“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
~ Steve Jobs
What does it mean to “stay true unto oneself?” Shakespeare spoke of this immortal question, others have reformatted and repackaged the idea, but still many remain uncertain of the essential meaning of being true unto oneself.
What is the importance of staying true unto oneself? However you want to package the basic premise is: be authentic in all that you do. Do not waver from the nature of your true person. Whoever you are, allow that person to shine through.
Authentic people are undisputedly genuine. Genuine people do not rely on the approval or acceptance of others, rather they diligently seek to be themselves. They deny the ownership of critical words or deeds that others lay at their feet. Genuine people are not perfect, but strive for improvement on a daily and frequent basis. They are also capable of accepting positively constructive criticism, while denying the negative intentions, deeds, actions, or criticisms that others may choose to offer. An authentic person is a sincere person relying upon their inner being for acceptance and approval.
ACCEPTANCE AND APPROVAL
As a human culture, we have woven a tale that says we must seek out the approval and disapproval of others. It is expressed through our culture that acceptance is only conveyed when we fulfill the wishes or commands of another. It is through this acceptance that we become “worthy” according to this tale-of-tales. If we do not follow the commands or wishes of others, then we will open ourselves up to the rejection of those others.
The truth is: if I do not need the acceptance or approval of another, rather seek it through my own person; then I am free to be who I wish to be. Let me clarify, if I am true unto my own person, I cannot offer or do harm unto another or unto my own person. Being true unto yourself is not a tool for the narcissist to be crass or the antisocial to prove egregious in nature. Rather, being true unto yourself says that you rely upon your own person for personal gratification, favor, and respect.
Consider the following: If a young person is in constant need of approval from a particular person, then what occurs when that person suddenly is removed that individual’s life. What if the person suddenly dies? Then what, does the young person seek out another individual for personal strokes of approval and acceptance? Moreover, what if an individual has entered a relationship that is bombarded with conditions? I will love you as long as you… Are they receiving true and unconditional love? Has not the condition already limited the amount of love being offered?
As a practitioner, I have witnessed countless individuals struggle with leaving an abusive partner. Of course, the abused is often justifying and reinforcing the behavior by denying the abusers intent or harmful ways. Please understand that I never encourage a patient to stay or leave an abuser, rather I empower the individual to make this most difficult decision. Nevertheless, abused individuals have frequently expressed that they feel worthless and broken by this individual that they depend upon this individual’s approval and acceptance. What would happen if they were not so reliant upon this individual’s approval and acceptance? My theory is, if an individual is capable of providing their own approval and acceptance, then they will not be dependent upon the approval and acceptance of another. If we are reliant upon other’s approval and acceptance then we are, in essence, held captive by these individuals.
Being true unto yourself essentially means offering yourself an unconditional way of life.
Being unconditional is an empowerment of self. The unconditional state offers us the freedom to accept and approve of our person whether we fail or succeed. The unconditional state teaches us that we are not our successes or failures, rather we are much more than those historical markers. If we are dependent upon our successes or failures for the development of our identity, then we will constantly be living in the past rather than living in the present moment. The unconditional state does not give us the freedom to be negative in nature, rather if we make a mistake and/or act out in an egregious way, then we can be assured that we remain worthy, acceptable and approvable. The unconditional state allows for the individual to look beyond those deeds, whether positive or negative, identifying their inner being by the spirit that drives their person.
HOW DO I ACHIEVE THIS UNCONDITIONAL MINDSET?
Begin by recognizing that you can always be thankful for others offerings: whether in the form of criticisms, opinions, emotional expression and/or thought. We must learn that we are not to be tied down by these offerings, rather they are like the traditional comment card, simply good for the improvement of our person and not an indicator of our worth or acceptability. Likewise, we must recognize that as individuals there is something deeper in our being that desires to express unconditional love, unconditional acceptance and unconditional approval unto others. It is this same desire to express it outwardly that needs to begin within you. You must begin daily by offering yourself a daily affirmation. Be certain to accept your own positive feedback whether in the form of verbal or nonverbal communications. You are a person of worth.
How well do you know yourself? It may be that you do not know yourself all that well. If so, begin spending quality time alone. Consider writing a personal journal focusing on the positive of life, and yes you are welcome to enter the bad. However, avoid making it a compliant journal. It is a journal to develop your person beyond the state you are currently residing. It is always a good exercise to journal both our negative and positive thoughts and events in life.
What are the barriers that are limiting you from being an authentic person? Consider listing them, then strategically ticking them off as you overcome these barriers. Do not fret if you add a barrier that you have already overcome, because life is about challenging the obstacles that sometimes occur in life.
As you seek to develop this unconditional mindset, consider developing a list of guiding principles for living out your life. You might consider reviewing others guiding principles for living their lives. You should also consider implementing any religious or spiritual systems of belief that encourage your desire for growth and obtainment of the unconditional state.
BE AUTHENTICALLY TRUE UNTO YOUR PERSON
As life is a constant evolution so should be the person within you. Allow yourself room for growth, mistakes, failures, and successes. Do not identify with your historical markers, rather make note of them as the landmarks they are. Always remember that who you are is much deeper and more meaningful than the deeds, actions, and achievements that occur throughout our lives. Who you are is a person worthy of the greatest love and forgiveness known unto humankind.
Authors: Asa Don Brown, Ph.D., C.C.C., N.C.C.M.
Brown, A. D. (2010) Waiting to live, Bloomington, IN: IUniverse
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA