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I wrote in my blogpost "Just Be You" about the challenge I was facing. I was grappling between being the person everyone expected me to be and doing what everyone expected me to do, with just being true to myself.
You might think, "Duh, Viv! It's obvious. Be true to yourself, of course".
But I invite you to sit with that for while. Really think what it means to be true to yourself. And look into your own life and see where you really are being authentically true to yourself.
I reckon you're being less true to yourself than you think.
And that's normal. I'm not here to judge, I'm not here to berate you, I'm here to open your eyes in the same way as I'm hoping to open my own.
Because being really true to who you are and, at times, even knowing who you really are is tough, it's really tough.
You have been brought up by a family where there are expectations. You live in society where there are guidelines and rules. Everywhere there are parameters dictating how to live so you conform and blend in.
So you can be yourself as long as you follow the guidelines and adhere to the rules.
Now I'm not saying for one minute that being yourself should be an excuse to embrace all-out anarchy.
What I am saying is that by living a life that doesn't rock the boat, that ensures you blend in and are accepted. Sometimes that's not being true to yourself (sometimes it is, but sometimes it's not).
Being true to yourself takes much more courage than you might think, it takes you far beyond your comfort zone, it can draw unwanted or uncomfortable attention to yourself.
So blending in and conforming may seem the more obvious and painless option. But is it?
When we talk about self-love, we are talking about honouring who we truly are. We talk about living a true, authentic life that puts us, as an individual, before anyone else; we need to fill up our own glass before we can help others. And whilst we are putting ourselves first, we're not doing so at the detriment of others or in a way that will harm others. We're living consciously, responsibly and lovingly, first to ourselves and then to others.
This means that when you are asked to do something or follow something, before you agree you to it (ie placing others' wants and needs before your own) check in with yourself to see how comfortably it sits with you or how good a match you feel it is with your life and principles (ie placing yourself first).
There are times when this is obvious and easy... you don't even need to think about it or check in with yourself. A stranger might simply encourage you to do something that goes against your core beliefs and principles, something that instantly makes you feel uncomfortable. The response is instant and easy because it goes against a core belief.
But what happens when being true to yourself goes against your family's beliefs or the way you were brought up? What happens when being your true self does not match the expectations of all your family and friends and society?
That's when things get tough. That's when you really need to check in with yourself, with your soul. And that's when you need the courage to put yourself first.
And that's far from easy because it means you may stand out, it means you may attract unwanted attention or criticism, it means you may make others feel uncomfortable, it means that your choices may be judged according to the rules that others choose to live by. And that's a lot to handle.
But one thing I can promise you, as you practise being true to yourself, truly honouring your beliefs and principles, placing yourself first, and honouring your own beliefs and principles, it will become easier.
It's like all habits. They take time and practise but with patience they become more natural.