Just be yourself. It sounds like an open invitation to relax and be, but let’s face it, we need filters. The question is, who gets to decide what we’re supposed to filter out. Our parents? Our schools? Our politicians? Ourselves? All of the above?
Last Saturday, we took an early train to the airport to catch a 10am flight to LA. Scrambling to get out the door, I didn’t make time for my usual morning ritual, which includes a little meditation and some gentle stretching. So I found myself a quiet spot on the train, checked to make sure I wasn’t in anybody’s field of view (I didn’t want to make anyone feel awkward), sat cross-legged, closed my eyes, and took 10 minutes to myself.
When I was done, I went and stood by the train doors where there was room enough for me to stretch – only I couldn’t. I couldn’t stretch because I was too concerned that I’d be perceived as a showoff by people who can’t touch their toes. Ridiculous, no?
Oh, to be young and carefree.
An hour or so later, we were walking towards our gate at the airport when I saw a toddler lying on the floor in front of a newsstand. Her head was resting on an irresistibly pink travel cushion that she had removed from the newsstand shelf and decided to put to the test. Her mother loomed over her laughing as smiling passersby navigated their way around the adorable obstacle that was her daughter.
A little further along, I spotted another uninhibited youngster. This one was attempting a headstand next to the bench upon which her more ‘well-behaved’ family members sat. And this all got me thinking.
It’s so much easier to just be yourself when you’re little.
Do you remember when you were young and free from social conventions? Those precious years before you’d crafted (or been fed) stories that prohibited you from being yourself, lest you hurt others, embarrass yourself, or, worse, let your family down?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been ‘misbehaving.’ When I was young, I smoked, wore the wrong attire, talked too much, didn’t try hard enough at school, the list goes on. As a young and mature adult, I was both insensitive and oversensitive, stinging others with my words and frequently being stung by theirs.
While none of this actually adds up to thou shall not stretch in public, what it can do, over time, is suggest that pretty much everything about you is wrong. And that creates a bit of a challenge when you want to just be yourself.
Where exactly does ‘being wrong’ end and ‘being yourself’ begin?
Is it possible to be authentic and ‘good’ at the same time? I went in search of a definition I might be able to use as a guide and came across this in an article on Slothstorm:
To be authentic means to know what you stand for, but it also means to be completely aware and open-minded enough to be accepting, respectful, and even empathetic towards every other person’s personal perspective — regardless of how much it goes against your own.
It means recognizing that the values and beliefs you hold for yourself only feel “right” and “good” to you because you’re you — while also knowing that right and wrong only exist through your own perceptive lens.
Based on this, I think one can safely conclude the following:
It’s ok to just be yourself, provided you don’t hurt or disrespect others.
Stretching on an uncrowded train harms nobody. So why was it so hard for me to do? Why don’t more people stretch during their morning commute (I’m all for multi-tasking), or laugh out loud in public (laughter is contagious), or sing their way through their morning stroll?
Who decided that dancing to the beat of a drum at a concert makes you look cool but dancing to the beat of the music coming through your headphones makes you look certifiably insane? Why, oh why, are we so uptight? Why, when others aren’t hurting us, offending us, crowding us, or imposing on us in any way, are we so judgmental?
Mark Manson, author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, says, “the yardstick we use for ourselves is the yardstick we use for the world.” Similarly, the yardstick we use for others is the yardstick we use for ourselves.
If we could let go of some of those pointless social constraints that have crushed our spirits just long enough to smile at someone singing their heart out during their morning stroll, perhaps we, too, could learn to sing our hearts out, anywhere.
If we could learn to let others be themselves, we’d do a better job of allowing ourselves to be ourselves, with less concern for what others think, and that sounds good to me because I really could have done with a stretch before boarding that early morning flight.
Viv for today xo
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