July 21, 2017

How to Be Yourself: A Mindful Approach


We all have trouble being ourselves sometimes. A big part of our lives consists of searching for who we are.

Who we are is always there, our relaxed and calm self, under all that we carry. Under how we want to seem, under the need for control, under our ingrained habits.

With all the feelings and thoughts inside of us, it is easy to get carried away. Our feelings and thoughts serve an evolutionary purpose, but a lot of the time, they harm us rather than help us. They were supposed to protect us, but they can easily became like a broken machine--repeating thoughts and reinforcing feelings that might feel like they are keeping us safe, but are actually harming us.

Anxiety, for example, is a clear example of this. We feel anxious and have an urge to fight or flee, because the body, the mind believes we are in danger and wants to save us. But the danger is not real, it is a delusion. We feel like if we don't keep control, we will get hurt in some way. This doesn't help us, in the end, only hurts us.

We often think that if we could get rid of our feelings and thoughts, we could be completely ourselves, we could be happy and carefree. If we could stop being nervous, anxious, angry or sad, we could be ourselves. We feel our true selves sitting under the large pile of emotions and thoughts, and we want to free it.

This way, we go against our feelings, we try to push them away. But resisting them so only gives them more power over us. We resist them because we fear them. And we cannot be at peace if we are afraid of what is inside us.

So the first step toward ourselves is accepting our feelings and thoughts. Accepting them doesn't mean we have to be controlled by them. We can stand above them as their witness. And as we stop fighting what's inside us, stop being afraid, and give up the need to control every feeling and every thought, there we will be--relaxed and calm beneath it all.

It's this strain to be somehow different that steers us away from ourselves. If we soften and allow it all to be, we can be ourselves peacefully, relaxed and unapologetically.

How we feel and the thoughts inside our heads are not our enemies. They cannot hurt us if we don't believe them. We can always start practicing relaxing with ourselves in different situations.

I had severe anxiety, and it took me a long time to get down to myself, to softly accept and let go of all the thoughts and feelings I was having almost all the time. It took practice for me to be able to sit at a table with someone, for example, and not want to run away and feel like something horrible would happen. I wanted to control everything, so nothing would go wrong. But I practiced letting that illusory control strategy go and just allow things to happen. It's not easy, because it is a part of our minds, and it always will be. We can't get rid of it, but we can learn to live above it. And that's more than enough.

Being yourself and being at peace does not mean you don't feel anything besides peace, rather it is a mastery of all that is inside of you.

"Courage is the mastery of fear, not the absence of it." -  Mark Twain

1 comment:

  1. I love the quote at the end, but it was actually Ambrose Redmon who wrote it, not Twain... Redmoon was an American activist and writer.

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