Looking in the mirror is my cue to practice being myself and cherishing all parts of myself. When I see someone excel at something, I am reminded that I am called to fulfill my destiny. Whenever I start to sabotage myself with self-depreciation, I vow to lift up my spirit. Each of us is certainly a work-in-progress.
All of the world’s religions refer to the civil war that rages inside us when self-absorption meets self-regard and selfishness clashes with selflessness. Our life requires that we think enough of ourselves to believe we can serve others without putting ourselves above them. It’s sometimes a tricky balance to maintain.
Begin with what is right in front of you. Have both pride and humility. Be assertive and yielding. You are much more and much less than you probably think you are. Relax. This is good.
We can be our own worst enemies. We commit acts of sabotage by doubting our own competence. Because we lack self-esteem, we close off avenues that could lead to personal growth. Due to feelings of inferiority, we put ourselves down; because of grandiosity, we put others down. Aiming for perfection is part of the healthy practice of being you, which banishes woe-is-me and I-am-the-master-of-the-universe mood swings.
The ideal is to live with both our strengths and our weaknesses. The practice of being you is the prescription to help you find and express your authentic self.
The practice of being you is not a smooth road paved with gold but a bumpy one that requires patience and persistence. Strictly Ballroom is a zany and inspiring Australian film about two darling ballroom dancers who break new ground by expressing their authentic selves. Scott Hastings has been preparing for the Australian Ballroom Dance Federation Championships since he was six. His manipulative mother and the local dance hall academy are shocked when he chooses Fran, an awkward and inexperienced dancer, to be his new partner. But she is a soul mate who shares Scott’s eagerness to try new steps. This movie says: Don’t let fear shut you down. Take a chance and be yourself.
One way to practice being you is by celebrating birthdays. Several years ago, a good friend who taught for many years with the National Center for Family Literacy gave me the beautiful picture book, “On the Day you Were Born” by Debra Frasier for my birthday. This affirming book sets the coming of an infant into the world in the context of the responses from migrating animals, the flaming sun and the glowing moon, the spinning earth and the glittering stars, the rising tide and the falling rain, the growing trees and the rushing air, and a circle of singing people. The earth community provides us with a divine milieu where we can flourish all the days of our lives.
Singer and songwriter Harry Chapin fulfilled his special destiny as a troubadour. He had an uncanny ability to make the human situation touching and meaningful through his folk-tinged story ballads. Many of his best song-poems convey people’s deep desire to find their own place in the world and to grow in love. "Harry Chapin: The Gold Medal Collection" gathers together some of his most heart-affecting work, such as “Taxi,” “Cat’s in the Cradle,” “Mr. Tanner,” “Better Place to Be,” “She Sings Songs without Words” and “Circle.”
The spiritual practice of being you demands that we cherish what is distinctive about ourselves. To do so we must heed our calling. Trappist monk Thomas Merton said it so well: “It is a glorious destiny to be a member of the human race. . . Now I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.”