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Monday, January 14, 2013

Another Simplicity Tip: Be the Same Person to Everyone You Meet

I used to be quite a chameleon & I don't mean that in a particularly positive way. I was a different person at home with my mother than I was at church. I was different with various friends- some I put my "Christian" attitudes on for, others I let down my hair with. I was double-minded, vacillating between many viewpoints, never quite sure of where I stood. I was a big fence-sitter on a lot of issues, some trivial, some important. While most people who know me now think of me as being opinionated, passionate & pretty single-minded, I wasn't born this way. I saw all different viewpoints, and sometimes this was a great gift. It taught me to be tolerant of others & weigh all options carefully. While I had a critical streak, I usually didn't take my opinions to a state where they'd actually hurt someone. I wasn't double-minded because I wanted to be, but for years it seemed to be my besetting sin. I couldn't understand why I didn't just make up my mind & stick to a decision once I'd chosen it. I considered my attitude abnormal, but I've since realized that most people fall prey to this vacillation in at least one area of their lives.

This complexity comes in many different guises, some subtle, some not. You may glowingly tell your best friend about a man you want to marry, only to lie about seeing him to your mother. You give inspirational speeches at work while talking badly about employees in secret. You may say that you believe in following a particular religion, but don't adhere to even the most basic tenets of said religion. You assign different standards to different people. You treat people based on what class you think they come from- in other words, a janitor doesn't get the same respect as a CEO that you meet. You may allow your spouse to treat the kids in a way that makes you uncomfortable, but your fear of losing your spouse keeps you from speaking up. You may no longer love someone, but pretend to in order to maintain financial comfort. You may have affairs while telling your partner you're faithful only to them. I'm not trying to condemn anybody, and frankly I couldn't even if I wanted to. Only your own conscience can tell you what behaviors need changing in your life. I certainly have my temptations & struggles, so I'm not trying to paint myself as some sort of paragon. I'll never write about a subject I don't understand personally. And usually I've had to struggle with that subject, which is what propels me to write about it so that others may avoid the same stumbling-blocks that I did.

I'm not saying anything such as, "Never let your guard down" or anything akin to that. I don't want you to get out of balance in your life. This isn't about putting up a front- it's about tearing that front down. Letting the invisible walls many of us build around our hearts & minds is often terrifying. Choosing silence when something really should be spoken, going along with unethical behavior even when you know it's not right & addictions all come from not being confident enough to actually be yourself. Discomfort can only be tolerated so long before most people will try to squelch it, some earlier than others. Not everyone is born with an innate sense of ethics & morals, but most of us have a pretty healthy knowledge of right vs. wrong.

It takes a lot of confidence, self-knowledge & calm in the mind to be the same person to everyone you meet. You have to accept that some people will just never like or understand you. You'll have to be willing to hear criticism or even disappointment. You may feel that you've been left out of things because you're the lone dissenter in a group or because your beliefs are different from the majority of people you're around. Certain people in authority may not appreciate who you are as a person & may try to keep you from promotion or another reward. But in the end, being yourself is the only truly peaceful way to live in your own mind. Trying to keep plates full of different things for different people spinning is an impossible task. Choosing to be yourself- who you really are when the spotlight's turned off, the stage is bare & the audience is all gone- at all times is a daring move. Some people are born with this skill, but many of us adapt uncomfortably & unnaturally to suit others along the way. To even survive in many households, schools, peer groups & jobs, most people at one time or another have done or said something they really didn't believe in. I say this not to make anyone feel guilty; rather, I put this out to say it's a common behavior & therefore is one to watch out for. You typically hurt not only yourself but others in the long run for being "fake" or insecure.

I couldn't see who I really was at all until I simplified & organized my life. Being busy with school, work, housekeeping, kids, marriage, church, exercise, sports, etc.- all of this serves to make our lives crazier. Many people are so busy & live such complex existences that they never really sit down to learn about who they really are at the core. Quite often, this leads to the "midlife crisis" we've all heard of. I just had my midlife crisis about twenty years ahead of schedule! When the clutter was cleared, the excess shopping stopped, the activities were minimized & I had time to think, it was sometimes quite painful. I won't lie to you- facing truth is like getting stabbed in the heart sometimes. But it eventually will indeed set you free. It's like getting a layer of paint scraped off so that you can start fresh again, but the scraping isn't all that fun! You must be willing to face all of your failures, successes, trials, attitudes & behaviors. Your habits must be examined. You must be willing to try & see things from the viewpoint of people who hurt you, even if you currently despise them. I'm not saying what those people did are right. But until you try to understand what caused their bad behavior, forgiveness usually remains an elusive dream.

What does this have to do with being yourself? Well, as long as you're holding onto anger, unforgiveness, resentment & age-old pain, you really will never get to the core of who you are. You'll be able to gain some inner knowledge of yourself, but you won't see the whole picture. You'll take what was done to you originally & magnify it repeatedly, making your own life miserable again & again. There's nothing simple about refusing to face the past as it really was or the present as it really is. If you think that you can lie to yourself or others & have a minimalist life, I'm here to tell you it's downright impossible. I don't mean to sound harsh- but I want each of you reading this to have victory. And because of this, I'm not going to mince words. I fought a long, hard battle to gain enough confidence to be myself in all situations. Maybe your battle will be much simpler- for your sake, I hope that it is.

I can't stress enough that most addictions have an element of this insecurity & falsehood to them. When we feel we cannot present our real selves, feelings & experiences with others, most of us develop unhealthy coping mechanisms. Addictions are innately designed to deaden negative feelings & often replace them with euphoria or at least a false sense of self-worth. True self-worth doesn't come from what we do, but many people use an addiction to work, weight loss, exercising or some other things which are approved by society to hide what they feel are negative aspects of themselves. This doesn't make you a bad person, if you're suffering in this way. It's a normal human reaction to a level of stress that is beyond our ability to process when it comes our way. This stress can come in the form of a tough job with a bad boss, failing in school, physical assaults, abuse from a parent or spouse & cruel teasing from others. Some people go inward & seem to wither away from experiences like this, while others go to another extreme, becoming loud & angry people themselves. They often end up repeating the very behavior towards other that first caused them personal stress, especially when it's behavior picked up from a parent or someone who has had authority in their life. The piling on of guilt from going to either extreme doesn't help the situation. This guilt usually comes both internally & externally, serving to heap on even more pain. To rise up from this cycle, processing the original feelings that came with the bad experience(s) must be done. Hard as it is, facing the origins of this pain or vacillation is absolutely essential & is actually much easier than continuing down the road of addiction. The late comedian & actor George Carlin said it very well. When addiction starts, it's all about pleasure & is seemingly very little about pain. As the addiction progresses, the pleasure diminishes & the pain level rises until the pain outweighs everything. Most long-term addicts are actually quite miserable with their lives & acknowledge their drug of choice works less to conceal their pain every day that goes by. You can never know your true self completely when addiction rules over your life. Addiction itself also creates new but false beliefs, which start their own trouble. Facing these demons usually takes a good deal of time, patience with yourself, writing, reading & forgiving- but it's worth it. If you want to live a simple life, it's utterly necessary. If I can do it, you can do it.

Simplicity means that you don't lie to others about your accomplishments in life, including downplaying them. You possess a strong sense of ethics & you stick to them no matter what the people around you choose. You tell the truth even when it's hard, but without trying to hurt people. You have respect for the beliefs of others, researching your own beliefs carefully & thoughtfully, but then stick to those beliefs once established. You don't lie about your political affiliation, religion (or lack thereof), sexual orientation or anything else about yourself. Essentially, it means being an open book. When you never lie or exaggerate anything, it makes your life simpler. It may not (at least in the short-term) make your life easier, but you won't experience the negative emotions that come with lying. You don't say things which are contrary to what you actually are thinking. And please don't tell yourself that this is impossible in your workplace or household. Unless you are in literal physical danger, lying is not a good option to get out of trouble or to get promoted. People will know you by your fruits, believe me. A promotion or two may come your way, but if you got any of it unethically, your reputation will continually be at risk. Certain people will always know that you're not to be trusted. I'm not na├»ve- I'm well aware of how the workplace operates, which is the same whether you're in private industry or in government. I worked in business for fifteen years & my mother worked in it for thirty-seven years. Old boys club rules will still apply in some places, while in others faux diversity is decidedly in vogue. Diversity is great, so long as it's real. Faux diversity is when a company or individual acts like they want different viewpoints to come forth, but in reality business will continue as usual & nothing is going to change. Please don't engage in this if you're in a position of authority. You may not gain the biggest promotion in the world for remaining ethical, but you will keep the respect of others, especially those who are under your watch. This world is crying out for authenticity. It desperately needs more individuals determined to be themselves, not go along with the pack in negative ways. I'm not saying that this is always or even usually easy. But I firmly believe it's the only right- and simple- way to go.

Here's to knowing & being yourself,


  1. hi there! thank you for this uplifting and inspirational blog post. this is my first time visiting your blog but i will continue to read your other posts. i would love to chat with you sometime...i am also striving to live an authentic life and your work is very encouraging. drop me a line. xo

    1. You're quite welcome, Chanell. I'm glad that you checked out the blog & found some inspiration in my article. Not everybody wants to hear this kind of simplicity teaching, but I know there's a group of brave people out there like you who enjoy it. I know what getting authentic did for me & I want to pass on that enormous blessing to others if I can. Thanks again for the praise, which always means a lot to me. :)