The mantra to being your authentic self

I think the greatest strength mankind possesses is that man can alter his life by altering his attitude. It sounds like a tiny shift, but it brings on a massive change in lifestyle. Let me tell you the story of a friend who had a pretty regular life, with a job, a great family, a nice home and plenty of vacations. Fifteen years into her marriage and she confided in me while we were having dinner at her home recently, that she often got the feeling of never being good enough. “I’m just all washed up, I am just pretending, who am I fooling ... I am no good at most things...” Her voice trailed away into the night. I was surprised and shocked. She said her tiny voice had got only louder with the years, but it lived deep inside her head. It felt like an unwanted friend. You know the type, who calls incessantly, who bugs you, who doesn’t know privacy, or who drains you of all energy. It just creeps up on you, she confided teary eyed. “You know I just eat to fill up this void inside of me!” Eat? She was so slim. “That’s because I go to the gym three hours a day”. By now, she had my head wrapped around a completely different woman. I mean where was the girl I had known all these years? Had she kept all this from me?

I realised that when self-doubt and low self esteem live inside you for a lifetime, they eat you from the inside, till one day the empty shell just cracks open. That’s the opening I had witnessed. But if on a very fundamental level, you are able to recognise this demon and overcome it, the negativity can become a springboard to strength. It can become an opportunity to change. That feeling of not being good enough, the need to please everyone, to be loved constantly by everyone, to feel important, and to get approval, can tie you up in knots.

So I shared with her a lovely line I had read in a book: the first step, the first tiny step was to change how you felt about yourself. No more time for that ‘pity’ party! Look at all that negativity inside of you as the muck that clogs the garden hose for example. When you turn on the water, first all the dried mud and muck needs to get unstuck to get the water clear again. We all have some of those unworthy, unwanted, undeserving feelings inside us. It’s important to see them for what they are: useless. The moment we decide to throw out those useless feelings, a sense of power takes over. Self -esteem is courage, and courage is born out of self love and conviction. Confidence is nothing more than casting out the doubt and fear of judgement, and standing up to finding the authentic you. Doubt makes dreams slip away, confidence makes dreams breathe again. It’s in between the time when we go from self-loathing to self-love, that we reveal our inner strength and potential. The goal is to become a person of unlimited self-esteem! So, you can go out and change your world armed with confidence.

Lovely lines by the author James Baldwin: Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.

(The writer is a theatre director and novelist)

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