Rule 1: Be yourself. And, what I really mean is: Be yourself, at the expense of everything and everyone else in your life. You are all that you have. This life is the only one that you will have. You are unique and beautiful and necessary. The world would not be the same place without you in it. So, aspire at every moment to come closer and closer to your truest authentic person, regardless of what anyone else thinks, feels, or believes.
For me, this is rule #1 in my manifesto because it comes before all other rules.
I made a really serious life change about 4 years ago. And that change was not from being married to not being married. It was from not being myself to being myself. Perhaps, in part, the latter begot the former. It wasn’t my ex-husband’s fault that I spent the 12 years we were together being the person I thought he wanted me to be. It was entirely my doing, but I didn’t know any better. When I met him, at McComas hall at Virginia Tech, I was 19 years old and fresh off of my relationship with my parents who were quite controlling. So, I was looking for someone to fill that role – to tell me what to do and who to be. It was easy. And he did it masterfully.
I credit my graduate degree, how far I’ve gotten in my career, my financial sense, and healthy lifestyle habits in part to him and his desire to drive and protect me. But, because these roles between us were established so early on, any criticism from him was interpreted by me to be his assertion that I was not trying hard enough to be the person he wanted. And I was afraid of not being that person. I was afraid of not being wanted.
This all would have never presented an actual issue (other than me living my life this way for all eternity) until he moved temporarily to another state to pursue his law degree. In those few short years I did a lot of personal growing – I was liberated. I didn’t have to pretend. I made so many incredible friendships during those years because I connected in a real way with people. See, when you pretend to be someone with one person, you tend to be that other someone with everyone else too. The friends I’d had all the years I was with my ex-husband didn’t really know me either.
The people that are in my life today are 100% onboard with ME. The real me. I don’t tip-toe. I don’t watch what I say. I don’t put on makeup every day. I live in an unfiltered, vulnerable, emotional, and genuine way. Every day. I have never felt so alive in my life.
When you live authentically for yourself, you can spend all the extra energy you would have spent pretending on others. You can change the focus from inward pretending to outward empathy. And these days, I am content in my life because I have so much that I can give. Free yourself. Allow for the maximum output of energy to others.
So, what stops us all from being completely unapologetically ourselves? Fear. That is the only barrier. I think Dr. Seuss said it best. “Be who you are. Say what you feel. Those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” You have nothing to fear. Because those who will let you go for being yourself don’t deserve you.