True confession. I’ve always struggled with poetry. For some reason, I thought it was highbrow and hoity-toity. Don’t ask me about the origins of my opinion, as I am not sure I understand it or can explain.
It probably had something to do with struggles reading poetry aloud in school and having far more childhood exposure to Mad Magazine than either the New Yorker or The Atlantic.
But now, I am on a quest to become a poet. It’s not that I seek to master rhythmic verse and iambic pentameter. That might be a bit of a stretch for me.
Perhaps it’s more accurate to say; I am seeking to follow the advice of one particular poet.
I find great solace and solidarity with e.e. cummings in “A Poet’s Advice”.
A poet is somebody who feels, and who expresses his feeling through words. This may sound easy. It isn’t. A lot of people think or believe or know they feel - but that’s thinking or believing or knowing; not feeling. And poetry is feeling- not knowing or believing or thinking. Almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know, but not a single human being can be taught to feel. Why? Because whenever you think or your believe or you know, you’re a lot of other people: but the moment you feel, you’re nobody-but-yourself. To be nobody-but-yourself - in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else-means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.
That poem was written before I was born, yet as I read it now, I hear e.e. cummings shouting the existential challenge of millions in our day. To be nobody-but-yourself.
The battle to be you…and only you
Think of it as the authenticity challenge. To be you, the one-and-only real you. 100% genuine and authentic. No imitations.
We have always had external forces and voices seeking to shape societal norms to conform and confine you to be somebody other than yourself. In today’s world, those voices are amplified and magnified. Many times over.
When e.e. cummings first penned those words (1958), radio was the most prevalent form of mass media. Television was still making it meteoric rise. By 1960, nine out of ten US homes had just one television. Most of those televisions had only three channels and the screens turned to snow at midnight after playing the National Anthem.
Now, with the advent of smartphones, most US homes today have about ten screens and 90% of all media is consumed via a screen of some sort and 38% of it via smartphones.
And with the rise of new media, and specifically social media, you now have immediate, and persistent, access to an ocean of opinions of the somebody-other-than-yourself you should be.
Those opinions include:
What you should believe,
How you should think,
How you should dress,
What movies or music you should like,
Where, and how, you should eat, play, or vacation,
Who you should hang out with,
What you should value, and
How you assess and assign a value to yourself.
I hear cummings say that there are plenty of people willing to teach you to “think or believe or know” how or what to feel.
You know what others expect of you, but you don’t know:
who you really are,
what you truly want, or
how you feel.
That, my friend, is the authenticity crisis. And it is paralyzing millions. Maybe even you.
On top of that, you find it hard to believe that you, YOU are unique.
The quest, should you choose to accept it is, to discover the real you. The nobody-but-yourself you. And then fight to be the one and only you.
How do you do that?
First, believe you are unique. And that you are uniquely formed, fashioned, or created — whatever word works best for you.
Second, commit to discovering the real you. This task will require some introspection and perhaps even some conversations with close friends or a confidant. Answer the questions: what do you really want out of life? What gives you joy?
Find somewhere to write — in your journal, Evernote, or somewhere and write five answers to this question, “If you really knew me, you would know…”
Speaking of authenticity, here are a few of my answers to that question:
If you really knew me, then you would know…
- I am a Christ-follower.
- I want to be admired most by those who know me best.
- My favorite clothes are bluejeans. If I could, I’d wear them every day.
- I have Celiac Disease and follow a strict gluten-free diet.
- I have struggled with insecurity and had bouts of depression.
- I am an introvert. While I love being around people, I must have time alone to recharge.
As you get to know me better, there’s more to tell. Just as there is with you. But you don’t put it all out there early in a relationship.
Third, find a circle of people who love the authentic you and support you being the best you, you can be. You do the same for them.
Fourth, stop listening to the other voices. That may require you to change your circle of friends, limit your time on social media, or sign off entirely for a season.
There’s more. Much more. But hopefully, this will get you started on the journey.Living authentically isn’t always easy, but it’s always worthwhile.Click To Tweet
Discover the real you
I’m not sure about my quest to become a poet, but I do want to live authentically and cummings advice applies to all of us who share that desire.
Hear the closing lines of “A Poet’s Advice”,
Does this sound dismal? It isn’t. It’s the most wonderful life on earth.
I hope you find the most wonderful life on earth and know your deepest joy by living it.
Discovering your authentic self is part of what’s needed for living your WHY and sharing your unique contribution to the world, your world.
If discovering your authentic self and Living Your WHY are something you want help with, contact me or enter your name and email below. We are forming group coaching groups now that will launch right after the holidays to help you live your WHY more fully in 2017. Enter your name and email if you want to know more.
Image by Ellerslie and obtained from DepositPhotos Television stats - http://hypertextbook.com/facts/2007/TamaraTamazashvili.shtml Smartphone stats - http://techatlast.com/average-number-of-screens-in-home-increased/