I’ve heard several great quotes recently that have really stayed with me, all around the theme of being true to yourself.
I’m almost embarrassed to write anything about ‘being true to yourself’ because a) it sounds unbelievably twee and saccharine and b) it sounds ridiculously obvious – clearly being yourself is a good idea, and surely it’s pretty easy to do. But the older I get (and I’m not very old) the more I realise that it’s actually really hard, and that people who are consistently true to their real preferences, thoughts, desires etc. are in the minority. Particularly amongst those of us in our twenties.
The first quote I heard that prompted an ‘a-HA’ moment was (and is) from American author Gretchen Rubin. Her key mantra for a happy life is
“Be [insert your first name].”
So in her case, “Be Gretchen”. It’s brilliantly simple. As she explains, the thing is that although deep down we do know what we like and dislike, we often – whether consciously or unconsciously – smother some enthusiasms and try to cultivate others in order to bring ourselves in line with our idea of who we are or should be. For example, for several years in my teens I convinced myself I was a new music fanatic, and spent hours researching edgy, up and coming indie bands. Although I did like some of the music I came across, the key word here is “researching”. I wasn’t scouring Myspace for new bands and songs because that was my passion, but because I was doing the necessary homework in order to try to be what I thought was a better version of me. And it’s not only image-conscious teens who do it: as Gretchen says, “It’s possible, in fact quite easy, to construct a life entirely unrelated to our nature.” And that is not a life that spells contentment, or indeed one that will get the most out of you both in and outside work.
The second quote I heard was
“What other people think of you… is none of your business.”
When I came across this line, my initial reaction, mainly owing to its tone, was one of vague irritation and defence – who is this disembodied person (judging from some Googling, no one’s entirely sure where the phrase came from) to tell me what isn’t my business? Surely anything that involves and affects me is my business? But on further consideration I realised that it’s absolutely true. And the slightly scolding tone of the quote has turned out to be helpful when I need to take myself firmly in hand and remind myself that I cannot control, nor demand to know what other people think of me. Their thoughts and opinions are entirely their own, so I may as well do what suits me and forget trying to shape their impressions.
The third is something Kurt Cobain apparently said:
“Wanting to be someone else is a waste of who you are.”
Like many 20-somethings (I think), I’m prone to comparing myself to others, and I found this sentence a great reminder that if I don’t try to be the person I am and create a life that truly suits me, and therefore fulfils my potential, no one else will. Ever. We may not each have a massive impact on the world but it will at least be one that is entirely unique, because no one else ever was or ever will be quite the same as us. So what a waste of our own unique combination of qualities, talent, passion and enthusiasm it is to try to be a poor replica of another person or combination of people.
And finally, pretty much summing up all the others, is the classic but wonderful quip from Dr Seuss:
“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”
For me, this serves as a continual reminder that if you strive to let yourself act, feel and say things that are as close to your ‘true’ self as possible, you’ll attract people who like you for that. And even if they don’t agree with absolutely everything you say or admire everything you do, that’s really none of your business. Just do your own thing.
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