I grew up in a culture where confidence was valued, the mantras often being repeated...."be yourself," and "never change who you are."
I went to a private all girls school, where you would think that uniforms, strict schedules and rules would increase conformity, but it did the opposite. We struggled to increase our uniqueness, to stand out, to be different, to be remembered. We prided ourselves on being strong women who knew who we were, who weren't afraid to stand up in what we believed in.
But here I am, 10 years later, struggling with the juxtaposition between a culture that says "Be yourself" but also the deep desire to be well liked, to fit in, to have harmony and unity within all of my relationships.
I watch girly girl movies, read girly girl books.... often that have the theme of being true to yourself. Don't be afraid to be who you are! I pump my fist in the air and defiantly think.. that's right! I don't need to change who I am. I can be proud to be who I am!
Then I spend a weekend with people who aren't at all like I am, who don't appreciate people who talk too much, stick their foot in their mouth occasionally, make sarcastic jokes, raise their voice when they are excited and/or angry....
And I realize being "myself" can't be an excuse to be rude, to make others uncomfortable, to dominate conversation. Being "who I am" can't be a constant.
Leo Tolstoy said "Everyone thinks to change the world, but no thinks to change himself." I have a suspicion that we don't think to change ourselves because we don't want to admit that there's something that needs changing. It's to admit that there might be something wrong with me and not them.
I think this is a principle that can be best illustrated with our spouses. It's obvious to women that their husbands can't stay in their natural state. They can't use the reasoning "I have to be myself" to avoid romantic gestures, or kind words that don't come naturally to them. They can't use their love of sports to avoid helping with the kids on Sunday. They can't use their "silent" personality to avoid important conversations with their wife. Or their "shyness" to avoid social dinners, business meetings, or family functions.
My children are wonderful. I love them dearly .... but, I see things growing in my children that I wish I didn't. They clearly mirror insecurities and imperfections that I see in myself, fully bloomed.
And to use a defense of "This is who I am," holds little weight when raising up children.