The Art Of Being Yourself (Hint: It's Not An Art)

Photo: Dori Hartley
The Art Of Being Yourself

If you have to look for lessons in how to be yourself, you will never be yourself.

As I sat down to write this, I kept thinking, "The art, the art of being myself ... what makes being myself an art?" I pressed for the answer.

The truth is: there is no art. I'm just myself. It's not a practice, nor is it conscious. There's no art to being one's self; in fact, thinking of it as an art is a little pretentious. You can't practice being yourself; you have to just be it.

Being yourself isn't about looking like you've got it all together; that's fulfilling someone else's idealist concept of what we're all supposed to look and act like. It doesn't mean that you're in complete acceptance of who you are, nor does it mean that you're a crazy rebel that doesn't care what anybody thinks.

Those are romantic notions and they're unfounded in reality. We have this impression, thanks to pop culture, that being yourself is about being a true original, a self-sufficient example of confidence. Being yourself is knowing who are you and taking it in stride, warts and all.

There's a revolution in progress now where we are encouraged to "be ourselves" and to "be individual." Pop culture tells us that we should own our bodies and our decisions. The media tells us we should believe in ourselves, stand tall and never fall prey to the opinions of others. It's like a propaganda pamphlet that teaches us how to be individual according to a checklist of acceptable ways of being.

If you have to look for lessons in how to be yourself, you will never be yourself. You will, however, become a product of everyone else's expectation of you.

I would say that if there's one defining action that can be found in the person who's authentically themselves, it would be in their ability to hone in on what is right or wrong for them individually and to adhere to that instinct. There's a commitment involved, an internal contract of sorts that guides the individual with unwavering ability to stay true to that path in spite of what everyone else thinks they should be doing with their individuality.

Once, a friend asked me to go with her to a nude beach, explaining to me how freeing it was and how I would enjoy the rapture of being a naked human animal in the wild. She kept up with her pitch, telling me it was "just what I needed."

I'd heard this kind of rationalization before. It seems there's always someone telling me how I need to get naked in order to be free. Funny thing is, I really prefer being dressed  on beaches, in my home, in a pool. I get it: the wild and free naked beast thing is terrific stuff for the person who digs that kind of thing, but, hey, call me a fetishist, but I just really enjoy wearing clothes.

But what's more interesting is that I'm not going to get naked because someone else thinks it's what I need. How the hell can anyone know what I need when I'm a billion percent content as is?

I don't need changing or saving I'm good to go just the way I am. I'm fine being neurotic and clothed. It suits me, pun intended. And as far as I can tell, I'm the freest person I know.

Being yourself isn't about fitting into someone else's idea of what being yourself is. It's not about being idealistically self-accepting; it's about knowing that you are who you are in all of your neurotic, shy, doubtful, different ways and making choices that suit you — as you are.

I don't have to prove anything to anyone to convince them that I'm the real deal. I'm just the real deal, take it or leave it. Just don't try to change me into you. I don't need to sing the body electric in order to show the world I'm cool with being me; I just need to be able to trust my own judgment when it comes to making decisions on what's right or wrong for me. And that, thankfully, is something I do well.

As for the art, well ... I'm an artist. I chose the life of a creative and I do stick to it. That's about as artsy as it gets.

I'm not good or bad, I'm just me. If there's an art to being that, it's because you see it that way. I just see it as being myself.



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