be you very wellFor a good year or so of my life, I wanted to be another blogger, a woman who is exceptionally good at writing about happiness. I envied her tremendous online following and book success, but I was also jealous of her subject matter. I toyed with the idea of recasting myself as a happiness expert instead of helping people with mood disorders because talk of happiness goes over much better at happy hours and mom get-togethers. I was sick of being Ms. Embrace-the-Darkness.

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

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s version is this: “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

I run into this conflict more than I care to admit. I wish I were less sensitive, less neurotic, less cup-half-empty. I wish I were inherently more self-confident, needing less affirmations and gold stars to legitimize my contributions to the world in my roles as an employee, wife, and mother. I wish I had an easier time letting things roll off my back and going with the flow.

However, I am what I am: highly sensitive, fragile, and insecure. I have been told over and over again that those traits that I consider weaknesses contribute to my strengths. They allow me to connect with others more intimately, to bond with strangers and readers and other people in my life, to intuit when my kids need to talk about something.

A former professor of mine once told me to adhere to the words of St. Francis de Sales, “Be you very well.”

He had nominated me to give the commencement address for my alma mater, Saint Mary’s College. My first draft was from the heart, about how falling on your butt is sometimes the best thing you can do, because, as Leonard Cohen writes in his lyrics for “Anthem”: “There’s a crack, a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”

When a friend of mine read it she told me it was depressing, that commencement speeches should be inspiring. So I revised the speech into a Dwayne-Johnson-ish script of happy, motivational sound-bites.

My professor read the second version and told me to go back to my original draft because it was my journey through darkness that he thought would speak to students. He picked me for this honor not despite my sensitivity, insecurity and challenges, but because of them.

“Nothing important, or meaningful, or beautiful, or interesting, or great, ever came out of imitations,” writes Anna Quindlen in her book, Being Perfect. “What is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the world of becoming yourself.

Be you very well.

Artwork by the talented Anya Getter.

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Therese Borchard
I am a writer and chaplain trying to live a simple life in Annapolis, Maryland.

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16 Responses
  1. Karen

    So well said! I totally relate and I always wish I could be the way you wish you could be too but please know that when your’s is the only email that I read right away when I check emails, because you do inspire me with your strength and honesty and make me feel more okay with being me. Thank you for everything you write! You and your writing are both a gift to us and I totally get that you would rather be that person who writes about happy things but I so much appreciate who you are and what you bring to us despite the pain you endure. I so wish it was easier for you but I am sure it is somehow more tolerable for many of us because of you. Hugs!..and Blessings!

  2. Rob

    I am in a very dark period trying to be myself in the face of so many things trying to pull me back to my fake self. I needed to read something like this this morning. Rob in Annapolis, MD

    1. Laura Kliegman

      Hugs to you, Ron…? I was there last year, when I got involved with reading Therese Borchard’s writings. I am grateful to be out of the darkness this year. The light will continue to shine for YOU, too. Take care…❤️

        1. Robert


          Thanks so much Laura for your inspiring words. Means a lot to me. A good friend of mine just told me to let Grace in if only for this weekend which I intend to embrace. Even if only for today or the weekend I deserve to let that happen for myself. Best. Rob

  3. Sherri

    I have learned thru my life experiences that being transparent is being true to yourself and others. Trying to pretend when things are not alright within is being someone we are not. Sometimes I have been ostracized for being honest but it is still the best and most blessed way.

  4. Laura Kliegman

    Another great article, Therese! Your theme was very helpful, and I loved your quote selections. I saved three of the quotes you shared in my notes.? Your writings are appreciated…


  5. Judy

    Thank you…I needed that affirmation re being yourself… Helps me feel better about myself and better to myself. Thanks very much?

  6. Ron Barrett

    Excellent reading!

    I’ve been through just about all of the Positive Mental Attitude preachers that are on record as such: Norman Vincent Peale, W. Clement Stone, Brian Tracy, Denis Waitley, Napoleon Hill, Zig Ziglar, (I even got his autograph one day!), Dale Carnegie, Og Mandino, et al. Books and tapes. Tapes and books.

    I was not ‘born into life’ until I was 47 years old, when I started Zoloft. A few years of “Wow!,” and the Zoloft started to poop out, as they say. The beast just about drove me to the other side then.

    Blah, blah, blah…

    What I really want to say is, your testimony, if you will, has been of vast help to me. Baring your soul, your life, your tears, your truth, has removed quite a few shadows for me. And I am most grateful to you for your courage. And that professor!

    Also, I do follow up on your recommendations. I bought two copies of “The Highly Sensitive Person,” one for me, one for my daughter. I told her that if I had had that book 40 years ago, our lives would of been completely different.

    So, this HSP thing… Could we change that, maybe? Like, more in line with my progressive macho type image? I kinda like, Extraordinarily Perceptive Dude. What say ye?

    There are so many jewels in your crown! Thank you!

  7. Barb Markway

    I have been thinking about you recently so was glad to see this show up in my feed. As Toni Bernard says, “I hope you’re as well as can be.” (or something like that!)

  8. Lola

    Once you turn 50 or 60…all that bolony matters no more….take all with a grain of salt…live life in your own terms…being happy as what happy neans to you is what is all about…enjoy your journey!❤

  9. Fate brought me to your writing. I feel this way all the time and it was nice to hear someone else does. I support women in the aftermath of domestic violence, how to move past it, deal with the anxiety and depression and all that brings with it. At one time I tried to focus on just setting goals and self help but my thoughts and writing always returned. Thank you for sharing this, it was helpful. I also deal with depression as you described, thanks for being so honest.
    Love & Peace,

  10. Melissa

    Hi , Therese. Lately I’ve been looking for a good mental health blog to follow and yours is the first one that has resonated with me. Thanks for the reminder to be myself. I’m often looking at other people and wishing I was more like them or that I have what they have, etc. Deep down I’m glad I’m me and happy with what I have…I just need reminders of this sometimes.

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