According to legend, an awestruck admirer looked at Michelangelo’s finished statue of David and asked him how he had done it. To which Michelangelo replied: “David was always there in the marble. I just took away everything that was not David.”
I have heard this before, but when I re-read it recently, it struck me very deeply. I began to look inward and apply this to myself. I can truly say that I have begun to work on all that is ‘not Corinne’. In the past, my definition of myself was really hazy, but now I see who I am much more clearly and am working on chipping away all the unnecessary stuff.
I believe our journey towards being ourselves is a journey towards being real – towards being authentic. I found that the best way was to consciously identify the values that are most important to me.
I always recall the story of the little boy who came home from school with a pencil that wasn’t his. His father lectured him on the evils of stealing and then proceeded to say, “Son, the next time you want a new pencil let me know, I’ll get one from the office.” I often ask myself: Does my behavior reflect my values?
Finding a way to express our feelings about a situation or a behavior that causes us pain is also part of being authentic. I try to remember the distinction between being real and being right. My feelings about a situation or someone’s behavior are based on my perceptions and they may not always be right. However, I cannot pretend that I don’t have these feelings. So I try to find a way of sharing them in a way that is real. (Read more about this in Mike Robbin’s article, here).
The strange thing is sometimes people find it hard to accept the ‘real’ me. I find that people have a certain notion of who I am, and when I don’t live up to this, they are often disappointed. I wrote about this experience a while back – ‘Being Too Nice Is Not Nice’. Now, I’d rather be real than nice. I also found that learning to say ‘no’ was a very important step in being authentic.
I realized an important truth: you might disappoint people, but your desire to be authentic must outweigh your fear of being unpopular.
There are areas in my life that I am still struggling to be authentic in. Like Michelangelo, I need to be able to consistently focus on the inside and keep chipping away at all that is not ‘me’.
Are you on a similar journey? I would love to hear about it.