The awesome power of being yourself | Sunday Observer

The awesome power of being yourself

When I was in Grade 2, the teacher announced that there would be no school the next day because the richest man in the village had died. I was puzzled. Many people died in the village, but they did not close school. Then why did they close school for this man?

I asked Sam, a Grade 8 student, for the reason of the school closure. Most children considered him to know almost everything about such strange events. He turned to me with an air of authority and said, “Didn’t you know that he put up a school building and he owned a rice mill?” I was amazed at my ignorance. I started wondering whether rich and powerful people are controlling this world.

As I grew up I realized that power has many guises. My father was an ordinary cultivator and he had no wealth or fame. No one was afraid of him or cared for him. One day he received a letter from the ‘Grama Sanwardana Samithiya’, a voluntary organization committed to improve the facilities provided to villagers. My father would not have understood that he had been recognized by his community. But I knew that was power.

Dangerous questions

More than 2,000 years ago there was a little man in Greece, an Athenian who used to ask dangerous questions. He did not have a big audience, but there is probably no literate man in the world today who has not heard of him. He was the great philosopher Socrates. St Francis of Assisi gave up his comfortable life to live among the poor giving them whatever comfort he could give. Mohandas Gandhi, who lived in our neighbouring country India, freed his people from the British Empire without shedding blood. His only weapon was ‘Ahimsa’ or non-violence.

Socrates, St Francis of Assisi and Mohandas Gandhi had something in common.

They all spoke and acted as themselves, standing up for what they believed. They had a kind of inner force that compelled them to be true to themselves. However, some critics decry the ‘be yourself’ philosophy as leading to selfishness. But it is not true. ‘Be yourself’ philosophy proceeds from the centre of a person’s life, but such people are not self-centred. They set an example to others to do likewise. Although they do not brag about it, this uncanny power is available to any of us who wish to be ourselves.

‘Be yourself’ concept is as old as the hills. Perhaps, Socrates was the first philosopher to ask, “Who am I?” The basis of his simple philosophy is that this concept is the core of all knowledge. A few centuries later, William Shakespeare wrote, “To thine own self be true … thou canst not then be false to any man.” Like all the great ideas, the concept of ‘Be yourself’ rises and falls with the tides of time.

Search for identity

Today, most young people are searching for their identity. They do not know what they want but struggle against authority and insist on obeying their own conscience. This is happening in our own country and even in Hong Kong. Our own universities have become trouble spots with undergraduates mixing up their priorities. Instead of pursuing their studies diligently, they have become pawns of self-seeking political parties. They should pause for a moment and ask themselves, “How can we make our lives count for something worthwhile?”

When you are true to yourself, you become powerful. To be yourself is a natural, human and universal power which brings with it innumerable blessings. Modern heroes are assertive men in power who manipulate others. However, there are many business organizations headed by genuine people who help others to succeed in life. Naturally, people admire them and also try to imitate them. Such business leaders have something more than a mission and a vision.

They have the inner strength and self-confidence. They may be few in numbers but such people have a kind of moral authority over the others. Their holistic approach to business and human affairs is praiseworthy.

Those who believe in themselves have a sense of direction. They know where they want to go. We have heard of Albert Schweitzer who was a great missionary physician. As a boy he went along with some of his friends to hunt birds in the hills. When he saw a flock of birds singing, other boys got ready with their catapults. Suddenly the church bells began to ring. Bird songs got mixed up with church music. As if he heard a voice from heaven, Albert shooed the birds away and went home. From that day on, he understood the importance of reverence for life. Therefore, nobody laughed at his attitude.

Stark truth

Sometimes, most of us feel tired. This is something common to everybody. However, Dr Josephine A. Jackson, a psychotherapist, said, “The sense of loss of muscular power was really a sense of loss of power on the part of the soul!” Very often we get tired by trying to impress other people. That is the stark truth.

Those who believe in themselves do not dissipate their energy by trying to imitate others. They have no internal conflicts and are happy most of the time. In addition, such people are an inspiration to others.

Those who believe in themselves develop a kind of spirituality. The best example that comes to mind is Martin Luther King Jr. who marched between the clubs and the baying dogs to Selma and electrifying a huge audience in the Washington Mall. His life’s responses sprang from his spirituality.

If you want to be yourself, pay close attention to what is going on in your life. You should also learn to accept the ideas that nothing is wrong with being different from other people. We are meant to be different.

As philosopher Paul Weiss said, “Each one of us is a unique being confronting the rest of the world in a unique fashion.”

From today, try to spend some time with yourself. As Nietzsche rightly said, “Solitude makes us tougher towards ourselves and tenderer towards others.”

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