There is perhaps no greater, more fulfilling feeling than the freedom to be oneself. When we feel supported to be the person we most want to be, and are able to give ourselves permission to relax into that role, better health is one of the unavoidable results.
A significant issue that I have seen time and time again with youth and adults alike, is a feeling that the world wants something from us that we do not wish to deliver. In other words, we feel sure to be rejected if we dare to truly be ourselves, whether that is at work, at school, or at home with family. This belief stems from not feeling what is called “emotional safety” with those around us. So being the nice, eager-to-please people we often are as Canadians, we would rather make others happy than honour our true selves in each moment.
Human beings are astounding in their ability to create mythology for themselves to help explain life. When you think of mythology, if you are like me, you immediately think back to ancient Greek and Roman times, and the numerous gods and beliefs that went along with life so long ago. In the same way, there is a shocking tendency for humans to create and maintain their own myths to justify negative feelings about life.
Do any of the following examples sound familiar? “Maybe I will let those boys go and play, and keep to myself instead - they probably would not like me, and I don't want to be rejected”, or “I’m going to stay home from the office Christmas party this year - my clothes aren’t very new, and I don’t think I would fit in with the rest of the staff”. Or how about “I’m not going to accept my daughter's invitation to go visit her and my grandchildren - I don't want to be a burden to them, and she probably only invited me because she felt like it was her duty”.
When we lack a willingness or ability to give ourselves positive messages, chances are good it is partly because we do not feel emotionally safe to do so. It is so discouraging when we feel that we do not have value to others, or to our world around us. Breaking through these crippling stories we sometimes tell ourselves is by no means easy. However, if we have supportive people in our lives who do not buy into these myths, and perhaps a trusted guide to help us along as well, we can start to feel safe around them. These are people who value us as individuals, and accept us for who we truly are, with all our talents, values, likes and faults.
My wife is a huge fan of Star Trek, and one of her favourite episodes involves a race of creatures called "Shape-Shifters". These creatures adjust to their surroundings, becoming whomever or whatever is necessary to thrive in any environment. The catch? There is no single true self that a shape-shifter can relax into, and a thousand different identities might be adopted at one time or other. Each of us in real life has a related choice: shape-shift into whom we believe others desire us to be, or be ourselves, fully and without apology. The key is to surround ourselves with people we trust, and who we feel genuinely care about us.