The Work of Being Your Self
Navigating The Five Dynamic Dilemmas Of Life
“Just be yourself.” This advice, given when someone is facing a challenge or opportunity, advocating that our natural self will win the day, is certainly a vote of confidence, but it is also nearly always useless. The counsel is too vague to be useful. It neither tells us what to do or how to be in order to “be yourself.” It implies that this magical accomplishment, just be yourself, should be easy and effortless and, in fact, the most natural thing we could do.
The problem is that our “natural self” is a mixed bag at best, a blend of empowering and limiting beliefs and experiences and a messy mix of worries and wishes. The Buddhist tradition, which has a very long history of introspection, even asserts that the “self" is an illusion. So, how in the world are we going to suddenly just be ourselves in those situations where we believe more is at risk and we are likely under judging eyes. The Work Of Being Your Self, my 5th book of poetry, uses poetry, questions to ponder, and writing prompts to tackle this theme and addresses some of the key tasks in the work of being your Self.
The book is divided into five sections and each section explores a dichotomy that we must balance in our lives. These are not conflicts you can resolve once and for all, check them off the to-do list, and then lay them to rest. They are dynamic dilemmas: each is like a continuum and there is no one right place to set up as a permanent residence. Each must be renegotiated at different points in life and each may require a different adaptive blend for different moments. The section titles are:
- Safety and Risk
- Head and Heart
- Fight and Flow
- Self and Other
- Here and There
The structure of the book reflects the title: it is intended as a workbook. No one can substitute for you when it comes to living your own life and only you can do the difficult and often puzzling work of being yourself. Avoid the work at the risk of living at the whim of the world and ending your life with the top regret expressed by the dying according to Nurse Bronnie Ware: “I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” This is not new. Over 2500 years ago, Socrates said it another way: “The unexamined life is not worth living.”
The Work Of Being Yourself will be available at Amazon.com on August 1, 2016. You can order a digital version of the book at a pre-release special price here: