Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Just Be Yourself

How many times have you heard this? "Just be yourself". From your parents..."just be yourself and they'll love you"....from your teachers... "real friends will accept you for who you are so just be yourself"....from books and wholesome television shows and movies... "to love yourself you need to just be yourself"....

Just. Be. Yourself.

The message is drilled into us from the time we're children, isn't it? At the same time as we're being taught that each of us has a mold to fit into and a code of conduct to follow.

Just. Be. Yourself.

But how many of us really are? How many of us are "ourselves"? I just spent the last month up in Canada, surrounded by friends and family; both close and distant to me. There was shopping, and swimming and family picnics. Sundays at church and games on the basketball courts. Walks downtown for ice cream, and trips to the park with my nephews. It was fabulous.

But I wouldn't say that I was completely myself. I was the Erin that everyone in my hometown knows. Just as right now, I'm the Erin that *you* know. And when I spend time with my parents, I will be the Erin that they know. And when I get off of the computer and stroll into Ross' office to see if he needs any help before we go home, I will be the Erin that he knows. Talking to associates in the office, I was a completely different version of Erin altogether. And of course, I am Mama Erin the most often.

But the truth is, none of those above Erins are really me. Each version has a piece of me, of course...some more than others. Some less. But not one single piece is me entirely...the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth....I am never able to "just be myself." The truth of the matter is that I'm not even sure who I really am. I've spent so much time taking bits and pieces of myself and molding them to accommodate the situation or person that I'm faced with that I've lost bits and pieces of the "real Erin" along the way.

I think that we all have, to some degree. We all take on different roles in our lives and we all have masks to wear depending on the situation. That's normal. And every time we pretend, even for just a minute, to be something or someone we're not, we lose a piece of ourselves. And it's not until very late in the game that we start to notice the loss.At least, it's taken a long time for me to realize that. That the exterior Erin isn't even close to the real Erin anymore. I don't know when that happened, to be honest. Gradually, I suppose, as most big changes do. And it's only very, very recently that I've been allowed the luxury of exploring the bits and pieces of Real Erin buried deep inside of me, hidden under the roles and titles and masks I've collected along the way. It is incredibly scary at the very same time that it's incredibly wonderful. With each shell that I drop, each mask that falls to the floor, my heart leaps a little bit at the prospect of not needing the camouflage much longer.

However, with each shell that I drop, I also find it to be a struggle to be in the situations that designed the masks in the first place. And worse than that, it takes away from my joy and my happiness and my excitement. And it makes that real Erin shrink a bit. And that's why I backslide. Well, it's at least part of the reason why I resort to old patterns and nasty habits. I feel naked without the shell, without the mask, without the facade and the longer I "stand naked before you" (little Tori Amos for you!), the more the joy seems like the facade, the mask or the shell. Not real. I know the truth, though. It *is* real, isn't it? The rest is just fluff. And so, instead of worrying about how I'll manage to pull it all off, I'm just going to enjoy being in joy.

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