“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
We hear these words often: “be yourself”. What does that even mean in a world full of selfishness, individualism, and isolation? Does this mean that anything goes? Can I wreak havoc as I revel in my time, or is there something we’re missing about truly living the life we were created to live? Isn’t the pursuit of self gratification, pleasure, and applause conforming to societal culture, not differentiating ourselves from the empty pursuits around us?
If God is not a mere fiction and my faith is not childish imagination, then I believe that the human spirit was created intentionally, not by accident. If there is a human spirit, then there is a Designer – a Creator. If you know anything about art, then you know that you can always trace the fingerprints and the expression of the artist in their work. This leads me to the conclusion that we bear the fingerprints of our Creator, which leads me to believe that we’re all fashioned with incredible design.
What am I getting at? Have you ever known a musician to write the same song over and over and over again, only releasing new albums of 10 tracks that sound EXACTLY the same? Does a painter simply copy their work repeatedly? Does a dancer dance the same way every day of every year? I think you get my drift.
If that is how we treat our fleeting works of art, then why should we think that we are ordinary or lesser-than any of our fellow creations? Why should we find ourselves mimicking someone else when we were created for a different purpose? What if the song we’re meant to sing is in a genre that’s not as “celebrated” as other genres?
And yet, take a look around you. Each day we wake up, we go out into the world and we are constantly pressured to belong, which we often mistake for “conforming”. Belonging is not synonymous with conforming. I can belong to a team, yet serve a different function than my teammates. However, instead of taking our voice and our song into the marketplace of ideas, we often succumb to the pressure and the popular ideas taking place around us.
For the longest time, I have felt pressure to belong to that group, that ideology, and that level of success. In my own life, I often find myself feeling pressure to measure up to other people in the arts, as that has always been my greatest passion. If I’m not succeeding like others around me, I cut myself down and tear myself apart, rather than celebrating the voice God has given me. For you, it might look like professional success, popularity, wealth, prestige, power, or accomplishment. Whatever it may be, what if we’re missing what it really means to be ourselves?
Ralph Waldo Emerson wasn’t kidding. Being comfortable in our own skin and living the life God created us to live is incredibly hard in a world where we all want to find approval and a sense of belonging. And yet, I am convinced now more than ever that being who I was created to be is more important than the approval of the world around me.
What if you stopped comparing your life, your talent, your abilities, and your current circumstances to those around you?
Who would you become if you stopped striving to live a life invented for someone else?
At the end of your years on this earth, will it really matter if you were accepted, celebrated, and affirmed? Wouldn’t you rather make a difference and leave a lasting mark on the souls of others who encountered you during your life?
Being someone else is tiring. It’s time to become who we were meant to be.