I was painfully shy as a child and I hated it. Instead of being withdrawn and quiet, I always wished I could be the social butterfly. I wanted to be funnier and more engaging and more charismatic–I wanted to be that person who everyone was drawn to.
And so for a long time, I strove to become someone “better”–I strove to become a more outgoing, more social, more likeable version of myself.
It took me years of effort and struggle to realize that I was approaching things all wrong. In fact, I came to realize, there’s nothing worse than self-improvement. We don’t have to become someone “better” or “stronger” or more “likeable.” We don’t have to become more of anything at all.
Because there’s no one better than who we are already.
Remember Michelangelo? (No, not the Ninja Turtle–the Renaissance artist, silly.)
You know the story of how he crafted his renowned sculpture, David, right?
He didn’t ask, “How can I make this block of marble shinier? How can I make it bigger?” He didn’t try to add anything to the block of stone or to change the quality of its nature.
Instead, he simply chipped away all that was not its true nature, and in doing so he allowed David, in all his nude glory, to emerge.
He allowed it to become more of what it already was.
In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.
So it is with ourselves, too. Instead of self-improvement, perhaps we ought to call this process “self-embracement.” After all, it’s not about becoming someone better or improved or someone who you aren’t. Instead, it’s about embracing who you are already (and who you always have been).
Own that. Become that. Instead of striving to become someone you aren’t, allow yourself to melt into your core.
I’m not sure exactly how or when it happened, but one day I came to the realization that maybe I didn’t need to become someone else. Maybe I didn’t need to become the social butterfly or the loud, entertaining center of attention–maybe I was ok as who I was. And so I began allowing myself to become comfortable with my quieter nature and to sink into the qualities of who I was already.
In practicing self-embracement, my quiet nature came off not as shy and insecure and awkward like I’d feared, but as calm and accepting and inviting. I learned that my quiet could hold deep power: I spoke less but when I did speak, what I said was filled with power and intentionality.
And here’s the weird thing: the more I embraced my quieter nature, the more people were drawn to me, until I suddenly realized that I’d achieved the results that I’d been striving for for years.
It didn’t happen through self-improvement, though–it didn’t happen because I became more outgoing or louder or more charismatic. Instead, it happened because I helped people feel comfortable and accepted and because I truly listened. It happened because I allowed myself to become more of who I am already– to fully show up as that person I was born as.
If you want to fulfill your greatest potential, don’t strive to become someone better. Instead, let yourself show up as who you already are.
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[Image by a tai]