By Rachelle Varon, LCSW-C
“Goodbye,” said the fox. “Here is my secret. It’s quite simple: One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes.”
This is one of my favorite quotes from The Little Prince. It’s one of those sayings which speaks of the core of who we are, our “authentic self.”
In more modern terms it’s about “being real.” Going classic, it’s Shakespeare, telling us through his character Polonius, “to thine own self be true.”
One might think as grownups who have gone through the struggles of adolescence during which our task is to develop our own identities and ideas, that we would have figured this out already. Can it really be that hard to be yourself? It turns out the answer is yes. It’s not always easy and it may take time.
First, you must know yourself. Ask yourself, “What are my beliefs, opinions, hopes, fears and preferences? Are my thoughts and feelings my own or am I allowing other people’s expectations to influence me?”
Next, figure out what it means to be true to that self you have discovered. You can decide how much you want to share or disclose and to whom. Choose your balance between dancing to your own drummer and conforming to the crowd. It’s not always easy, but it is important because when we can’t be our authentic selves, it can contribute to feelings of depression, anxiety, frustration and resentment. It may lead to feelings of helplessness and powerlessness. It can also interfere with relationships and intimacy. And wouldn’t it be a shame to miss out on what is truly essential – both in yourself and others.
Most of us want to become our authentic selves, but we can get stuck in our old ways. We tend to live inside our comfort zones and it may feel dangerous or uncomfortable to venture outside by doing something different—even if it might make something better. The tape inside our head may say “what if they don’t like me if I do this differently? What if I make a mistake? What if now’s not the right time? What if…?”
See what happens if you answer that internal voice by changing your usual negative response to the “what ifs.” Instead, try changing it up with something like the following possibilities:
Take chances, make mistakes. That’s how you grow. Pain nourishes your courage. You have to fail in order to practice being brave.”
-Mary Tyler Moore
Necessity is the mother of taking chances.
Be brave to make changes in your life.
Be brave to assert yourself.
Be brave to leave your comfort zone.
Be brave to question.
Rachelle (Shelly) Varon, LCSW-C is a therapist for Jewish Community Services.
JCS provides a broad range of services that meet the diverse, multi-dimensional needs of individuals and families throughout Central Maryland. We offer guidance and support when you are seeking solutions for emotional well-being, aging and caregiving, parenting, job seeking, employers and businesses, achieving financial stability, living with special needs, and preventing risky behaviors. To learn more, please visit our home page or call 410-466-9200.