Deviating from your true self can create a lot of conflict in your life. Recognise who you are. Be yourself.
Someone once asked, "When we are all born originals, why do so many of us die copies?"
A baby is born—new and magical. As it evolves into an adult, there is very little of the magic left. It is now a person with various identities. He may belong to a religion like millions of other followers. He may enjoy reading like scores of other people. He may go for a job, approved by parents and teachers alike. He may argue eloquently on politics, with ideas gleaned from books and other media. However, does he have anything that distinguishes him from anyone else in this universe? More importantly, does he behave as though he is an 'original'?
You are truly unique
When you wake up in the morning, do you revel in the thought that you are 'You'? Or do you think you are condemned to a mundane existence of sustaining yourself? If someone told you that you were uniquely beautiful, with inimitable talents and ideas, would you laugh at that person? No two human beings on this planet, not even twins, share their DNA completely. We are all born with distinctive physical and mental traits.
There is no one who smiles exactly the way you do. There is no one who possesses your sense of humour. Your mannerisms, your gait, your way of crying and laughing, the way you scream, everything is unique to you. Yes, you are unique, but to let it shine through in all spheres of your life, to let it set your personality aglow, you must realise and live by your individuality. If you want to be original, you must believe in your uniqueness.
Knowing who you are
Take a few minutes to go through this little exercise. On a piece of paper, write down your answer to the question—'Who am I?'
Do not list your roles—student, parent, professional, etc. Mention the aspects that make you feel the way you do. These could be your principles, likes, and dislikes; anything that you believe forms the core of your personality. Do you find it difficult to go beyond the roles that you perform? Most of us do. But keep at it and once you begin to write, you may not want to stop.
Once you have finished, assess your answer, and discard anything that is not truly 'You'. Think deeply about whether the things you have mentioned are products of your own thoughts or those borrowed from the society and your family. Evaluate honestly whether you really know who you are.
The best way to know your true self is to act like you already do. For a week, literally think before you speak. Say what you truly feel and not what is expected of you, what you say out of sheer habit. This does not mean that you put yourself under the pressure of coming up with brilliant and innovative statements. One of the leading figures of the Irish literary renaissance, James Stephens explains, "Originality does not consist in saying what no one has ever said before, but in saying exactly what you think".
To say what you really think, forget that you are being judged. Lose the fear of public opinion. Do not be afraid to put forth your ideas, however impractical or inane you consider them to be. There is no rule which says that you have to conform to everything that society dictates. Set your own path and follow your own trend. In fact, you may be surprised to find that most people appreciate individuality. John Mason, author of 'You're Born an Original. Don't Die a Copy', remarks, "An original is hard to find but easy to recognise".
Human beings are mentally wired to look for similarities rather than differences; and this helps in affinity and bonding. However, variety is the spice of life. No two people are completely alike. Originality is, in essence, the art of being natural. Shed any pretensions or contrived notions. If your natural impulse is to sing with the birds, do so. Do you find yourself nodding with the opinions of your spouse or parent? Take the time to nurture your own unique views. Admiration of and learning from others is good but apply this learning to foster your natural self. American composer and pianist George Gershwin puts it thus, 'The originator uses material and ideas that occur round him and pass through him. And out of his experience comes the original creation.'
Think naturally. Originality will follow.
Let us all be able to proclaim proudly like Oscar-winning actor Elizabeth Taylor, 'I'm not like anyone. I'm me.'