Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life’s cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another, you have only an extemporaneous, half possession.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essay II Self-Reliance
I discovered a handwritten version of this quotation in an old journal last week. Once again, it struck me as profound and extremely helpful as I navigate life. Over the years, I have looked outside myself, compared my choices with yours, thought that I should be doing this because you are doing this. I’ve compared my impact with yours, forgetting that you are you and I am me. I’ve forgotten that the reason you are so capable at that has a lot to do with the life experiences you’ve encountered on the road to now.
When I am in the comparing place, I come up short. My self-esteem, abilities and impact shrink. When I am trying to be you, I can’t help but fail.
Does that ever happen to you?
When, however, I look back at the experiences, training, parenting and societal influences that have brought me to this point in my life, I see what has shaped the person I am today. When I value who I am and serve with the cumulative force of my life’s cultivation, I feel good about myself and my life’s work has great impact.
Think about it. Where in your life are you 100% you? What is the impact of you at those times? What is your impact when you are imitating another, doing it their way?
A critical note before leaving this topic is in order. Self-reliance does not mean we don’t receive help from others. It doesn’t mean we don’t keep growing and learning in this lifetime. What it means, however, is that we look within to discover how we, personally, will incorporate the learning into our lives. It means that we trust ourselves enough to be who we are, not some watered down version of someone else. It means we value ourselves enough to let our uniqueness shine.
What makes you YOU?
In what ways do you hide?
Who is missing out because of it?
What power lies in your authenticity?