“To be nobody but yourself in a world that’s doing its best to make you somebody else, is to fight the hardest battle you are ever going to fight. Never stop fighting.” – e.e. cummings
April 11, 2012 by
Categories: Miscellaneous

Everyone loves to tell you to just “be yourself,” as if you are living your life in purposeful avoidance of doing just so. It may even seem that the harder you try to “be who you are,” the further you are from it. How does one exactly go about this task?

Born and raised in the same city (Lexington), I naturally gravitated towards what was comfortable and safe. Though I attended the university of my hometown, I made a conscious effort to try branching out through evolving friendships and involvement throughout my community. I generally ignored the nagging feeling telling me that I wasn’t reaching my potential and after two years of an intense clinical program training to be a therapist, I was confident that I finally figured myself out. I felt solid in my insight, relationships, and beliefs (as much as anyone could be).

But, after completed my degree, I began to heavily feel the cost of safety and certainty in regards to missing out on opportunities to stretch and grow. I decided to take advantage of my new-found unemployment and plunge into a journey that I had dreamed about— I took a 5 month trip to volunteer and taught ESL in Palestine, studied Arabic, and traveled in the area.

View from my new home in Palestine

Away from my environment for the first time, I gained a new lens that perhaps can only be worn if you are at a distance from your life and your relationships. In a foreign country, I was thrown out of my comfort zone, surrounded by internationals, and learned that open-mindedness went beyond others and into having that attitude towards myself.

I have always found hindsight to be a powerful teller of information, and what it tells me is that the changes I’ve gone through are not all together sudden. Rather, each experience gradually shaped me to become… who I already was. Those parts of me always existed, I just never gave them a chance to be known.

I learned the hard way that again and again, the definition you have for yourself is only fleeting. Part of being “who I am” is accepting that it won’t be one state of being, but is fluid, adaptive, and ultimately a beautiful thing. It turns out, it was less about being afraid of who I was, and more about realizing that it is OKAY to not always have a sure idea of who I am.

In all honesty, this concept can be frightening. To put in the work and effort to learn more about yourself, only to have to start over every so often can feel confusing and defeating. But each time you go through the process, you will gain a new layer of understanding, depth, and ease with yourself. I have never come out of a change that hasn’t shaped me for the better, regardless of what led me there.

So in the search to “be yourself,” you don’t have to look far. It’s in you, waiting to be noticed. Live more. Do something different. Try a new coffee shop. Make a new friend.  Be daring— leave everything you know, even if just for a short time.  After all, you can always come back.

What are your thoughts on “being yourself?” What’s the best thing you’ve ever done, big or small, that’s led to that discovery?

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5 Thoughts About “To be nobody but yourself in a world that’s doing its best to make you somebody else, is to fight the hardest battle you are ever going to fight. Never stop fighting.” – e.e. cummings

  • Jenny Sutton-Amr
    April 11, 2012 at 12:01 pm Reply

    Wonderful article. It made me reminisce. I began that journey of self discovery as a teenager when I moved to Jordan with my family, where I graduated from high school. My international travels continued after that for years, and I remember distinctly the realization that my ‘home’ was no longer a traditional definition – it was where my bed was. I felt a sense of loss in that discovery and then a sense of amazement at my new reality. It was a particular house, in a particular city, in a particular country. My home was where I made it, and each of my international homes added something to who I am.

  • Jenny Sutton-Amr
    April 11, 2012 at 12:04 pm Reply

    Oops, somehow hit the the ‘Post comment’ button before I edited my comment and finished them. I want to add a final thought – what you’ve gained beyond new experiences and self reflection is a dose of wisdom. Remember the lessons learned and the newfound qualities you now own, as there will be more moments in your life when you have this same experience in a completely different context. Well done!

  • Audrey
    April 13, 2012 at 8:37 am Reply

    I think I’ve had to learn that as well – that “the definition you have for yourself is only fleeting.” This has been what is scaring me lately, that I’m always changing. But I can take a more positive view of it – it’s wonderful that I’m always changing, it’s such a beautiful gift to be able to change and grow, it makes life so interesting. Even though it hurts and is scary sometimes.

    I think the best thing I’ve done to be myself is kept going. I’ve stuck to my dreams, worked hard, and fought through a lot of pain, and it’s made me stronger. it’s forced me to accept my limits sometimes and to find my weaknesses, to accept that I have weaknesses and that I’m still a worthwhile person. it’s not easy, but it is rewarding.

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