Being your authentic self, flaws and all
Hi from Sophie Scott.
'This above all, to thine own self be true,
and it must follow, as the night the day,
thou canst not then be false to any man," Hamlet, Shakespeare
This is one of the most quoted lines from one of Shakespeare's best known plays.
Cranky Polonius gives his son Laertes this advice, "'This above all, to thine own self be true," when his son is about to venture out in the world.
(As it happens, it's ironic advice as the character of Polonius himself is duplicitous and rarely shows the self awareness he wants his son to embrace.)
But deep down, what Shakespeare is getting at is that you need not be afraid to know yourself and accept yourself, flaws and all.
I'm not a big one for new year's resolutions, but I have had what I call a New Year's revelation.
Taking time out to disconnect, detox and reconnect to my authentic self, I realised what happens when you fight feelings of anxiety and vulnerability and are not being 'your true self'.
When you shut those feelings off, you are disconnected from what brings meaning to your life.
At work and at home, I had been feeling increasingly disconnected and anxious.
Stepping out of my comfort zone which I usually relish, had filled me with fear.
And invitations like speaking at my old university brought on an overwhelming feeling of vulnerability and feeling out of my depth.
It's not easy to admit.
Even writing about feeling vulnerable makes me feel anxious about what others might think.
While we want to see vulnerability in others, we don't feel comfortable showing to ourselves.
And I didn't know why.
But now I do.
I realised I had not been living my authentic self.
While writing and reporting on public health, I have been too busy to exercise regularly, drank too many champagnes and wine "it helps thin the blood right?"
And had put work commitments above my family, friends and even myself.
Leading vulnerability researcher Brene Brown sums it up perfectly, in her latest book 'Dare Greatly.'
Its called 'minding the gap', as she describes it.
Minding the gap is the disconnection between values that are important to you and how you are living your actual life, day to day.
"Mind the gap is a daring strategy. We have to pay attention to the space between where we're actually standing and where we want to be," she says.
"We don't have to be perfect, just engaged and committed to aligning values with actions".
It's clear from the research Brown has done that a pathway to happiness is to accept yourself as you are, what I call living your 'authentic self'.
But many of us reject those feelings of vulnerability.
We feel we are not good enough just being your ordinary self.
So many women feel pressure to have the perfect body, well behaved kids, enriching groups of friends, being able to cook like Nigella and a stellar career.
And for men, the research shows avoiding vulnerability, staying control and being tough is seen as a key standard of masculinity.
A study by David & Brannon describes the four of cornerstones of American masculinity as "no sissy stuff”, "be a big wheel (strive for achievement), “be a sturdy oak” (avoid vulnerability, be tough) and “give em hell”.
Where on earth does accepting your vulnerability and living an authentic life fit amongst that?
And why is it that so many of us stop living an authentic life?
It's a slippery slope.
Straying from the path of being your authentic self doesn't happen in one day or even one week.
But it's little by little that behaviours become habits.
For me, I realise that I need to and want to let go of those practices which are no longer serving me.
Drinking too much, neglecting my inner self, putting work first.
Your list might resemble this or you may have come to rely on other crutches which are masking those feelings of vulnerability.
The research certainly backs up that many of us are choosing to numb our 'authentic selves' with too much work, too much alcohol and food and too little of real connections with others that will see your spirits soar.
Each day, ask yourself are your choices enriching your life and spirit?
And what are the practices, interactions with others and habits that really raise you up?
I'd love to hear from you.
Post a comment here or on my Facebook page.
Until next time,
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