A Place To Be Yourself and Fighting the Hardest Battle
Tom leaned forward on the couch, tightly clasping his hands during a therapy session. He said, “I want to start over when I go to college this Fall. I want to leave a lot of my high school way of life behind.” He went on to explain how his school and friends never really fit him. “I had to live with the hand I was dealt, but college gives me a fresh start to find a place and people who fit me.”
Tom realized at a young age that, to live life fully, he needed to find environments and relationships that reflected his unique personality and values.
If your daily life reflects who you are, anxiety and self-doubt stop following you like a hungry, stray dog. You will find a greater sense of calm, self-confidence, and joy.
Two years after my session with Tom, he found that joy by immersing himself in places and relationships that were his mirror image.
Never Stop Fighting
You can fight the good fight to find places at work, school, family, and relationships that fit you.
In her wonderful essay Cummings on Art, Life, and Being Unafraid to Feel, Maria Popova shares an insightful observation from the poet Laura Riding about the fight to be yourself.
“To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.” Quote from Four Unposted Letters To Catherine (Public Library)
A life lived in your self-image creates a unique contrast similar to Yoshinori Mizutani’s photograph below of a solitary figure against a uniform striped background. Her photograph illustrates the natural tension that exists when people walk against the grain to be themselves. But the tension is not the end point. It is the price you initially pay to break free from places and people who want you to be “everybody else”.
Mizutani’s photography was recently exhibited in a show of young contemporary Japanese artists at the IBASHO Gallery in Antwerb, Belgium. Coincidentally, IBASHO means “a place where you can be yourself” in Japanese.
You need to find people and places in which you can fully express yourself, and not get lost in a muted figure/ground. Eventually, your eye for the right environments will sharpen. You will more openly express both your good and messy sides, and second guess yourself along the way. Month after month, you will slowly surround yourself with people who enjoy the intersection of your goodness and messiness. They will admire the different edges of your personality like a kaleidoscope’s abstract images illuminated by light.
Finding Your Reflection
To find the people and places that reflect you, ask yourself the following questions:
“Do I feel comfortable expressing myself in this place or with this person? If not, what price am I paying by staying? What can I change to make it a better fit, or how can I search for a better place?”