“To be nobody-but-yourself—in a world which is doing its best, night and day to make you everybody else,” wrote American poet E. E. Cummings, “means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”
According to a recent survey by the charity Action for Happiness, in collaboration with Do Something Different, self-acceptance, or “being comfortable with who you are” was the factor that best predicted life satisfaction (out of ten “happy habits”); however, for the 5,000 respondents, it was also the most difficult to do.
Living authentically is not for the weak. The average person does not like to stand out in the crowd, risking rejection and mockery. Perhaps that’s why public speaking is our number one fear, followed by death. As Jerry Seinfeld pointed out, “That means to the average person if you have to be at a funeral, you would rather be in the casket than doing the eulogy.”
Being comfortable with yourself—liking yourself enough to not want to change in order to better blend with the crowd—takes guts, integrity, stamina, and the inner calm of a Tibetan monk.
In her book, “Being Perfect,” Anna Quindlen writes:
Nothing important, or meaningful, or beautiful, or interesting, or great, ever came out of imitations. What is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.
More difficult because there is no zeitgeist to read, to template to follow, no mask to wear. Terrifying, actually, because it requires you to set aside what your friends expect, what your family and your co-workers demand, what your acquaintances require, to set aside the messages this culture sends, through its advertising, its entertainment, its disdain, and its disapproval, about how you should behave.
This is especially true when you have “the little man”–the voice of disapproval, or the echo of negative intrusive thoughts, hanging over your every sentence and action during a depressive episode.
Being okay with yourself when you’re depressed is well near impossible because your self-esteem is so far below sea level. It’s all we can really do to force ourselves out of bed in the morning and get three meals a day, right? Forget about aiming for a confident stride.
I haven’t done a good job of writing authentically on this blog, “Sanity Break.” I have wanted to fit in with the site, which is very different from the spirituality site I came from (Beliefnet.com). Because Everyday Health does a great job of covering all kinds of health conditions, offering current research on various illnesses, I thought I should concentrate on all the new studies on different mood disorders and new trends in psychology and neuroscience. I left out much of my story, my frustrations, my insights, and my breakthroughs. Impressed by the other health bloggers on the site, I swapped my voice for one of theirs.
Writing from the heart is terribly difficult when you are not feeling well, and, as I’ve mentioned in places, I have really wrestled with the “black dog” (as Winston Churchill referred to his depression) this last past year. I am gradually getting better, but the journey has been exhausting, and I can see now that I have been without a sense of humor—something that I know readers appreciate!—and other trademarks of my writing style for too long.
Next week will mark the one-year anniversary of this blog. I am excited to share with you all what I have learned during this arduous year—my journey to functional (integrative or holistic) medicine, to an eight-week intensive mindfulness-based stress reduction program, to a new nutritional plan that has me drinking kale for breakfast, and to many unusual places that are leading to healing and health.
Originally published on Sanity Break.
Illustration by Anya Getter.