On Being Yourself!

What does it take to be oneself, to be real and authentic? It takes a lot of courage, honesty and a desire to be free of others’ opinions. Easier said than done, I know! We have all experienced the power society, and we ourselves, can give to the opinions of parents, employers, religious leaders, teachers, friends, critics, editors etc. where we determine our worth and identity by the judgments of people to whom we have given authority (consciously or subconsciously). Being authentic, real and true to oneself is part of the path to freedom. With nothing to hide and nothing to defend, we enter a realm where creativity, integrity and strong relationships have room to flourish. Imagine a world where each of us is encouraged to be ourselves, to honor our uniqueness, and follow our dreams.

Our communities, families, academic institutions, religious groups, affiliations often have a history of conformity, with expectations to follow certain rules or risk being rejected. We all have a very basic need to belong and feel loved and accepted and fear of losing this can cause us at times to compromise or even deny our uniqueness. While some communities, societies and groups encourage following the norms, thankfully many others are evolving and recognizing the value of diversity and difference as a strength, rather than a weakness. The more of us that honor our uniqueness, speak our truth, and live life authentically, the more others will feel safe to do the same.

To embrace and honor uniqueness, one must discover oneself beyond life roles and  identities determined by others. Why am I sharing all this? Because I am discovering that this writing journey I am on, goes far deeper than print on page and publishing aspirations. As my different characters are taking on lives and identities of their own, my own life and identity is being challenged. I find myself disrobed from my habitual ways of being, and in a place of vulnerability, tuning in more deeply to my true feelings, perspectives, passions and identity. I am challenged to stop compromising myself and my dreams in order to conform or seek acceptance. Little did I realize when I pulled anchor and left my safe port in January, that this voyage would be stormy, breathtaking, dangerous and life-changing. And, how grateful I am for my fellow crew encountered en route!

Being unique is recognizing and honoring one’s core identity, values, gifts and skills.  Each person has unique fingerprints, iris and voice pattern, and surely we will be a distinct expression of humanity. Instead of trying to fit in, be nice, and agree with everyone, how about taking a risk to be yourself, stand out from others, and maybe have a few great friends that value your individuality, rather than a host of acquaintances who don’t know your depth and embrace your worth.

In order to be real and true to ourselves, we have to let go of fears about what others think, even those closest to us. If I am constantly concerned about how others view me, wondering if I have said the right thing, or behaved appropriately, or believed the right creed, or written what I think others want to read, I live in a shadowy place of denial. As illustrators, writers, editors, creators, artists, I am growing to believe our profoundest creative depths are unleashed as we grapple with this expression of individuality and self-worth – this ongoing self-discovery.

Be yourself and the right people will love the real you. Friends, take your truth, tastes and talents out into the world. Those who value authenticity will be drawn to your beauty. Your unique contribution has great worth as do you!

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21 Responses to On Being Yourself!

  1. I adore this post!! It speaks so clearly of the transformation writing has been for me. Thank you so much for expressing what I’ve felt along this journey … and continue to feel. I’m writing the sequel to Open Minds, and this is the first time that I feel the expectations that people have for what I am writing. This is wonderful in one way, because I know so many people are excited to read the book. It is terrifying in another, because I know it is not possible to give every reader what they want in the sequel. So, I have to write the story that speaks to ME, that feels right and true to the characters. Truly, that’s the only kind of book you can write, anyway.

    Thank you for sharing!

  2. Joanna says:

    Susan, thank you. It is wonderful to share this kindred experience with other writers. I do think in many ways sequels and subsequent books are so much harder because of expectations, and yes, you have to write it for YOU! I do hope I shall get to do another review 😉

  3. What an excellent post — something that we all need to hear, writers and non-writers alike. As I think about it after reading it, I’ve realized that many of my characters are striving to be accepted for being themselves, and that has certainly been the story of my life, as someone who has often felt a bit out of step with the mainstream. Your post reminds me that it’s okay to be out of step with the mainstream, and to embrace my differences, and to write freely about my characters’ differences, to go deeper than the surface in my personal life and my writing life.

    Thank you.

  4. Joanna says:

    What a thoughtful response, Beth. Is it not beautiful the inner transformation these stories bring us to? I want to read about those differences in your characters and so do your younger readers. One of my picture books is about a little girl totally fed up with conforming to the ‘little girl’ norm in her class. It is OK for me and you to be non-conformists, if that is truly who we are 🙂

  5. Wonderful post, Joanna! I think writers are forced to come out of their shells more so than in ‘normal’ society and that is a great thing. Trial and error are better than fence sitting after all. Thanks

  6. Beautiful post Joanna — perhaps one of your best. I enjoyed reading about your own journey and found myself translating it into a spiritual journey, which is all about being your authentic self, no matter the discomforts along the way. It is the only journey worth taking — knowing and accepting who you really are. I agree with Susan, it’s about inner transformation. And, it is interesting that as we journey our circle of friends change. New friends appear as they unconsciously recognize your authenticity and are drawn to your light. Enjoyed reading the other comments and I’m sure you will ignite an interesting conversation with your words. Again, lovely post for the holidays. Merry Christmas! Pat

  7. Joanna says:

    Thank you for your kind words, Pat. I am so grateful that my writing is taking me to deeper places and is adding to my friendship circle. I feel already that I have met some exceptionally sensitive and spiritual people en route!

    Warm and Happy Christmas to you and yours, Pat.

  8. This is very encouraging. This year more than any other, I have found out
    who is “with” me & who is really not. The liberation that has flowed out of
    not caring to “preserve” myself within the confines of others’ opinions has
    been so key to my own growth. From that growth I have found a few new
    friends with depth & authenticity of character that I have longed for.
    Fabulous post. You have done it again Ms. Marple, you have done it again!

    • Joanna says:

      Jeanine, I love reading about the confidence and freedom you are coming into, and, I am sure, the creativity that goes with this, accompanied by those of us who are for you and with you. It is wonderful to connect with like-minded souls! Thanks for your comment. 🙂

  9. Joanna, thank you for writing this beautiful piece. Society is a strange and powerful beast. Conformity is the easy path taken by most. Brave is the soul who dares to stray! You are brave, my friend, and I applaud you!

  10. I love these thoughts, Joanna.
    As I’m in the process of marking papers and supervising a thesis all of which have identity as a common theme, this concept is in my thoughts a lot at the moment. With some theories of social identity formation in mind, I keep thinking that the issue with ‘being yourself’ seems to be that because, as social beings, we become ourselves through others and ARE ourselves through our interaction with others, the process of individuation is both an important but kind of tricky one! 🙂 Even in the shedding of old ways of being and seeing ourselves, and in the new ‘becoming’, we need the mirror of others to ‘see ourselves’ in. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons writing can be liberating? (I loved hearing how that has been so for you this year – yay!) It’s like a mirror. And others reading it and really HEARING it/us is the feedback/reflection we need. Well, this would be fun to talk about some more over Christmas! I can’t wait to see you and to hear more about this year’s journey of becoming for you. LOVE!! R

  11. Joanna says:

    What sage thoughts, Rach. Indeed, none of this happens in a vacuum, and we are all influenced by those around, often in many tremendous ways. I know that part of this journey for me this year has been the interaction with and inspiration from people I have encountered. But, these have been people modeling and motivating this process. Rach, I love your thoughts on the feedback we need, and am so looking forward to sharing some of this with you in a few days time! Thanks for commenting.

  12. Well said. I love this: Be Yourself and the right people will love the real you. Thanks for sharing this.

  13. Joanna,

    I thank you for writing this post. I have had to confront many of these same realizations since I left my former career behind two years ago. When I did that, I thought I was changing careers. Little did I know I was changing my whole life and my whole concept of myself!

    Some people understand this transition better than others, but we are responsible for being true to ourselves and allowing our own expression of life to come forward. It’s not always easier, but it does get easier over time.

    I think the writing community (both online and offline) has helped tremendously, because you know there is always someone out there who will “get” you and what you are going through.

    Incredibly eloquent post!

    • Joanna says:

      Julie,

      Thank goodness that we all have some people that understand this process. It has really been brought home to me, by how these thoughts have so resonated with other writers.

      Perhaps it’s a good thing we don’t realize when we are starting out, how radical this transformation can be!

  14. Wow! Joanna, inspiring piece. This year has been full on for me both in writing and personal life, surprising myself, it’s been quite an adventure, and discovery. You have shown us a Joanna we love, caring, daring, open and honest, a creative soul who inspires. You attract quite a following with your unique self and have a way with words that is soul searching. Lovely post, thankyou.

  15. Joanna says:

    Diane, I am so enjoying watching and walking alongside in your wonderful, bold journey! Thank you so much for your kind words!

  16. Pingback: Bonne Année 2012 – What are you dreaming of? | Miss Marple's Musings

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