I remember walking on Fountain Avenue in Hollywood and my phone rang, as usual it was my mom who called every 20 minutes to report some event she’d seen on FOX News or to find out if I heard “so and so” died, got divorced, had cancer, was in rehab, was missing or God knows what 10 minutes before she called me. I always knew when she was going to take a conversation to the lowest common denominator because the call always went like this: “I’m gonna tell you something in complete confidence and you have to promise not to tell it”, then she would drop a bomb on me and hang up. The topics always involve someone being a slut, gay, drug addict or alcoholic. Those are the things that caused them to die, get cancer, go to rehab or wind up missing. I guess that’s how great stories begin with sex, drugs, and illness. For some reason, the phone call I received that March morning involved none of the tantalizing gossip I was expecting. Instead, she made a statement that has become the mission statement of my life. At that point, I’d been sober 6 months and was agonizing over the thought of returning to life in Jacksonville, Florida.
First let me say there is nothing wrong with Jacksonville, Florida. It’s a city with friendly people, great food, and southern culture. It is also where I should have received an award for greatest public display of self-destruction. The only thing I hadn’t done in that town was have sex with Michael Jackson. For once in my life, I was in shock by my mom’s next statement. She said, “Rob you’re not an idiot. The only things you need to do is stop looking for happiness in a place you never found it and simply stop being who you aren’t!” Wow! At that moment I had an epiphany that changed my life. At that moment, I set myself free to find me exactly where I was and that was in Hollywood, California. My life has never been the same since that moment.
I’ve heard the statement “just be yourself” so much. It sounds like an amazing thing to do, and I have wished many times that I could just do that. What I’ve wondered, though, is what in the world does that mean? What if someone is a jerk to other people? Is it okay for them to just be themselves and go on being a jerk to everyone? How about people who are fearful of being around others and live a hermit-like life, avoiding people?
In my quest for answers, I’ve found that it is very much possible to just be yourself. The person who is a jerk to others and the person who is afraid of social situations are, in actuality, not being themselves. Their real self is just being covered up with conditioned, fear-based thinking. Our true self is who we really are when we let go of all of the stories, labels, and judgments that we have placed upon ourselves. It is who we naturally are without the masks and pretentiousness. It is who we really are when we let fall to the floor the cloak of other people’s stuff that we have taken on. Everything else that we claim to be when we say, “This is who I am!” is only a story.
Below are some steps that have helped me in uncovering my real nature, which is that being outside of the accumulated thoughts and beliefs that I have collected over a lifetime.
1. Get in touch with your inner child.
If you ever watch small kids, you will notice just how free they are and how little they care about what other people think of them. They are happy and in the moment. They are their true natures. They have not yet been socialized to “fit in” to a society that squashes that. They don’t care if people think that they are silly while they dance in the front yard for all of the neighbors to see. Children are just pure love and light. If you really want to get in touch with your inner child, become freer. Play, have fun, enjoy the moment, do cartwheels in the front yard. We play roles to fit into society and we suppress our true nature out of fear of what others think. If you find yourself worried about being judged, remember that is merely just the socialized you, not the real you.
2. Become more aware of your thoughts.
You may be shocked by the number of negative thoughts that run through your mind on any given day. After so long, our reality begins to take shape based on all of these conditioned thinking patterns. Become more aware of the quality of your thinking. Allow yourself to sit quietly every morning before starting your day for just five to ten minutes. Yes, thoughts will come and go, but just allow them to do that without getting attached to them. Just observe them. When you are finished, continue observing the mind throughout your day.
We have so many unconscious beliefs that we have taken on over the years that were probably handed down to us from somebody else, and that we believed to be who we are. Becoming more aware of the quality of your thoughts, letting go of the old beliefs, and becoming more present can help in revealing your true nature. We are all so much more than those old negative thinking patterns would ever allow us to believe.
3. Follow your intuition.
This is probably one of the most important factors in being yourself. I ignored my intuition for the longest time because I felt so obligated to others. Their happiness was more important than my own. I will tell you this, from my own personal experience: When you start following the little nudges and urges that you get, you will have hopped on the magic carpet ride of awesomeness. It doesn’t mean that you will never have bumps in the road again, but when you are in alignment with your soul, you will always be steered in the best possible direction.
How do any of these things help you to just be yourself? Because they help you to be in alignment with your true nature. Your authentic self is the real you that is beyond all of those conditioned beliefs and thinking patterns that you have accumulated throughout your life.
While it is important to love and accept yourself for where we are at the moment, looking back now, I see that I suppressed my true nature in order to please others and to fit in. I began going within and doing spiritual study and practice in my late forties, and have since become more aware of how much I was identified with my victim story, how I would play roles depending on who I was with, and just how much I cared about other people’s perceptions of me. I had lost touch with my natural self and stuffed it away in a box. Whenever I would notice myself getting attached to the stories and labels in my head or would catch myself playing roles with others, I would just breathe and relax into the moment without any labels or judgments.
It was a challenge because I cared so much about being accepted by others. So I would ask myself, “How would I act right now if I had no cares of what others thought of me?” I realized that who I naturally am without anything else added is perfectly okay.
When you let go of the old ways of thinking, follow your bliss, and do what you love, you begin to align with happiness and peace. These are all indicators that you are connected with your true nature. You are then allowing your real self to shine forth in all its glory.
This is my journey… this is my life.