When the waves are fierce and you are trying your hardest to ride out them out so you can get back to standing up, really what you need most is to just relax and turn inward for guidance.
It is so easy to get caught up in everyone and everything around you. Groupthink is a common epidemic and it isn’t shaping society positively, either. More and more I think as though our generation is falling victim to losing themselves for the sake of avoiding arguments, making gains and living in fear.
Recently I’ve been riding some waves of my own. I’m revisiting the same issues I’ve had before, only this time on a higher level. There’s something incredibly frustrating about being in the same emotional conflict several times on repeat and yet it is empowering to know that I have the skills and experience to move past it once again, now on a higher level.
Staying true to my authentic self has been my life battle thus far. (Maybe you sensed my passion as you’ve been reading my blog posts?) I often feel very alone in this struggle but you know what? That’s a lie. There are thousands of other people just like me who struggle with being who they are, where they are. Whether it’s not fitting in at work, at home or in any group you participate in, I believe there are exercises to help combat these feelings of isolation and misunderstanding. Today I’m going to share my three favorites with you.
1. Sit with God and soak up his love
Let me just say, if you haven’t spent time alone in prayer and/or meditation this morning, I urge you to stop what you are doing right now and make space for some.
I believe this is the single most important thing we can do every day to improve our sanity and clarity. There are tons of apps, podcasts, and YouTube videos that can walk you through a full-out meditation exercise, but for clarity’s sake, let’s start simple.
Make some time this evening before bed or tomorrow when you wake up and sit in a comfortable position. Begin by closing your eyes and breathing deeply in and out. In and out. When you feel ready, begin to focus on your vision of God and all the love that he has to pour out on you. Continue breathing as you tell yourself, “My God loves me just the way that I am.”
Repeat this again and again, over and over as the rhythm of your breathe rises and falls.
My God loves me just the way that I am.
Let the power of that sentence resonate with every fiber in your being. Keep your eyes closed and continue to breathe and focus on the love God has for you.
Do this for at least five minutes every day. Research shows that the act of sitting still and focusing on God (or a higher being if you will) can have wildly positive effects on our brain's image of self.
"I come as One, I stand as Ten Thousand." -- Maya Angelou
My prayer and meditation time has been the most important part of my day for many years. Without this small space for quiet and focus, I would be a complete mess. I can’t stress enough, the importance of sitting still and focusing on God’s higher power and your unique role in the universe. It is one of the best things you can do to not only nourish your soul, but to help your soul feel at home, no matter where you are or who you are with. This is a big step towards embracing your most authentic self.
Maya Angelou said, "I come as One, I stand as Ten Thousand." She was referring to the confidence and stability she felt when she was completely grounded in her identity-- both as a child of God and as a child of her mother's and grandmothers.
Again, when we focus our thoughts on this premise, our thoughts and beliefs begin to shift from fear and self-consciousness to boldness and security.
2. Surround yourself with people you can be real with.
Maybe I am more sensitive to facades than most people, but the older I get the more I struggle with insincere conversations with others. Put simply: when other people’s walls are up, my walls are up. I find it difficult to let my soul dance freely when there isn’t room to do so.
Do you have a segment in your life where you feel this strongly? Is it at work, in a group you participate in or even with your friends? You can identify this feeling when you walk into a situation and immediately your defenses come out on all sides. Within only a few seconds the energy around you has changed and your brave spirit is smoldered down until it distinguishes the flame.
Sometimes we don’t have a choice in leaving the group due to work situations or family commotions, so if that isn’t an option, I want to encourage you to take some time as often as you can and enjoy the company of someone or several someones, whom you feel you can be yourself with. Think of the last time you felt extremely open, honest and vulnerable with someone else. You probably laughed and joked and didn’t have to apologize or hide your true opinions.
Who were you with when you imagined that scenario? Who is it that brings out your true, authentic self? Is it a friend or a family member? Maybe a grandparent or a sibling? I know you can think of one person who shares genuine conversation with you every time you meet with them. Whoever that person is, carve out some specific time to spend with them. The more the better. Not only will this encourage you to be true to yourself, but more often than not, this person will feel encouraged because of it too. We can learn a lot from listening to someone who is authentic in themselves. Genuine people are hard to come by.
Again, as we practice being our authentic selves, the neutrons in our brain are retrained to find boldness and security in our identity. Being with other people who stimulate this is a great opportunity to practice being.
3. Feel free to disagree
This is possibly the hardest one for me. I remember in high school, my golf coach pointed out that my scores would rise and fall depending on the competition around me. I would play up when I was placed with better players and I would shoot worse when I was around players who didn’t take the game as seriously. He pointed this out and told me that sometimes there is such a thing as being too amiable. (Yes, my first item of homework that night was to look up “amiable” in the dictionary, and so just to be clear I have included it below.)
amiable: (adj.) having or displaying a friendly or pleasant manner
This truth has wrung true in my ears for many years. Even today I caught myself changing my vernacular, just to appease the group of people I was chatting with. Yet, right next to me stood a woman who was the same in every situation. I silently admired her for it and I knew that others did too.
Most often times I catch myself changing when opposition arises in conversation. Politics and religion are the two biggies that cause the most polarizing conversation. Like me, you may be the person who gently nods in agreement and then quickly steers the conversation back to neutral territory. This can be a very admirable skill, but it comes at a cost – that is, your own opinion. What makes you feel unworthy of sharing your own opinion?
What makes you feel unworthy of sharing your own opinion?
Next time you find yourself in conflicting views with someone you’re talking to, don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and simply say, “I don’t agree with that.” You don’t need to be mean or vulgar or angry, just simply state your peace and leave at that. If the conversation then steers to neutral territory, that is okay, but at least you can feel confident in the fact that you gave your opinion value. Remember, it is okay to disagree with other people. If everyone agreed all the time we wouldn’t have the progressive, creative, innovative society that we live in.
I challenge you can select one (or all three) of these exercises to try in effort to become a more authentic version of yourself. These are the babiest of baby steps so I KNOW you will be able to incorporate them into your everyday life once you get started. And that’s just it, getting started is the hardest part. After you begin to walk your journey, you can walk up the spiral that leads you to a deeper level of understanding and appreciation for yourself.
The more you practice authenticity in your everyday life, the more your life as a whole will reflect that.
Seek out the people you admire. Speak up in conversations. Spend time accepting love and strength from a higher power.
These three actions are going to transform your life if you’ll choose to let them.