Being Okay Being You
“If you’re always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be” is yet another wonderful quote by US author and poet Maya Angelou. I use the term normal here, not the way I usually do as in “normal” eating which follows four rules, but in the quest some people are on to be like everyone else. Being themselves won’t do, and instead many of them want to be anyone but themselves.
Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde tells us why that’s impossible via one of my favorite quotes: “Be yourself; everyone else is taken.” And, after all, what the heck is wrong with being the one and only you?
We learn that we are basically not okay and defective from our families and culture. If our parents are always comparing themselves to the proverbial Joneses, we’re going to grow up thinking that this is how one measures oneself: against others. If there’s constant talk in our homes about what’s normal and acceptable, we’re going to surmise that there’s a very narrow range of okayness and if we’re not within it, well, too bad.
If, however, everyone in our family is celebrated for the unique gifts they bring to the family and the world, then we learn that we are fine as we are and don’t need to be like everyone—or anyone—else to belong. We learn that different doesn’t mean wrong or less than. It just means, well, not the same as others. If our family celebrated diversity, we will assume that there are lots of different ways to shine and to embrace them all.
However, there are other ways to yearn for normalcy. Let’s say our family is different from other families we know. When Dad drinks he makes a scene in the neighborhood which embarrasses you. Mom constantly puts herself down for being a high weight and has given up taking care of her body which makes you uncomfortable around your friends. You speak a different language or are a different color than other children in your school and they make fun of you because of it. You get the idea from media that unless you’re a White, able-bodied male, you’re never going to succeed. Or you get left out or bullied because you’re shy, stutter or are on the autism spectrum.
There are so many ways we learn that being ourselves isn’t who we’d choose to be if we could be anyone and all of them focus us on our perceived defects. But there’s another way of viewing ourselves and that’s through our gifts and talents, innate and achieved. A better way of living is to forget about normal and cultivate what’s special about you. Get comfortable with who you are, fix what you can, and accept what you can’t. What would life be like if you were just fine with yourself?