Set yourself free
Ideas to navigate through judgements & live a life true to yourself
Living a life true to yourself in a world that is continually trying to make you into something can be challenging. By swaying to the fancies of significant others, authority figures, peer pressures, dictates of the society etc. we lose touch with our innate desires, uniqueness, and may experience a lack of courage to pursue our heart’s longing.
In this post I will explore what living a life true to yourself means, challenges that we may typically face in our journey, and some ideas to help you forge ahead on your chosen path in peace.
What does living life true to yourself mean?
To me it means honoring one's thoughts, emotions, needs, beliefs, ideas, dreams and being ok expressing them without fear of disapproval or rejection.
Pitfalls on the path to self expression & pursuance of what we think is our life purpose:
1. The Noise of the world :
Our world is continually showing us ‘the way’. There are tacit expectations of how we should live our life - When we should get married, how many kids we should have, what kind of job we should take up & just about everything else on how to live a good life.
While some structure & basic guideline is great, dovetailing every action of ours based on societal expectations can make us lose our ability to get curious & explore possibilities beyond what's laid out for us.
2. Being bombarded with messages of falling short & not being good enough :
Social media is rampant with success stories - perfect bodies, successful ventures, fancy holiday trips taken by our friends, a million follower base of a known influencer etc. All of this outward show of success can make us feel less, even without us wanting to feel that way. We may begin to doubt ourselves wondering if we are on the right path & if there is perhaps something wrong with us that prevents us from having as glamorous a life as the one’s we see.
3. Fear of making a mistake :
When your heart tells you something but the whole world tells you otherwise, it is not always easy to side with the heart. It's natural to feel afraid or worry about our choices.
This fear can prevent us from expressing ourselves freely & from pursuing our inner desires & dreams.
4. Fear of standing out / being alone :
Oftentimes being authentic involves shining our uniqueness which may not be appreciated by those around us. Rencel Jones, a great guy I follow on Instagram, recently wrote, "As you aspire to become the version of yourself that's the most authentic, be prepared for the fact that some people may only want the version of you that makes them the most comfortable". Nothing can be truer than that.
When we are authentic we risk being alone.
5. The need for control :
Walking a path that feels right for us may not always pan out the way we imagine. We may encounter difficulties, roadblocks, challenges, & detours along the way. The lack of certainty on our path can make us uncomfortable and tempt us to quit.
Ways to address these pitfalls and forge forward on our chosen path :
1. Develop right understanding :
See the world for what it is, without being overly reactive about it.
Going back in time, whenever someone expressed disapproval of me, I would respond by either:
A. Getting into my shell and clam up, or
B. Snap back in anger
Over the years, thanks to increased awareness, I have found newer ways to respond to words of disapproval. Now,
A. I pause & reflect on why I feel offended ? Such an investigation tells me a little more about me. Maybe I felt disrespected, violated in some way, not valued or judged. Further investigation reveals my own unmet needs. Knowing more about myself & what's important to me is helpful. I can use that information to take action & fulfill my needs.
B. Finding my voice : I have now learnt to express myself clearly in a non belligerent way. I have realised that people respond from their level of consciousness & experience. They don't always intend harm. And when I speak my mind, I give them an opportunity to see things from my perspective.
Even if they don't seem convinced of my ways, just the act of standing up for myself, gives me a sense of confidence in my choices.
2. Cultivate empowering beliefs :
I will share two that I frequently use & that help me :
A. One of the most liberating beliefs that I have come across is from the spiritual teacher, Ram Dass. It goes :
“You are loved just for being who you are, just for existing. You don't have to do anything to earn it. Your shortcomings, your lack of self esteem, physical perfection, or social and economic success - none of that matters. No one can take this love away from you, and it will always be here." - Ram Dass
I think this deserves to be stuck on our mirrors and read everyday. And we have to believe this to be true in our hearts so we can be at ease as we go about our lives.
Ask yourself, if you could be anything you wanted to be, not to conform, but to express your deepest intentions, then who would you be?
Knowing & believing that our self worth does not depend on external conditions, can give us the freedom to be ourselves & allow us to share our uniqueness with the world.
B. Things are not as they appear : The most successful businessman out there is not necessarily the happiest. We all, no matter how successful or happy we appear on the surface, go through similar challenges of encountering uncertainty, having insecurities about the future etc.
So take what you see with a pinch of salt. And know that nobody is perfect and nobody has it ‘ALL’.
Like someone said, "If we threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back."
3. Install positive feelings through repetition :
It is possible to make a desired state ( feelings of peace, strength, happiness etc. ) into an enduring quality of our being. I learnt this concept from the book “Radical Compassion” by Tara Brach. It's powerful.
Tara Brach explains how to practice this. She says to pay full attention to the desired states when we feel them.
For example, if you touch a state like peacefulness or strength, then allow it to fill you completely. This is called installation - installing the feeling & getting familiar with it. By repeatedly having the experience and saturating it with our attention, we are recruiting our brains neuroplasticity to create a radical shift in how we experience ourselves and our life.
You can also intentionally create these feelings. I like to do this with my “Gratitude Journal practice”. Just reading all that I have written in my journal evokes feelings of contentment & happiness in me.
With repetition, the practice has the power to turn positive states into lasting traits. Traits we can access when we most need them. In moments of stress, worry or self doubt.
4. Recognise your Intrinsic Goodness :
There is this beautiful story of the statue of the Golden Buddha. At one point in its history the statue was covered with a layer of clay to conceal its true value, and it remained in this condition for almost 200 years. During relocation of the statue in 1955, one of the monks noticed a large crack in the clay. On closer investigation he saw there was a golden light emanating from the crack. The monk used a hammer and a chisel to chip away at the clay exterior until he revealed that the statue was in fact made of solid gold. This story is often shared by monks & spiritual teachers to remind us that deep down we are all gold (gold being symbolic of our inner goodness).
As humans we are allowed to :
Fail at an endeavour
Not be completely sure of our path
Slow down, take rest & even regress
Feel angry or jealous or low in spirit
NONE of that 👆 negates our intrinsic goodness. So always remind yourself of that when you find yourself in a self judgement mode.
5. Incorporate stillness into your daily routine :
Even a few minutes of quiet time is better than none. If we don't spend time in introspection, reflection and meditation then we will not be able to hear our inner voice or stay in touch with our deepest self and true intentions.
“Listen to silence it has so much to say.” - Rumi
6. Know that it will not be easy :
I will conclude this post with a few verses by Mooji that touched my heart. I hope you will reflect on it :
“In order to really grow inside, you must first be challenged from all directions.
Things cannot just go your way. You cannot command life or expect it to fulfil your projections.
If things were always easy, you would go to sleep inside your being.
As you become more sensitive, more alert, intuitive, open and silent, then fear, resistance and lethargy subside and are replaced with a deep calm and a faith in the unseen.
Though no outer company may be seen alongside you, the one who walks with God is never alone. The hosts of the heavens walk with them.”