Why Seth Godin would agree that I shouldn’t read his blog (right now).
If one more person forwards me Seth Godin’s blog, I’ll scream. It’s not that I don’t like it, I think it is spot on! His writing is clear, concise and mercifully bullshit-free. I’d love for my blog to be like Seth Godin’s. With Martha Beck’s wisdom. And Thích Nhat Hanh’s spirit. And Tim Urban’s humor. But if there׳s one mantra these wise men and women repeat, it is this: tune in to your own voice and just be yourself. Or, as the millennial say: #youdoyou.
Of course, ‘just be yourself’ is not new advice. It’s the words my mom called out to me on my first day of school, my dad said to me on the way to my first job interview. The ones I say to my own kids when they’re embarking on a new adventure.
What is it about ‘just be yourself’ that requires so much reminding?
Well, for one thing, we don’t live by ourselves — if we did, we wouldn’t be having this conversation -- too busy running around long-haired and naked in our respective corners of the world. Because you’ve been doing you since you were born, until you started hearing the rules of what we do and don’t do, as given to you by your parents. Rules to explain how the world works, so that you’re ready to launch at the appointed time. Saying please and thank you and use your words and sharing is caring, aren’t just niceties, they’re tools we pass on to our kids so that they can be more widely accepted in the world we live in (by the way, as human as these tools feel, animals do it, too. Instinctively understanding that the more liked their offspring are in the world, the higher their rate of survival. This from a book recommended by my brilliant bestie, which I now pass to you: Sarah Blaffer Hrdy’s Mother Nature. Be forewarned - it’s 753-pages long.)
How we interpret the rules we receive are extremely personal. And if you are someone for whom the rules don’t feel right, the valley between just-be-yourself and follow-the-rules can widen so much as to cause a split between who you are and who you think you should be. Then you feel lost, adrift, and in need of assistance to connect to your essence. That’s where mentors come in handy, sharing their words of wisdom, authentically and wholeheartedly so that you can hear what you need for yourself.
I spent years reading these books, doing The Work and participating in workshops. As is my nature, I delved into whatever I was learning at the time: loving what is, embracing positivity, nurturing my femininity, swinging right over my center as I raced to implement authentic behavior. With time I learned that tuning in to myself requires tuning out the voices around me.
What makes this tricky is that the very nature of what I do calls for a high level of coachability, of being open to input, of embracing other ideas. Closing myself off, unsubscribing from my favorite blogs and retreating from retreats are counter to my core of loving to learn. But when that moment comes, I know I need to shut out the outside voices in order to hear my own. To stop reading and watching and attending and turn that innate curiosity inwards.
I don’t recommend this to everyone, of course. There are plenty of arrogant assholes out there who could benefit greatly from stopping to listen to themselves and opening their minds and hearts to let in the opinion of others. But that doesn’t happen to be my issue. Nor yours, I imagine.
Next time you find yourself drifting, consider that your best answer is in you. That you’ve taken the best that your mentors have to offer and that you’re now turning it into yourself. Instead of wondering ‘what would Jesus (or Maya Angelou) do?’ Ask yourself what your most authentic, truest to yourself, #youdoyou would do.
I bet your response will be spot on. And I bet Seth Godin would agree.