I have been reading Mike Robbins books “Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken.” I would highly recommend it as it is a great reminder of how important it is to be who you are and not who others want or expect you to be. This is not always easy as we all want in some way or another to please someone, or we all want to avoid disappointing another. This can prove difficult because people’s expectations are not something we can have any control over – at all. When we are busy trying to live by another’s measuring rod we are often frustrated at the times we fail to live up to those unrealistic expectations.
You know what I am talking about I am sure. Have you never tried to be what a co-worker expected you to be? A parent expected you to be? A sibling expected you to be? An employee expected you to be? A friend expected you to be? In my context I guess I could add a Bishop expected you to be? A parishioner expected you to be? You get the picture – the list can get pretty mighty. The trouble is, as we work hard at trying to measure up, or not disappoint we lose ourselves in the process. We lose the beloved child that we are. We lose the very essence of what God as created and has deemed good.
In his blog Robins asks;
What if we embraced disappointment instead of avoiding it? It’s inevitable that we will disappoint people, especially when we live our lives in a bold, authentic and passionate way. Speaking up, going for the things that are important to us and taking care of ourselves are all things that at times won’t align with others, and in some cases may even upset them. It is possible for us, however, to be mindful, empathetic and aware of others, and still be true to ourselves — these things don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
As Dr. Seuss so brilliantly said, “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”
Disappointment, as uncomfortable and even painful as it can be for me and many of us, is essential and important on our journey of growth, self-discovery, authenticity and fulfillment. Making peace with disappointing others allows us to release our erroneous demands for perfection. Letting go of our fear of being disappointed by other people gives us the ability to take more risks and ask for what we truly want.
I think Robins is on to something. In a spiritual context I would suggest that what he is onto is the promise that God loves us and is in love with us. We are beloved. We are not perfect and we cannot be anything or anyone than who we are. With God we are loved unconditionally. No ifs! That is a wonderful gift. Henri Nouwen puts it this way:
What can we say about God’s love? We can say that God’s love is unconditional. God does not say, “I love you, if …” There are no ifs in God’s heart. God’s love for us does not depend on what we do or say, on our looks or intelligence, on our success or popularity. God’s love for us existed before we were born and will exist after we have died. God’s love is from eternity to eternity and is not bound to any time-related events or circumstances. Does that mean that God does not care what we do or say? No, because God’s love wouldn’t be real if God didn’t care. To love without condition does not mean to love without concern. God desires to enter into relationship with us and wants us to love God in return.
Let’s dare to enter into an intimate relationship with God without fear, trusting that we will receive love and always more love.
How wonderful is that? If we could come to grips with the overwhelming and awesome truth that God’s love for us is unconditional perhaps we could feel more comfortable when we disappoint others or when others disappoint us. If we could drink in the promise that God loves us from before the beginning and will love us to after the end, it might reduce the stress we feel to live by another’s expectation of who we are. If we could hear and heed the words of Henri Nouwen we might be able to just be ourselves — after all everyone else is taken!