When I was in nursery I fell in love. We were going to grow up and get married, I had it all planned out. All I had to do was prove myself a skilled cyclist at the age of 4 and our future together was set. My teacher asked me if I could ride without stabiliser- most of the other children could and being the oldest in the class I felt that I should be a pro rider, showing the other babies how it was done. My answer to my teachers question was influenced by the fact that I knew my future husband was watching the scene unfold. Hiding my nerves I nodded and climbed on. A few seconds later I was on my bum with scraped knees, all because I wanted to pretend I could do something I couldn’t to impress others.
How many times have you heard the advice, ‘just be yourself’? The phrase is so overused that it seems a little hollow and meaningless.
‘You know when you get nervous socially, you end up lying to impress?’
Miranda’s comedy stems from her failed attempts to fit in and ‘just act normal’. If you’re a Miranda fan you’ll get what I’m talking about- my personal favourite is her tale about her being an Olympic gymnast to impress Gary. If you aren’t a Miranda fan, no worries (although I’m telling you, you’re seriously missing out).
One of my youngest memories is embarrassing myself in front of my peers. I tried to make myself look capable, confident and qualified in front of others. I valued their opinion so highly I was willing to put myself in danger and make a fool of myself.
My point is that Miranda isn’t alone, I think we often find ourselves at least exaggerating the truth a little to impress others, we pretend to have abilities we don’t, make jokes we don’t find funny to make others laugh, spend time in situations we don’t feel comfortable in so that we don’t seem boring. This type of behaviour is built on the perceptions of others, we are motivated by their wants/needs/beliefs and neglect our own. We end up sacrificing ourselves to please others which is really unhealthy. Authentic living is important for three reasons…
‘Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else’ Judy Garland
Firstly, it’s so important to be yourself…for yourself.
Ok it’s pretty scary ‘going against the grain’, or ‘standing out’ because being you makes you vulnerable, it makes you noticeable and for some people that idea is too much to even consider. It’s easier to just go along with the status quo right? Some are so dedicated to their façade that it actually becomes permanent and they forgot who they were before they started pretending.
You can get so much more out of life if your actions reflect your true dreams and ambitions, your own morals and beliefs and not only those around you. Life suddenly becomes more fulfilling and enjoyable, there’s experiences to look forward to, places you want to go to, people you want to spend time with.
Where your talents and the needs of the world cross; there lies your vocation.” Aristotle
Here’s a question to ask yourself- Who is missing out if I’m not being me?
There are things that you can do as yourself that you can’t as someone else. These skills, talents, personality traits that you may be supressing could be a real light to another person and by hiding them you are depriving others of your gifting.
I think what often holds us back from truly being ourselves is our fears of how others will respond to our honesty- will they be hurt, offended, angered?
Obviously, caring about the feelings of others is a good thing. What I’ve learnt is that you can be both empathetic and authentic in our approach with others. You can consider the feelings of others without their perception of you dictating every decision you make, without the nagging ‘maybe they’ll think I’m a bad person’ cloud following you for the rest of the day.
Being a people pleaser is actually less benefical to others because you end up worn out, lacking any true sense of joy and this isn’t the kind of friend people want around them. Your light is prevented from shining when the opinions of others begin to oppress you. Leo from Actualised.org has some interesting thoughts on this in his Youtube video, ‘How To Be Yourself – Become Your Authentic Self Right Now’.
FOR THE KINGDOM
God created us to be authentic, everything about us is individual and different, right down to our fingerprint. I think it’s in our very nature as Christians to stand out.
‘Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of your mind’ Romans 12.2
There are two options in this life, to conform, that is to purely be concerned with fitting in and following others or to be transformed, which means following Jesus and prioritising His will for your life over what others may think of you. So in terms of building His kingdom, why is being ourselves so important?
Romans 12: 3 ‘we for just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many form one body and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts according to the grace given to each of us.’
We are the body of Christ, each of us has a different part to play in order to function. Now imagine the big toe suddenly announced, ‘I don’t want to be a big toe anymore, the arm has way more responsibility, everyone notices the arm but not me because I’m always hidden under socks and shoes.’ (I promise this metaphor is going somewhere).
Now if the big toe stops doing its job the entire body becomes unbalanced, as hidden and unappreciated as it may feel its purpose is to help keep the entire body upright. As soon as it neglects its own role, its own ability and strengths in order to pursue a job it cannot physically do (be an arm) the body is unable to function to maximum capacity.
You are needed. Even if you feel like a bit of a big toe. God has a plan and a purpose for your life but He can only use you if you are willing to be you.