Imagine an instruction manual on life showing up at our door step from Amazon Prime when we hit puberty, then another just about the time we turned eighteen, and still another around the mid-twenties. To be honest it would have come in handy with a delivery every few years or so positioning us squarely in the middle of our path into the next decade. Come on, whose kidding whom? The last thing we wanted back then (i.e. our youth) was something else besides our parents, teachers, and ministers questioning and directing our every move. The majority of us were scrambling to figure out who we were, picking and choosing between fashion, friends, hairstyles, music & vocabulary to define our true selves. Looking back, all the elements that mattered most to us focused on the exterior portion of our identity. Granted, growing up there was always that one young girl or boy gifted with good looks, great personality, excellent grades, and well respected in the community. The Bar was set so high, we couldn’t imagine what the air up there must have been like.
In truth, measuring yourself against another individual opens the door to self-doubt, a lack in confidence and an environment of second guessing your beliefs and decisions. This mindset may have followed you from childhood and puberty into adulthood but the good news is you are still “you,” and there is nothing more important in life than growing the real “you.” At this point you may ask, “Well who am I?” (I thought you would never ask!) Try this simple exercise where you draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper and on the left side write all the character traits that “don’t” define you, and on the right side of the paper the opposite of those character traits. This is a good starting point at revealing your current self-image and moving in the direction of growing your true self. It’s never too late!
In nature we can look around at trees and flowers and see no confusion in their identity. There’s a wonderful diversity in flowers as nature is showcasing each and every one as unique and authentic. Trees are majestic, towering above us, grounded by their role in nature. Neither is trying to be something they are not.
Could it really be so simple? Have we gone out of our way to follow the dictates of society, and in doing so, slowed the growth of our true selves? Maybe we came with a built-in instruction manual after all. Looking within ourselves for answers may have been the answer all along instead of seeking acceptance and approval from the outside world. Thinking back to my youth, taking for granted the guidance from my parents, teachers, pastors, and the freedom granted to me by those in the armed forces, it occurs to me how blessed I am to have had so many cultivating and protecting the soil around my life. A healthy dose of gratitude will keep the soil fertile for the next generation!
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” Oscar Wilde
Originally Published in The Bay City Tribune on November 15, 2015