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Stop Pretending and Start Being You

Photo by Maxi Adrian San Agustin
You’ll never know who you are unless you shed who you pretend to be. ~Vironika Tugaleva

I grew up in the 1970s, and I learned a lot from the experience. Tom Wolfe called the ‘60s and ‘70s “The Purple Decades” because they had such gaudy styles.

Style seemed to be a big deal then, even more so than in other decades. Everyone of a certain age felt free to try new things and express themselves.

Expressing oneself sounds like a good thing, but actually it depends on what you’re trying to express. Is it the real you or just something you borrowed from the people and styles around you?

8 Questions to Feel More Free

Photo by Caroline Sleeper
Maybe the life you’ve always wanted to live is buried underneath everything you own. ~Joshua Becker

As a full-time nanny of four, I typically used the family’s van when picking the kids up. One day, however, I unexpectedly found out that I needed to use my own car.

This wasn’t a problem for me. I just had to put some stuff in the trunk and say my least favorite phrase: “Please excuse the mess.”

As I suspected, the children weren’t thrilled. But at least it gave us something to talk about.

“Wow, your car is, like, rotten!” the six-year-old boy immediately exclaimed.

“Where do I put my feet?” his older sister asked.

I thought surely the next time would be better. They’d be used to it.

Find Power in Silence

Photo by Phillipe Put
Silence is a source of great strength. ~Lao Tzu

When I was a kid, my family would take long road trips. We were from the Midwest, so in order to get anywhere the drive was at least six hours. But we were ambitious. Six hours was a weekend trip.

We were more interested in traveling to Detroit (a 13-hour trip) or Seattle (a 22-hour drive). When you pack five people in a car for that long, there are bound to be issues, and one of those was the radio.

Since my father drove most of the time, we were at his mercy when it came to the music. Or more often, I should say, the silence. While we were a musical family, my father would insist on turning off the radio every hour or so, just “to hear myself think,” as he said.

We would whine and complain.

“It’s just so boooooring without anything to listen to,” we’d say.

Fast forward decades later, and I suddenly find myself turning off the stereo at home, while I’m working or driving. This is odd for me — I consider myself an audiophile.

Feeling Misunderstood? These 3 Things Can Help

Photo by Tristan Duplichain Photography & Design
Everyone has a side to them that's kind of unexplained and feels misunderstood. ~Kirk Hammett

I have felt misunderstood, and for a large part of my life.

I am a very social person and I can get along with most people. People, who know me well, would not describe me as an introvert but I do feel I have an introverted side to me.

I find the world incredibly noisy, and I often struggle to understand my part in the grand scheme of life.

I have always questioned things and still spend much of my time thinking about different aspects of life, what everything means and how it all fits together.

I think a lot, and I think logically, so I find myself grappling with the meaning of life daily, which can be extremely frustrating.

4 Ways to See the World Through New Eyes

Photo by Julia Caesar
If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is: Infinite. ~William Blake

Working from home, while convenient, is often times punctuated by bouts of loneliness. To counteract that, I often spend hours working from a local coffee shop frequented by a group of regulars.

Today, sitting in my normal spot, I struck up a conversation with a man working next to me. We spoke in brief detail about our work and the weather and eventually about where we were from.

As a Colorado transplant from New York, he said, in short, that it seemed as if people here tended to be outwardly mean or judgmental without being provoked.

I was slightly surprised by the observation, simply because I had found that there was no way to make such a general statement about a group based solely on their geographical location.

To me, geography determined what hobbies you partake in or even the clothing style you learn toward, but personality traits were determined by something else entirely.

How to Be Grateful When You Aren’t Feeling It

Photo by Ryan B.
Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings. ~William Arthur Ward

You want to be grateful for what you have, but if you cut straight to the truth? You aren’t feeling it.

For a lot of people, acknowledging that truth brings with it immediate shame — the shame of knowing that in a world where so many people go homeless or hungry; or are hurt, abandoned, or abused; or are dealing with a serious illness or the death of a loved one, not feeling grateful is very, very bad.

So, we try gratitude on. “Okay,” we say, tossing our hair back and squaring our shoulders. “Let me focus on gratitude. Here I go.”

We think of 10 things to be grateful for, and then … deep breath … it is still there, that subtle and abiding sense of low-grade disappointment or sadness or disconnection from yourself or the world.

It can be the ultimate lose-lose scenario. If you push yourself to feel grateful when you know that it’s not happening on a core level, you feel like a phony. If you aren’t grateful, then …well, you’re ungrateful. No bueno.

3 Things to Remember When You Want to Give Up

Photo by Leo Rey
Hope begins in the dark — the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work; you don’t give up. ~Anne Lamott

My friend and I ran along the sidewalk, side by side, our warm breath filling the cold December air. We hoped to cover more miles than usual as we trained for a longer race.

Rounding the corner to our least favorite hill, we routinely stopped talking, knowing we would pick up the conversation at the top just like we had done for years.

As we leaned into our steps, a man drove past us, leaned on his horn and gave us the finger for no reason. I caught a glimpse of his angry face as he sped by and wondered why he was so mad at us.

My friend turned towards the speeding car, her arms lifted in exasperation, and said, “Really?????”

We stood there staring at each other and wondered aloud what just happened. We both felt deflated and decided to walk up the rest of the hill. So much for the longer run.

How to Find Your Life’s Purpose Today

Photo by Daniel Zedda
“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt

Countless self-help gurus urge people to find their purpose, to lead a purpose-driven life, to be purposeful about their choices.

The thinking goes like this: If you’re feeling a pervasive sense of un-fulfillment and lack — perhaps sprinkled with varying degrees of anxiety or sadness or anger — then you’re probably lacking your purpose. Find your purpose, the enlightened people say, and all else in life clicks into place.

Roger that. It’s a logical thread to follow.

There’s just one problem: Trying to find your life purpose causes a lot of people more stress and anxiety. It throws life wildly out of balance. It creates striving. Until that holy grail of Here’s my life purpose is found, life can feel perpetually lacking.

Start Living Your Best Life: A Personal Story

Photo by Eric
The only real failure in life is not to be true to the best one knows. ~Buddha

After I graduated from college and started earning a decent paycheck, I spent a fair amount of time flipping through glossy home decorating magazines and meandering through home furnishing stores.

I was “setting up house” for real for the first time in my life. It seemed very important that I get the décor exactly right because it would make an important declaration to the world about my personality and lifestyle.

But choosing just the right style was hard — because I didn’t have my own style yet. Well, no … I knew I must have one. I just had to figure out what it was.

4 Tips for Being Yourself

Photo by Alba Soler
Let go of who you think you should be and embrace who you are. ~Brené Brown

Do you ever fear that who you are isn’t enough — you put on a mask and become someone you’re not to avoid rejection?

This has been me for most of my life. From a young age I never felt as though I was good enough. Growing up as an introvert surrounded by extroverts was what first got me questioning myself.

Everyone seemed to love the opposite of what I was. I felt unloved, and I became ashamed of myself.

This was the beginning of many years of self-destruction. I so desperately wanted to be accepted and loved by others. I did whatever it took to be what I thought people wanted to see. Even if it wasn’t in line with who I was and what I truly valued.

I hid behind a mask. I pretended to be someone I wasn’t. It was my protection from allowing people to get to know the real me so I could avoid rejection. This is how I lived for 23 years.

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