The Greatest Challenge in Life

Millions of us face an ongoing struggle in life: to be or not to be ourselves.

The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are, says Carl Jung.

Studies consistently show that when we look back on our lives the most common regrets are not the risks we took, but the ones we didn’t.

In a study by Harvard Business Review, it was noted that while people remember criticism, awareness of faults doesn’t necessarily translate into better performance.

In the process of self-discovery, many people wear masks to fit in, conform or transform who they are.

They are consistently encouraged to conceal or disguise their real selves.

To be different would be risky; so they just go along — and become part of mainstream society with little or nothing to show for who they really are.

Oscar Wilde said: “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.”

Society is successfully moulding our lives to conform to conventions.

There are only a few originals.

That’s disturbing.

It slows progress and stifles personal creativity.

Instead of choosing paths that highlight our best selves, and bring out the best in ourselves, we consistently embrace life habits that stop us from pursuing personal authenticity.

Now more than ever, we all need to cultivate a sense of self-worth.

The daily expression of your core values, beliefs, and personality should be your ultimate goal in life.

“…our real selves are vastly more interesting than the pretend selves we adopt for others’ consumption, ” says English philosopher and intellectual Roger Scruton.

Many people can’t afford to reveal their imperfections, weaknesses, insecurities, and vulnerabilities, because they can’t deal with the response from society.

In many situations, people are forced to say, do or act the way others expect of them when they should be doing or pursuing their true selves.

They play it safe — and suffer for it.

They don’t take risks. They shy away from opportunities because they don’t think they are good enough.

They look outside of themselves for reassurance, confirmation, and approval.

Do you recognize yourself in any of this?

The truth is, some people are so uncomfortable with being themselves that, they will choose to walk away from every opportunity that makes them vulnerable.

The good news is, you can do something about it.

Mindset is not permanent.

Your imperfection is your unique place of power.

It’s the source of your character and creative powers. It’s who you are, the best parts, not perfect, not trying — just yourself. And you should be proud and bold enough to express yourself without fear of failure or being criticised.

Who are you, really?

Acting against yourself drives self-deception, resentment and leads to regret.

Don’t confuse the social mask with your true identity.

Life as a self-discovery project

“To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, making you everybody else–means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.” — E.E. Cummings

You are most powerful when you no longer need or crave to be powerful.

Step into your best self and stop trying to be authentic.

Dance to a unique song that only you can hear fully. It doesn’t matter if other people can’t hear it or don’t know the song.

Respect yourself enough to choose real enough over expectations of who you are supposed to be.

Step into authenticity.

“…the key to your success lies in rediscovering your innocence. Embracing your authenticity. It also requires that you develop your skills and attributes around your uniqueness,” writes John P. Weiss.

Don’t mask or deny your imperfections: it is your greatest asset.

When you have a deep knowledge of yourself, accept yourself, make the most of your who you are, no matter what, you will find meaning in this life.

“As long as you look for someone else to validate who you are by seeking their approval, you are setting yourself up for disaster. You have to be whole and complete in yourself. No one can give you that. You have to know who you are — what others say is irrelevant,” says Nic Sheff.

Here is Sue Fitzmaurice’s definition of what it means to choose yourself:

— to be more concerned with truth than opinions
— to be sincere and not pretend
— to be free from hypocrisy: “walk your talk”
— to know who you are and to be that person
— to not fear others seeing your vulnerabilities
— being confident to walk away from situations where you can’t be yourself
— being awake to your own feelings
— being free from others’ opinions of you
— accepting and loving yourself

The best gift you can share with the rest of the world, no matter how small is your authentic self.

Your imperfection is the source of your character.

It’s who you are, the best parts, not perfect, not trying — just yourself.

And you should be proud and bold enough to express yourself without fear of failure or being criticised.

“Owning our story can be hard, but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky, but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy — the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” says Brené Brown, author of The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.

Experiment boldly.

What’s your personal definition of your true self.

Start pursuing experiences that that reflect your true self.

In a world that rewards flawless masks, the only way to lead a fulfilling life is a personal journey of self-discovery.

Key takeaway

“Be yourself — not your idea of what you think somebody else’s idea of yourself should be.” — Henry David Thoreau

When people reflect later in life, it is the things they did not do that generate the greatest despair.

Are you going to accept yourself enough and share your best self with the rest of us or are you going to play it safe so you don’t get hurt?

It’s your choice — it always is!

“Waking up to who you are requires letting go of who you imagine yourself to be,” says Alan Watts.

You can seize the moment today!

Begin your self-discovery by reflecting on who you are today and who you really are or want to be.

Increase your self-awareness by giving yourself the permission to embrace your true self.

Your future self will be proud of you.

Before you go…

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This post was previously published on Kaizen Habits and is republished here with permission from the author.

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