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Let’s talk individuality

Posted 1/2/18

Are you comfortable “being yourself?” This may seem like a silly question. Who else would we be if we aren’t being ourselves? And yet, do you …

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Let’s talk individuality


 By Dr. Terry Drew Kaaren

Are you comfortable “being yourself?” This may seem like a silly question. Who else would we be if we aren’t being ourselves? And yet, do you occasionally second-guess yourself about what you want to do or when you desire to say certain things around particular people? This month’s column is the end of our five-part series on self-care and one of my personal favorites:  Individuality.

Can think of a time you acted exactly the way you wanted to act, or said precisely what was on your mind? How did that work for you? I hope it went well. Honesty is sorely lacking in our world today. At the very least were you honored for your individualized actions or words? That’s not always the case, particularly if we are bucking the norm.

Over the course of my life I’ve been criticized for acting outside the box. Can you relate? I often do or say something that others around me want to do or are thinking about saying, but are afraid to follow through with because of what others might say. I believe the people who life “full-out,” and seem happy doing so, are those who act from a space of love. They are not afraid to acknowledge the power they have at their disposal. In other words, we can be outrageous by the standard of society and get little to no flack about it as long as we are not doing it just for the sake of being noticed. We might even get admired – think of how Lady Gaga and other celebrities have been accepted, no matter how outrageous. (I still haven’t gotten over the meat dress.)

I remember years ago being just about ready to walk out the door when my boyfriend asked, “You’re not going out in THAT, are you?” (Okay, granted, it was the 80s and I wouldn’t be caught DEAD wearing that today if I still had it, which I don’t, but I digress…) I gave him a blank stare. I’ve always that a good comeback when someone asks me a stupid question.

He followed his original query with, “What makes you think you can wear that?” My answer, again with a blank stare was, “Because I can!” Admittedly, I “may” have had a slight bit of attitude in the delivery, and I “suspect” I may have raised at least one eyebrow when responding. At his height he’d never have been able to pull off an over-sized, turquoise shirt with tails and a gold, metallic vest. (I warned you. I was the 80s …)

Levity aside, you’ll probably admit that the opinions of others may have very well stopped you from doing what you wanted to do at some point. You might not have even suspected a particular person, but were afraid of some kind of reprisal or criticism about your appearance, conduct, or idea.

There are lots of reasons why we let people stop us from doing things. We think we’re too old, or too young; not good enough; untrained; inexperienced; or, playing out of our league. But each of us has a particular gift in the way we live life and express ourselves. Abraham Maslov is quoted as saying:

No great deed, private or public, has ever been undertaken in a bliss of certainty.

If we wait around to live our lives until we have everyone’s approval the only thing being said will be, “S/He looks so natural lying there in that beautiful coffin.” Seriously. It’s completely impossible – or at the very least highly unlikely – that everything we say or do will be universally accepted. Someone will want to correct us. Another person may want to tweak our delivery. Yet others may be diametrically opposed to our actions, and make their opinions known in unpleasant or uncomfortable ways.

The flip side to that coin is that without you being you – truly, unabashedly, perhaps irreverently, and most certainly individually you – the universe will be lacking. That’s a lot of responsibility, which I know you can handle. You may have a gift that you’re holding back on sharing. There could be an idea you want to put forward, something innovative, unique, and perhaps deal-breaking. You might even be thinking of something along these lines right now. Go for it!

It’s time to up the ante on being you. We don’t have to be outrageous for the sake of being outrageous. In fact, sometimes being ourselves may mean that we are calm when others are excited. Give us the pleasure of seeing you for the unique and magnificent expression of Spirit in human form. We need you … just as you are!

Terry is an author, speaker, licensed social worker and flight attendant. He is also the director of Spirit, Mind and Body Foundation (spiritmindbodyfoundation.org).