Desiderata by Max Ehrmann is a 1927 prose poem. "Desiderata" (Latin: "desired things")
10. Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection.
The hardest thing I've ever had to do is learn to be myself – to figure out who I am; to find and establish my identity; to love myself. It was a 30 year journey that was challenging. I think it's supposed to be.
This is a developmental task that all of us face in some degree depending on our childhood history and personal experiences. As I said earlier, when I became aware that something was wrong, I turned to self-help books. My first reading was by Dr. Jerry Greenwald, Be the Person you were Meant to be (1973).
Recognizing that I was not the person I wanted to be, I discovered in my reading that I had to love myself first. That's where I was. I was looking to be loved, but I didn't love myself. So, why didn't I love myself? How did this happen? I was exposed to love and support just as I was exposed to indifference and criticism. I had my gifts, my talents, my innocence.
Looking back, I think my grandmother was concerned that I was living in my own imaginary world. She was right. I had created an alternate reality to cope with the pain, anger and rejection I couldn't identify. Eventually, I could no longer use my imaginary world to escape my duty to myself. The realization was that I was afraid that if I became myself, no one would love me.
The irony slapped me in the face. I don't feel loved because I don't love the person I am; but I'm afraid to be the person I was meant to be because no one will love me. I had to make a choice. So I made it.
I looked at my fears and my self deception. I looked at how I sabotaged myself and what was lacking in my character. I mourned and grieved that I would not receive that special love that only a father could give. In spite of our conflict and uneasy relationship, and while vowing to be different, I made peace with my mother. She, too, had her story.
I accepted what I had inherited from her: her beautiful singing voice, her love for reading; her intelligence; her love for perfumes and lipstick; her rebelliousness; her resiliency; her stubbornness; her vulnerability. Nevertheless, she had a strong work ethic, and was her mother's only child who fulfilled her role as her devoted, primary caregiver.
My Eureka moment was that moment when, after reading the classic self-help book, Your Erroneous Zones by Dr. Wayne Dyer, I realized I was a mess. I had to learn the excruciating lesson of letting go of the past. It could not be changed. My future was in my adult hands. No more excuses.
I started working on becoming the person I was meant to be. The person I would like and respect. The person I would hold accountable for her actions and decisions. I would stop feigning affection out of fear of rejection and low self-esteem. I must admit, however, that along my journey, the pendulum swung to the other extreme until I found my balance.
Be yourself. Be the person you were meant to be. Explore your erroneous zones. It's ongoing. You're never done. It's dynamic, not static. As shared by the cute little, scholarly kitty in an inspirational poster, “Just when I thought I knew all of the answers, they changed the questions.”
Thank you for reading. What are your thoughts?
Dedicated to my sons Jibri and Chris, my privilege and blessing. EcwmB