In yesterday’s post I talked about listening and being true to one’s self in the face of everything and everyone that wants to steal your time, joy, independence, and gifts. But it can be hard to recognize your voice amidst the clamor of everyday living. Perhaps the voice of your true self has been silenced by the expectations of your job, family, or friends. Maybe your religion or ideology has not permitted independent thought or reflection. It might be that you were never allowed or encouraged to be yourself and you don’t really know how to start. Or maybe you’re just too darn busy to give much thought to whether or not you are on the path you honestly want to be on.
As someone who has been tossed about by the whims of others, battled my own false ideas of who I should or shouldn’t be, and found the task of getting through some days too overwhelming to consider spending time pondering the larger questions of life, I understand that it can be difficult to know what to do with that niggling feeling that all is not right in your inner world. I’ve thought about my journey a bit, what worked for me, what moved me forward, and what helped me get to the the most authentic, happy me that I’ve ever been and wanted to share some tips with you. What worked for me might not work exactly the same for you but I hope these suggestions spark some ideas for your own journey.
1) Seek out authentic people. If you know people you admire for their courage to be individuals in the midst of conformity, spend time with them. If there is someone you see that makes you think “Man, I wish I felt as comfortable in my own skin as she does in hers,” make a point to get to know her. I am blessed with a husband who has never given much thought to what others expect him to do or be. Although it’s been a mixed blessing (sometimes I just want him to do what I think he should do!), being a part of his life for 10 years has taught me a lot. One of the most powerful lessons I’ve learned from his example is that the world does not crash down the moment you refuse to let others define you.
2) Do your best to find a few quiet moments for reflection, but don’t stress if you don’t have time for meditation, yoga, a walk, or a lengthy journal session. Honestly, I do my best thinking in the shower. I’ve had countless shower epiphanies that slowly but surely changed my life. I’ve also developed a practice of writing in a journal. When I get a sensation that all is not well in the land of Leah, I will play a sort of question/answer game in my journal to get to the bottom of what is bothering me.
3) Remember you don’t have to go it alone. I’m not a self-help book kind of girl anymore but there are times when I have absolutely no idea where my heart is trying to lead me. Two of the books that have helped me are Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer and Finding Your Own North Star by Martha Beck. Rather than telling me what to do to fix my life and make it more authentically mine, these books encouraged me to learn more about myself and act upon what I learned. I’m also blessed to have a few of those Oh-my-god-I’m-about-to-pull-my-hair-out-over-here-because-I-want-something-more-or-different-but-I-have-no-idea-what-I’m-looking-for kind of friends that listen to me as I work out whatever it is I need to work out.
4) Find a mantra and repeat it over and over to yourself as often as necessary. I have two go-to quotes I remember when I’m tempted to sell myself out or let others dictate who I am. My number one quote is “Sometimes you have to break the rules around you to keep the rules within you,” by Martha Beck. My number two quote is “Don’t ‘should’ on yourself and you’ll be fine,” by Alicia Morga. And, I’d like to add, don’t let others ‘should’ on you either.
Listening to your true self is not always easy to do, but once you start practicing, you’ll find that it is worth the effort.