When are we going to stop striving to be better? Doubtless never. I think it’s normal and quite healthy to want to improve ourselves in all areas of our lives: in our health, our relationships and our work. But what makes me sad is when I see people driven by a fundamental lack of self worth and self love, trying to better themselves because they believe that somehow there’s something wrong with them; that others are better than them and that if they could just be as beautiful, thin, talented or popular as the people they compare themselves unfavourably to, they’d arrive! They will have made it to being in the super cool category of humanity that we call success. But at what cost? The price to pay for not being authentic to who you truly are is to lose yourself in favour of someone you’re not, thereby living life as a bit-part actor, because you can never fully be someone you’re not!  

Last night I went to an event where I saw some of that happening. People were practicing a particular skill to try and improve how they came across to others. Now that’s a good thing; I coach and train people to do the very same. But the problem was they were being encouraged to be someone they were not – their authenticity was being covered over by the act of looking like they were confident by being over-effusive and energetic when it was obvious that not all of them had that personality. I wanted to shout out to them: just let yourself be yourself! It doesn’t matter if you’re not being rah-rah passionate – you have your own personal light to shine, let that out, whatever it is!

It starts so young. As children we are educated to cover over and control who we truly are to fit the mould and be socially approved of. But beauty is in our uniqueness, not in our conformity.

At the age of 13 I wanted to be an older girl from the Mediterranean; in my fantasy I didn’t mind if I was Spanish or Italian; I just wanted lighter skin and richer parents so that I would be liked and accepted instead of taunted for being a Paki, which was inaccurate as I am Indian, but that fell on deaf ears. I truly believed if I was more beautiful, Italian and rich, I would be adored.

I write a great deal about the importance of self-acceptance and self-love as it’s taken me a long, long time to finally accept who I am and love the person I am today. We need to counterbalance the negative self-talk of the ego that pounds our precious beings with ‘you are not enough and need to be and do better’ directives. Understand I am not suggesting we don’t strive to improve ourselves; we could all do with being healthier, more tolerant and kind, knowledgeable, of course! That is what life is about – to keep learning and growing towards being our best selves. But when it’s done in the service of a belief that who you fundamentally are is not ok and somehow wrong, that your uniqueness and individuality is not acceptable to the norm of who and what you think you should be to fit in, believing everyone else is seemingly more successful than you, then that is taking yourself into a long dark tunnel with no cheese at the end.

Back to last night’s event. There was one woman who shone through. Why? Because she was completely authentic. I felt and saw her and not some version of her that she put on to make an impact. She was a powerful communicator just by being herself. And that was enough. That is enough. Funnily enough, the subject of her talk was Connection and the importance of fully connecting with our feelings. Yes! Because that is the way through to our authentic selves. There is no shame in being who you are, so the sooner you drop any shame towards yourself the sooner you can begin to develop a loving relationship to the one who has walked in your skin all your life. I’m reminded of the lyrics of Stevie Wonder’s song, ‘AS’. The song implies that the love the singer has for his mate will never diminish by saying he will love her until the physically impossible becomes true. Those impossible feats include rainbows burning the stars out in the sky, oceans covering the tops of every mountain, dolphins flying and parrots living at sea, dreaming of life and life becoming a dream, day becoming night and vice versa, the Earth turning right to left, the Earth denying itself, Mother Nature saying her work is through, and ‘until the day that you are me and I am you’. My take on this song is that it’s about the great love our Higher Self has for us; not our egos, but that higher part of our Self that knows and loves us more intimately than we can ever love ourselves from our ego state. That God-Self if you like. At least that’s what I like to think.

On the subject of songs, this one nicely expresses the call to be ourselves and proud. Please don’t get caught up in the religious aspect of the song if religion is something you don’t connect with – just listen to the chorus and have fun singing along with it!

Have the Courage to Connect with your unique and authentic self and let your little light shine.