The task can be stated so simply; be true to yourself. It seems simple enough, we all know how to do that…right? We just do our “own thing”…right? Back in the 1960’s and 70’s the phrase “Do your own thing.” was often encountered. It could seem to spur us on to new heights of self expression. When confronted with this phrase, a lady I knew had a pretty good response; “Try quitting.”
However, being true to ourselves is a different matter than simply “doing our own thing”. Simply “doing your own thing” can simply translate into be impulsive. Being true to oneself implies a greater investment in oneself. Being true to oneself implies an understanding of what is genuinely in one’s best interests. And understanding ourselves requires a reasonable degree of effort in self-examination, education and discernment. Too often people just follow whoever or whatever is identified by key people in their life as being what they should be following. Doing so is very much a gamble. There is a very real possibility it may end up being the antithesis of being true to oneself.
Yet that lifestyle, of following the leader, has been pretty much the historical norm for centuries. Those who deviated were often the great minds; the artists and, innovators of their day. The practice of “following the leader” has undoubtedly been supported by the incredible lack of information, the darkness, that has existed within human culture for centuries, millennia, about what we as human beings are and need. But all that has changed. There is so much knowledge available today about our physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual realities that it is impossible for a human being to access it all in a hundred years. Yet it is still all too common to encounter people who are living predominantly unexamined lives, following “the leader” on an equally unexamined course toward wherever.
There may be several reasons why this is so. One very common reason is explained by referencing Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Economically, human culture is predominantly still very brutally primitive. This is resulting in millions of people being stuck on the first two levels of the hierarchy. Spending their lifetime, their life energy trying to stay fed, clothed and housed. Working, making heroic efforts to supply themselves and their loved ones with the basics. When life is requiring us to be overly absorbed with just sustaining our physical existence we just don’t have the time and energy required for a more comprehensive understanding of our lives, our reality. This is not a good situation for anyone. We all benefit from healthy, vital neighbors in healthy, vital communities. We’ve all been rightly amazed, dismayed at times with decisions we see being made by others (or by ourselves). Healthy, educated, wise people make wise decisions. In as much as our lives are going to reflect our culture to a great extent, one aspect of the human plight is that we all have a role to play in establishing and maintaining ourselves and others in a favorable state.
And getting back to being true to oneself and what is good for us on an individual level… As stated above there is so much that we know today about what is good for an individual human being. There are books and books written on the subject. I am not going to try to reiterate very much of it here, I encourage you to look around and discover some of the good information that is readily available. However, I would like to state (restate) some of the basics:
Mentally: We need good information, accurate information, truth. Bad, inaccurate, untruthful information can and will lead us to make bad decisions. We need to develop the habit of initially questioning new (and old) information that comes our way. Seek out ways to “vet” information; cross reference, be aware when information is tailored to serve special interests rather than simply presented in fullness and truth.
Physical: We need shelter, wholesome/nutritious food, clean air, clean water, exercise. If something is poison why would we ingest it?
Spiritual: We need acceptance, love, and to be appreciated. We are social beings and need to share our joys and sorrows. It is within our spiritual realm that we most keenly experience the reality that the more we give the more we receive.
And, reiterating what came earlier because this seems to be too often overlooked within our current competitive culture; being true to oneself includes being true to one’s community. As with so many other aspects of our world and our lives, balance is a factor to consider. Maintaining a viable balance between self-interest and community interests, between “me” and “us”, is essentially being true to oneself.