I have heard the following from people of all walks of life during moments of stress or difficulty – “I’m so tired of this game, I just want to be myself and do my own thing.”
My first response is always the same – Well who are you?
What most people mean when they say they want to be themselves is that they want to be relaxed and comfortable, authentic, and free to express themselves, and they don’t want to be worried about being judged for doing it.
Being yourself isn’t as simple as it seems, because we don’t have just one self; there are multiple versions of who we are. There is the self you are at work, the self you are with your best friend, the self you are with your family, the self you are with total strangers. Sometimes you like yourself and sometimes you don’t. We, like all things are ever-changing.
Having a self that adapts to different situations is a highly desirable characteristic that demonstrates what we can refer to as EQ (emotional quotient), which is also known as social intelligence. Having good social intelligence reflects having knowledge of your own power to decide which self you want to be in a given situation.
What is important to know is whether the self you are being at any given moment is a self that you like, and/or whether that self is helping you attain the things you want in life. Being your sarcastic self with your friends might make them laugh, but it probably wouldn’t land you the job you are interviewing for. Yelling at a co-worker who makes a mistake might be a way to release your authentic anger in the moment but it won’t gain his or her cooperation or motivation to help you in the future.
In Buddhism awareness is the key to everything.
Recognize that you don’t just have one self. You have choices about which self to be, and being adaptable is a trait that reflects intelligence and awareness about the effect you have on other people, as well as your potential to influence situations. Just because you hold back expressing certain thoughts or behaving in certain ways doesn’t mean you aren’t being yourself; it means you are being an aware version of yourself that knows when certain self-expression is appropriate and when it isn’t.
Learning how to express the diverse aspects of who you are as a person can be one of the greatest joys in life, and an essential part of maintaining your emotional well-being. Expressing yourself in a meaningful way is critical to our successes in life—and will be greatly appreciated by those you share this world with.
Peace and Love, Jim