Dear James and Jonathan,
It took a long time for me to find the courage to be myself. It sounds like a simple thing – to be yourself. I can hear you making fun of me by saying, “Of course I’m myself! Who else would I be?” I smile in the hope that for you it will be a simple thing. I think for most of us, it is not. Perhaps that is because, at first, we are not sure of who we are. We try on different selves like hats to see if they fit. After a while, we get a sense of who we might be but perhaps we don’t like ourselves very much, or we think others will not approve. So we adapt.
The foundation of being yourself is about letting go of other peoples’ expectations (or at least who you think others expect you to be). It is not about the expectations to do something – like cleaning up or being kind. It is more letting go of expectations that expect you to be someone you are not. Letting go of the expectations of others is not about being dismissive, rude or selfish. It is more about discovering what it is you value most. It’s that awareness of what you lean towards or are unhappy without that will help you start to understand who you are. It is about uncovering what comes quickly to you and what is challenging. It’s about being okay with both. Discovering who you are is one-part curiosity, one-part tolerance and a whole heap of courage.
My journey to becoming the real version of myself started with the realization that the opinions of others were at the core of what influenced me. My desire to find approval had me trying to guess which version of me others would like best. It’s an impossibly tricky thing to try and figure out and, in the end, it pushes you to become something you are not. Being who you are is the most courageous thing you will ever do.
I will end with a paragraph from my first letter to you. Be yourself. There is no one else on the planet who is exactly like you. No one who has your blend of strengths and struggles. Own who you are and find a way to celebrate it. We all miss out if you don’t find a way to be yourself