Thank you for reading my articles here. If any piece resonates with you, I encourage you to share your reactions, as they will likely resonate with other readers, too. I also invite you to visit my website to learn more about REACH Your Dreams: Five Steps to be a Conscious Creator in Your Life. Much Love and Many Blessings, Alice

Friday, May 20, 2011

To Thy Own Self Be True (William Shakespeare)

A couple of weeks ago, I met an aesthetician who’s also an actress. In fact, she moved to Los Angeles to pursue her acting career, while keeping her salon in San Mateo where she sees clients once a month. She has other passions, including rescuing animals and training dogs, as well as teaching others about nutrition and raw-food diets. She felt that she would be further along if she focused on just one or two things. “Further along in what way?” I asked. She went completely silent. “Why do you feel like you have to choose?” I also asked. She didn’t have an answer for that either.

I could hear how passionate she was about everything she mentioned. So, I suggested that she could see her time and energy as a pie. If she had, say, five things about which she’s passionate, she could divide up that pie into five equal slices. In other words, she could embrace all five passions without having to choose. By the end of our session, she was excited that she could allow herself to spend one day a week in each of her passions without feeling anxious or guilty that she should be working on something else. More importantly, she didn’t need to pressure herself to choose among her passions. She was relieved by being able to see her unconventional life in a different light that’s more aligned with her nature.

Like so many of us, she had internalized pressure from society (perhaps culture and family, too) to focus on one thing¾two at the most¾on which to build her life, her success. She wasn’t aware of how much she was torturing herself to conform to that normative belief subconsciously running her life. She never stopped to question where that belief came from or how it didn’t serve her. By asking her a couple of simple questions, these unconscious patterns came to light, and she was then able to make a conscious decision on what to do about them. She could choose to honor herself, rather than what she thought she should do, who she should be.

It’s so easy for any of us to be unaware of the pressure we put on ourselves to behave in a certain way that honors someone else other than ourselves. After all, as human beings, we are social creatures wired to be seen, heard and understood¾even if for different underlying motivations. Depending on our temperamental nature, some of us are motivated by our need to feel we belong. For others, we like the knowledge sharing with like-minded others. Still others are motivated by cultivating deeply meaningful connections, while the rest of us seek nothing more than the pleasure of an experience.

Depending on who we get to hang out with most of our lives and how self-aware we are, we easily internalize others’ motivations and unknowingly let them drive our decisions and actions. When the motivational driver isn't innately our own, it produces anxiety for us, because what we feel pressured to do defies our nature. It’s like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

I’ve been fascinated by personality psychology for almost 14 years, and know my own temperament really well. I’m very much in the minority and an outlier in some ways. Still, I succumb to societal pressure now and again. Earlier this week, I went to a mixer for women entrepreneurs, as a part of me thought I should go out there and network. It was at a very crowded bar, and I tolerated that for about an hour before leaving¾before I decided to chuck conventional wisdom and honor myself instead.

We live in an extraverted society, where everyone is supposed to enjoy mingling and draw energy from chit-chatting with total strangers. Sorry, but I’m one of the introverts who are outnumbered by extraverts 2:1. Instead of mingling with strangers, please give me a one-on-one or small-group setting in which meaningful relationships can be built and maintained. Instead of chit-chatting, let me sink into a meaty discussion about something of importance.

Every time I say that I’m an introvert, inevitably, someone is shocked, as I don’t come off as one. When I’m speaking in public, I’m engaging and articulate. But that’s because I have a clear role to play, and I know what I’m going to say to connect with my audience¾I have a genuine desire to do that. However, in a free-form, unstructured setting, such as mixers, I’m completely a fish out of water. Can’t do that too often, nor can I survive without water for too long. If you’re a fellow introvert, you know what I mean. I’m simply not wired for networking events. While I’m sure there will be some I simply can’t avoid, I chose to honor myself mid-way through the mixer on Tuesday night, thank you very much!

To thy own self be true. Let us all listen to Shakespeare’s advice as often as possible.

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