To thine own self be true. — Shakespeare
I hate it when people think they know what’s best for me and even more so when they are right. Recently I went out to lunch with my cousin Sal and confided in him how I was feeling so overwhelmed by everything going on in my life. I told him how I sometimes felt like I was living everyone’s life except my own. Sal looked at me and said something that made me stop my ranting in mid-sentence, “You’re losing yourself. That’s what’s happening.”
His wise words hit me like a ton of bricks. It wasn’t something that I wanted to hear but Sal was absolutely right. I realized that I have been spending so much time trying to make others happy that I was neglecting the one person that truly counts: me.
The late Leo Buscaglia was a professor teaching at the University of Southern California in the late 1960’s when a student of his committed suicide. Her death had a tremendous impact on him and led him to start a non-credit course entitled Love 1A. Although no grades were given, this course grew in popularity and led to the publication of several bestselling books.
Buscaglia was a renowned motivational speaker who believed “the hardest battle you’re ever going to fight is the battle to be just you.” No doubt, there is a certain level of contentment we feel when we are part of the crowd. There is a level of comfort we feel from knowing that we fit in and are accepted. But sometimes we need to find the courage to walk a path which is truly our own.
Looking back at my life, I can tell you that I didn’t always feel this way. When I was a little girl I wanted more than anything to fit in. Because I was born with cerebral palsy, I felt like an outsider looking in. At that point in my life, I didn’t want to be “different;” I wanted to be just be like everyone else. I didn’t want to be that little girl with kinky, curly hair looking back at me in the mirror.
Well as they say you live and learn. It’s amazing how your life experiences can force you to make a complete reversal in your way of thinking. Through trial and error and all my ups and downs in my life I’ve come to realize that I didn’t come to this earth to be just like everyone else. I came here to live my own life and fulfill my own purpose. And at that time, maybe I didn’t want to be considered different. But today that’s just what I want. I want to be different and unique. I want to be my own person.
Buscaglia was so right; one of the hardest battles we will ever face in life is the battle to be true to ourselves. Far too often, we pretend to be someone else for the sake of gaining acceptance. We ignore that inner voice that’s crying out for our attention for the sake of gaining someone’s love or friendship. We all do it. We say yes when we really want to say no. We pretend to be happy when our insides are filled with dread.
Bronnie Ware spent years working as a palliative nurse caring for those in the final stages of their lives. Ware questioned her patients about their final regrets which later led to her bestselling book, “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.” It doesn’t surprise me that the number one regret among the dying was: I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
She writes, “This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.”
The next four most mentioned regrets were:
2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
Living a life true to yourself means following your own inner voice. It means listening to your deepest thoughts and honoring your most precious desires. It means not losing yourself at the expense of trying to make someone else happy. It means finding the courage to live your own life.
Whenever I need a nudge or help in being true to myself, I always listen to one of my favorite songs by Andrea Bocelli (duet with Laura Pausini) called Dare to Live. The words touch every crevice of my heart and always make me take a step back and really listen to the moment. Here are the words in English:
Try looking at tomorrow not yesterday
And all the things you left behind
All those tender words you did not say
The gentle touch you couldn’t find
In these days of nameless faces
There is no one truth but only pieces
My life is all i have to give
Dare to live until the very last
Dare to live forget about the past
Dare to live giving something of yourself to others
Even when it seems there’s nothing more left to give
But if you see a human
In front of your entrance
Who sleeps wrapped in a box,
If you would listen to the world in the morning
Without the noise of the rain.
You are that one who can create with your voice,
You think with the thoughts of people,
Of the God who is just the God.
To live, no one has ever taught it,
To live, it’s impossible to live without the past,
To live is beautiful even if you have never asked for
It will be a song, someone will sing it.
Today as I write these words, I am making a promise to myself to listen more deeply to my own inner voice. I am promising to live more of my own life and not the life my friends, family and the public expect of me. I am promising to follow my own inner wisdom. I am daring to live.
Have you been true to yourself? Are you with me? Will you dare to live or as they say in Italian, vivere?