way.

Take the time to evaluate what is important in your life and let that be the guideline, not just for happiness, but for living a rewarding, successful, and yes, luxurious life.

Do you have a minute to do that?

Daily dose of “G”

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When I was younger, I believed one should feel grateful in order to give thanks. To do anything else seemed somehow dishonest or fake — a kind of “preposterously ridiculous” insincerity that one should reject. Considering the fact that we are in a universe that seemed to hurt for no reason and living in a world where children die of hunger every day, it just doesn’t make sense. When it comes to being grateful and thankful, it’s best to be emotionally authentic, right? Wrong. Building the best life does not require fealty to feelings in the name of authenticity, but rather rebelling against negative impulses and acting right even when we don’t feel like it. In a nutshell, acting grateful can actually make you grateful.

Being grateful is a choice. Some make the mistake of waiting to feel grateful rather than choosing to be grateful. Today, you are alive. You have the opportunity to enjoy your abundance, right your wrongs, cling to your hopes, rekindle your dreams or re-live your passions. You and me, we are alive and so be grateful we must and truly live.

The gift of life is the best gift we’re given every single day.

Grow by Detaching from your Past

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Most of us have heard that a key to happiness is detaching from our future. We know the dangers of getting too attached to things that aren’t certain…new jobs and new partners and rain-free vacations.

Detaching from the past, however, isn’t nearly as popular of a concept. And yet it might be even more important.

Think about it.

We are all brought up learning lessons and beliefs that are stated as absolute truths. And we assume everyone else believes them, too.

everyone believes that boys shouldn’t ever show fear….

everyone believes it’s important to go to a certain church on a certain day…

everyone feels that wearing designer clothes reflects success…

We learn these lessons from lots of people throughout our lives. Parents and teachers and friends definitively exclaim how things are in the beginning…then new colleagues and the media join in. And many of them mean well.

Before we know it we’ve got a whole bunch of beliefs about life…about the way things should be…that actually might not be true. At least not for us.

Sometimes, when we run up against a belief that no longer works for us, it turns into a terrible mind game. We feel like we’ve done something wrong. Like we’ve failed.

We don’t consider that the problem might be with the belief itself.

Need a few examples? Here are just a few beliefs each should be eyeing careful attention to:

  • Everyone should have kids
  • Taller is more attractive
  • You must vote a certain way
  • Failure means you just didn’t try hard enough
  • For the ladies, the thinner you are the better you are
  • And…true professionals work their butts off, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., every weekday.

Detachment from the past can be done in all kinds of circumstances. Even simple attitudes or judgments about something or someone are up for detachment grabs. We can choose to detach from them, to start fresh.

Of course, not everything is about detachment. There will be core values you have throughout your entire life. There will be hard lessons you want to hold on to. There will be a passionate belief in the soothing power of mint chip ice cream that will persevere from childhood to death.

But there will be other beliefs that will evolve and change over time. There may be some that, frankly, were never right for you in the first place.

The important thing is to recognize when a belief runs up against a different truth inside of you, to catch the mind game before it starts.

To understand that the truth of a lesson learned long ago (or not-so-long-ago) simply might not apply to you. Or, it might not apply to you anymore.

And then? Challenge the belief head-on. Consider where it came from. Consider whether you might want to detach from it.

Remind yourself that life choices are different for different people at different times in their lives. That other people’s beliefs might not always apply.

Go on, delve deeply on the beliefs you’ve acquired over time, and don’t be hesitant to challenge such beliefs. For your growth and well-being, nothing should hinder you, even the long-established and widely-accepted notions and conventions. At the end of the day, you’ll be smiling at the world for the freedom you’ve achieved!…I catch myself saying these words early this morning.