Let Your Light Shine

Many years ago, when I was in seventh or eighth grade, I remember buying a teen magazine that had an article in it about how to be more popular.  Like most kids that age, I definitely wanted to be more popular, and so I eagerly read the article.  I remember one paragraph in particular that went something like, “Forget all that advice about just ‘being yourself!’  What’s so special about being yourself?  If you want more people to like you, you need to figure out how to fit in with the crowd!”

I may have been a typical early teenager, struggling with raging hormones, self-doubt and all the other issues that go with that difficult phase of life, I was still horrified by what I read.  Even then, I knew that there was something very wrong with the advice to bury my true identity and simply copy the behavior I saw all around me in order to have more friends.  I’d like to say that from that moment on, I stopped worrying about what others thought about me and always spoke and acted according to my own conscience, but that would be a lie.  In my defense, I was very young and still unsure of so many things, including who I really was and what I really believed.

But now that I’m all grown up (and then some), I no longer have that excuse.  One of the benefits of aging is that we begin to understand exactly who we are and we tend to know exactly what we do and do not believe.  Yet there are still times when I struggle to live according to my own principles, and still hesitate to show my true self or share my true opinions, mostly out of fear of how others are going to react if I do.

Sadly, the times we live in encourages this sort of fear because we’re conditioned to only accept those people who are “just like us.”  And so we keep quiet about any aspect of our personality or any of our beliefs that we think might cause someone else to reject us. I don’t like to tell people I’m a political Independent, because I’ve found that as soon as someone discovers you don’t support their party, they automatically believe you really (if secretly) support the opposing party.  I often hesitate to tell people I’m a Christian, because there is such a variety of beliefs in Christianity that I’m afraid they’ll misunderstand what I actually believe.  I could go on, but you get the picture.

Still, I think the time has come for me to stop being so afraid of rejection (or conflict) that I hide some of who I really am and what I really think.  I guess I’ve reached the age where I’d like to have the courage to live according to my own values, and just accept the reaction that gets.  Plus, I try very hard to accept other people for who they really are, and pride myself on having close friends and family whose beliefs are very different from mine.  If I’m willing to accept other people’s true selves, then shouldn’t I give other people the chance to do the same for me?

I’ve always liked that saying, “just be yourself–everyone else is already taken!”  Words to live by……

97 thoughts on “Let Your Light Shine

    • So true! Someone once told me that I wasn’t responsible for anyone’s actions or reactions but my own. And they were right. It’s on us to be genuine and kind….we really can’t control how others are going to react to us.

      Liked by 3 people

    • I thought so, too! I think the key is to accept people as they are, and also to recognize when someone is toxic to us, and to put as much distance as possible between us and the toxic people. That doesn’t mean those who are different, it just means those who are trying to hurt us or others. I don’t think you should feel guilty about taking care of yourself in that way at all!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I think that’s a good plan, Carolyn! Not just because it keeps us out of trouble, but because talking less and listening more helps us understand others so much better. When we understand why they think and behave the way they do, it makes it easier not to react to them…we may not agree, but at least we know where they are coming from and that can make it easier to find common ground and tolerance. Plus, no one will listen to us if we aren’t first willing to listen to them!

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Great message, especially now at Christmas time, Ann! I feel very much the same about what it really means to be oneself. I need to be independent of other people’s opinions, to be true to my beliefs, yet tolerant enough to accept other people with different viewpoints. Even if we fail from time to time, such a position is more rewarding in the end. Merry Christmas!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Jill! I think the media definitely fuels the flames, if we allow that. I truly hope we never lose the ability to think for ourselves, with eyes and hearts wide open. That’s the only way to peacefully coexist, I think. As for Carolyn’s advice, it is spot on!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Lisa! And I like the way you put that: to be ourselves, with manners. Sometimes we use “being ourselves” as an excuse to run roughshod over other people’s feelings, and of course it is never an excuse for that. It just means we are being true to our own values and beliefs, which leaves plenty of room to treat others well. Merry Christmas to you and yours too!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with Jill that the media – traditional journalism, cable tv, and social media – fuel the flame. Rather than either accepting others for who they are or what they believe, we have been conditioned to push back or, even worse, stay in our own self-selected opinion loop where we never hear another opinion. I used to love a good discussion with someone who didn’t believe the way I do. I was actually able to learn something new. Now it’s difficult to find people you can have that type of give-and-take with.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh, you are so right, Janis! Now it’s all about winning the argument, not listening to a different point of view with an open mind and even a touch of respect. And the result of that is that good people are afraid to say much of anything at all, so all we hear are the extreme voices at both ends of the spectrum, via the news and social media. It makes the world seem a much more hateful place than it actually is. We can learn so much from those who are different, if we can find the courage to really listen to them.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ann, I remember poring over those teen magazines, looking for the secret key to fitting in. So glad I never saw that particular piece of advice—what a terrible message to send to insecure and impressionable teenagers! No wonder it takes us decades to feel comfortable saying, “This is who I am. Take it or leave it.” It is good to be at an age where we’re no longer self-conscious or trying to be something we’re not. I love the saying, “just be yourself–everyone else is already taken.” That’s the message teen magazines should be spreading.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I know! Someone said it was Oscar Wilde who first came up with that, but whoever it was, it was a very wise saying. I couldn’t believe that someone was advising teens to just “go along to get along,” because that’s so damaging to young people. Even us not-so-young people sometimes struggle with that!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Ann, I think you’re more accepting of people than I am. I prefer to be with people who more or less have my outlook on life. I like progressive thinking and progressive politics. And I’m fine with people who are centrists. But hard-line right-wingers? No way.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I don’t have a problem listening to people who believe differently from me, because I want them to be willing to listen to me. Personally, where I draw the line is with people who say hateful things about others, ridicule them, or encourage violence. I won’t listen to that! But I have found that even those who have radically different political ideas can have good hearts, and I think it would be my loss to dismiss them. We have to share our world with all sorts, so I figure I may as well just accept that. But each of us get to make our own choices in that department, and if you’re more comfortable associating with people who are more like-minded, that’s also fine! We all are who we are!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I agree, Lorie! It’s so easy to assume that those who think or act differently than we do are actually kind of evil. But if we get to know them, we find out that often isn’t the case at all. And if we weren’t quite so quick to judge, then it really would be easier for all of us to be ourselves.

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  5. That is excellent advice because if we took the time to understand others, we may understand why their position may be opposed to ours, If we can understand that, then they are no longer a perceived threat and any differences become unimportant.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. A good friend of mine, who is a couple of years older than I, told me something I had never heard at the time. I was about to turn 40 and feeling a bit down about leaving my 30’s. When she heard me say it out loud, she said, “When I turned 40, I told myself I have reached the age where I am more free to say what I think & don’t care how it’s received.”. I can’t say I went headlong with her view, but I did loosen up lots after that and it felt good. I’m knocking on the door of 60 now and feeling fairly free to speak my mind more than ever. Maybe with age we have considered all other views around us and come to the knowledge that we have something to bring to the table. If I make it through my upcoming 60’s, I wonder how I will feel about it all at 70?

    Liked by 6 people

    • That’s an excellent point, Alan! My guess is that by the time you’re 70, you will be even more willing to speak you mind, and even more tolerant of people who think differently. As you say, we all do bring something to the table, and we need to own that. Sometimes, our words may be just what another person needs to hear and a real gift to them!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Dear Ann, what an insightful post and timely reminder. I can see how that magazine article had such a lasting impact on you. I appreciate your reflection on it. We are all publishers now, aren’t we, in this think-aloud online world? We would be honoured to see more of your true, thoughtful self.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Tracy! And yes, my ability to remember that article all those years later says just how much of an impact it made on me. (Not the least of which was the knowledge not to believe everything I read!) And I agree that part of the problem we have in society now is that we are all publishers…That can be a very good thing, but it also gives a much stronger voice to intolerance, hate, and just plain poor advice!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. That is a profound post. Indeed, now is as good a time not to to prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet. Being still in the bondage of my employer, it does get tricky at times. People are so full of themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! And yes, there are situations where we can’t always express our true selves, and our jobs tend to be one of those. I hope that your employer becomes a bit more tolerant of you, or that you are able to have a different boss sometime in the near future. And I love that saying “to prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet.” Is that yours? I’ve read enough of your work to know it could be!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. The climate is one of trying not to give offense while it seems the whole world is walking around with a chip on the shoulder just waiting for an excuse to be offended! The message at church was that we have to “let our light shine” and be willing to show the world who we are. Not in a manner challenging people to be offended but rather in living by example… Not always the easiest thing to do but I’m trying my best! Hope to see the real you continue to step out into the world!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! I do get a little braver with my posts the longer I’m in the blogging world….my guess is we all do. And I remember when my kids were young and having drama with their circles of friends, my advice was exactly the same. Lead by example! Be the sort of friend you want your friends to be. Often that is far more effective than telling people what you think.

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  10. hey I learnt quite young that I didn’t want to be just like others, that I preferred to be a bit different! That has caused me grief with others but brought immense personal satisfaction ❤

    There will always be small minded people and I guess I'm quite comfortable in my own skin 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I used to really dislike being different from my peers, being much thinner, darker, shorter, etc. It seemed wherever I went I was slightly outside the norm or average. I love it now. And being much older is the best thing to happen to me. 😁 The confidence I feel and carry is most awesome; it isn’t because of anything external but because I am just comfortable with who I am. I think aging does that. I still care about what others might say but it doesn’t make me lose sleep, and it’s not often.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good for you for accepting your true self! It does give us much more confidence than trying to be like others, even if we happen to be very good at copying other people. I don’t think we’ll ever enjoy having someone criticize or reject us, but it is so going to get to the point where we don’t let it really bother us. Thanks for this comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. OMG… if I ever tried to “fit” into what someone else “thought” I should be doing or saying I would have had a very sad life! The problem with all the instant, emotionally charged, polarized comments thrown at us moment to moment is that it makes us “think” we don’t have a voice, that we as individuals and collective humans shouldn’t have a point of view or that it won’t be valued. We all have to be who we are and listening is important but also collectively voicing our opinions so that we are heard. But, more than anything else we all need to be kind to everyone who may not have our point of view or experience. We have more in common than we have differences. Wishing you and your family Ann a peaceful holiday.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. This was a great post! There are also so many good comments here! Being ourselves is a gift to others; when other people are themselves it is a gift to us.The funny this is that the more we are able to be who we really are, the more those around us feel free to be who they are. Any real relationship we have with anyone is based on mutual respect. If someone cannot appreciate our values and beliefs for what they are, they do not respect us. Age teaches us to value who we are, and to respect ourselves regardless of what anyone else thinks. At the end of the day, we must be true to ourselves, and work on being the very best self we can be.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I believe that, too….the more genuine we are, the more the people around us feel comfortable being genuine themselves. And I also agree that relationships are based on respect, and that if someone can’t respect our beliefs, then they can’t really respect us too. It is absolutely possible to respect someone’s beliefs without sharing them. Heck, I can’t think of anyone who shares every single one of my beliefs!!! And that’s as it should be!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. As usual your post is spot on and thought provoking. It reminded me of a personal experience from a past life when I was working in the corporate world.
    As a younger man when I started gaining certain prominence as a manager in the corporate world I always felt a little inferior to the executives with whom I worked with and for. Not due to anything they did but because i didn’t have the education and experience they did, I was not as financially prosperous, and was not as business savvy I lacked confidence when I compared myself to them. I was a very good manager however and they all recognized that. I was more comfortable interacting with the employees whom I managed and was myself around them; loose, witty, and irreverent at times. As I got older into my late 30’s, had kids, etc. I became much more comfortable letting my guard down and being myself. I stopped trying to be or look like or talk like the executives and was just myself around them. It was then that prospered even more professionally. Two of the greatest compliments I ever received in my work life we’re from my boss the COO who pointed out I was effective because I was comfortable In my own skin. The other was from the Sr. VP of Sales at the time who in a large group said, “Mike is the most buttoned up guy in the company. I never worry about the trains running on time if Mike is at then helm.”

    Had I not learned, or allowed myself, to be myself I don’t think I would have been as successful professionally.

    Merry Christmas Ann. I hope you and yours have a wonderful and blessed holiday.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for sharing that story, Michael! I think it’s something we can all learn from: when we find the courage to be our genuine selves, we also are being our best selves. Trying to be what we think others want us to be just holds us back. I’m not surprised that your career took off when you began acting more according to your true personality, because that allowed your co-workers and (more importantly) your bosses to see just what you could do. And obviously, they were impressed! Funny how much more people think of us when we stop worrying about trying to please them!

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  15. “…fear of how others are going to react” seems to keep many of us reigned in. Especially when it comes to social media, where we know family members (who may not see eye to eye with us) are able to see every comment and opinion we share. As this country becomes more divided, acceptance is a rarity. It’s something we all need to work on.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree! Social media allows people to react to our thoughts from all over the world, and since we see so many ugly responses there, it does make it hard for us to feel comfortable being genuine. (My favorite line from the show “Blackish” is where the grandmother tells her daughter-in-law that “at this very moment there’s a picture of a ham sandwich on Instagram getting death threats!” It’s so true!) Acceptance is something we all need to work on. Here’s hoping we do!

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Boy, that was some bad advice being dished out in the early 70’s! But I’m sure there’s plenty of that to go around today as well. All kids up to a certain age want to fit in, but I think those that outgrow it usually end up being more well-adjusted. Hopefully they’ve learned that being different than everyone else can actually be a good thing. Good for you for questioning that mindless article, Ann.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wasn’t it bad, Des? I’m not sure what they were thinking to publish that! But yes, wanting to fit in is normal for teens and preteens, which is why I think kids that age really do need to be reassured that it’s okay to be different. And you’re right…once we grow up, we learn that being different is actually a rather good thing!

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Hi Ann – well that teen magazine gave out some terrible advice! I do tend to keep some of my stronger opinions to myself in a group setting, but I try to show my true self in everyday situations and with my close friends and family, if that makes sense. Have you ever expressed yourself to someone and seen a surprised look on his/her face? It’s happened to me! Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I have! I don’t mind that, but every once in a while I’ve had someone treat me a bit more distantly the minute they found out that I didn’t agree with them on something. It doesn’t bother me any more, though, since I figure that if they only like me when they believe I’m just like them, then they don’t really like me at all!

      Liked by 1 person

  18. I think your authentic self is just peachy, Ann. Of course, I’m a Christian who’s voted an interesting patchwork of candidates in the past, so what do I know? But people who just ape whatever the current zeitgest is always look ridiculous eventually. Best to take flak for being who you really are. : )

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Ah, I think there’s not one person who couldn’t relate to this kind of teenage experience. And what an awful piece of ‘advice’ in that magazine! But it seems to be an vogue even now, or still, with all those people living in the mainstream, saying (if not thinking) the same things out of fear to stand out (and probably be laughed at) – really nothing much seems to have changed since when we all were teenagers…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know, Sarah, and that makes me so sad! We haven’t progressed much at all in terms of how we’re teaching our young people to be okay with who they are, even when they “march tot the beat of a different drummer.” Social media has set us back decades, as far as I am concerned. Self-acceptance is so hard, and yet so very important!

      Liked by 1 person

  20. The last few weeks have flown by like a high-speed train. I read your post before the holidays set in, meant to respond, and then it obviously didn’t happen. I especially resonate with everything you wrote in this post. I am a Christian. And, like you mentioned, because there are a wide variety of beliefs in Christianity, I also hesitate sometimes in saying so. Depending on the group of people I’m with. I hail from a die-hard Democratic family, who I love dearly but don’t always agree with. I’m of neither party and am also an independent voter.

    This was an encouraging and motivating post, as always! I feel especially inspired to be more myself as I accept the differences of others. A great New Year’s resolution.

    I’m glad you are your lovely self, Ann! The world’s a better place for it.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Thanks so much, Brenda! I hope you are able to feel even more comfortable being your true self in the future. I’ve come to realize that it’s a one-step-at-a-time process. (Or at least it is for me!) All I know is that I can, and do, respect and love people who think very differently from me, and I need to learn to trust others to do the same with me. And if I discover that they can’t….well then, do I really want to keep hiding my true self just to stay in relationship with them? We’ll get there, Brenda, I think! The world needs more tolerance!

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