A couple of trainers were talking about physiques they find inspiring. It got me thinking – of course, nobody can out Jackie Chan Jackie Chan. Nobody can be more Christine Girard than Christine Girard. There’s nobody more Kardashian than Kardashian. We all know this, even if we do use other people’s physiques as some sort of inspiration.
And of course, nobody will be more Chris than Chris, but it’s far less glamourous to simply be yourself. Where’s the fun in that?! It’s just reality! Maybe it’s because it’s no work, and we like the idea of working at something, modelling ourselves after something, having someone else lead the way. Choosing to walk your own path is a bit lonely. You are automatically endorsed and comforted when you walk behind or with someone else.
But it actually requires zero work to be yourself, because you are naturally yourself. That’s just the way it is. It is pointless to try to be yourself, because yourself is what you are when you aren’t trying. Any concerted effort will only move you away from yourself, usually in the direction of only vague ideas or concepts, but away from reality, in much the same way as focusing on mindfulness makes you less mindful, because you wind up only thinking about mindfulness.
We try to be the best version of ourselves when we wish to diminish shyness or insecurity. This makes sense to me. But do not mistake your insecurities for your character. Insecurity is part of being human. But we rush to seek out status, to know where we stand, we don’t like feeling lost. We like to be in the places we are comfortable, and when we’re uncomfortable we sometimes have to remind ourselves just to be ourselves, to relax, to hold it lightly, to sometimes be okay with not-knowing, to be okay with not quite being okay, to be okay with not yet being the person we wish to be – so that we can move forward without anxiety. So that our insecurities don’t take hold.
Of course, people with impressive physiques or what-have-you – the physique is one thing. But the other thing, maybe that’s what we actually aspire to be like – to be confident, unaffected, unashamed? Stallone is unashamedly himself. It’s not his physique that gives him confidence. But we are used to thinking about these things in a certain way: it must be his physique? If I could replicate that...? But Gordon Liu was never trying to be Sammo Hung, and he was never trying to be Donnie Yen. Stallone was never trying to be Schwarzenegger or Jackie Chan. Melissa McCarthy isn’t trying to be Sandra Bullock, and Sandra isn’t trying to be Melissa, but fuck they make a hilarious team. For whatever they have sacrificed or worked towards, and for all their quirks and flaws and successes – they’re not working at being someone else.
Jackie Chan is a gloriously skilful martial artist. But we like him because he’s funny, not because of his awesome kung fu. What makes him unique is his character, which he brings to all his work.
It’s not about being the best you that you can be, that’s contrived. It’s just about being the you that you are. Then it’s effortless. It just is, without prejudice. You want being you to be effortless. Then if you want to apply yourself to something, to learning skills or developing your acumen, to building your fitness or increasing your flexibility, you’ll have energy you can apply to the task. You can apply effort to the work, because you’re not wasting effort on trying to be some idea or a caricature of yourself. Being yourself doesn’t need to be exhausting. Where you’re at is where you’re at. All versions of you are the best version of yourself.
And if you’re shy, insecure, or you’re in a stressful situation that makes you feel those things – they aren’t the true you so much as they are just part of being human. Welcome, you are one of us! Being shy on a date, insecure at a new job, unsure of your path, feeling fat (even though fat isn’t a feeling), these fears – they feel like the true, secret you, because we feel ashamed of our weaknesses. And so we think of ourselves as shy, as lacking confidence, as flawed. We think our character is built upon secret flaws. But when we display bravery, however small, we do not think of ourselves as brave because that feeling does not exploit our fears. When we love generously, we’re not preoccupied with ourselves in those moments, and of course, we’re not taught that these moments reveal our true characters.
Shame hits close to the bone, so it feels like truth. But it either may or may not be true – that is a separate issue. If it hits close to the bone, it makes you feel exposed and vulnerable. But that’s only the feeling of fragility. We all experience this. What makes you you are not the things that are the same for everyone. What makes you you are the things that are unique.