365 Days of Courage #43: Just bring yourself. You have everything you need.


"Just Bring Yourself".

It's one of the very first rules of improvisation.

I started taking improv classes at The People's Improv Theater (The PIT) in New York a few years ago.  It was something I'd always wanted to try so I finally did it and fell in love with it.

One of my favourite Twitter bios is the one on Yang Miller's Twitter page:

As a boy I was bitten by a Copperhead snake and almost died.   Later I got bitten by improv comedy and started living.
— Yang Miller

I share his passion for it.  If you get a chance to try it - even once - please do it!  You will laugh more than you have for a very long time, trust me.

The more improv I did, the more I found that the lessons applied to life.

At one of the classes, the teacher said:

"Just bring yourself.   You have everything you need."

Just.  Bring. Yourself.

What would that look like for you in your life?  It should be easy to answer but it can be incredibly difficult to do so.  It can be surprisingly difficult to find your self. Your real self. Not the self you've created over all these years to fit in or please others or to get a job you didn't want in the first place.

Your Self.  Just Bring Your Self.

What would your self look like?  What would your self enjoy? How would your self mother your self's children?  What would your self like to eat for breakfast? Does it seem frivolous for me to ask you what you want for breakfast in the same breath as how do you want to mother your children?   I don't think so. It's the simple, miniscule decisions we make from moment to moment that create our lives.

My children know, for sure, what they want for breakfast every day. Their day starts that way and they articulate and pursue their desires throughout the day.

That, for me, was one of the gifts of becoming a mother.  Before you have children, you intellectually "get" that we are all born with certain talents/interests/characteristics.  Once you have children and see how they come out of the womb a certain way, uniquely and perfectly formed, you really get on a very deep level that you too came into the world that way.  When I was the age I was in the photo above, I knew what I loved to do. I was drawn to certain things and would simply follow those natural, instinctive desires wherever they took me.

Then, over the years, you gradually lose touch with that innate ability to know what you love to do.  You are taught to conform. To stand in line. To sit behind desks. To be the same. You become someone other than your self.

I felt the need to give birth three times to keep testing this fact and am now the proud and bemused mother of three completely unique individuals who could write an Oprah's "What I Know For Sure" column about every aspect of their lives with ease.   As my daughters reach the ages of 20 and 18 and my son, almost 13, I find myself watching them like a hawk to see if this instinct is waning in any way. In their cases, it still seems very much intact.

So the work I do is helping women reconnect with their selves in midlife so that they can live life as fully and with the same delight as children do.

For the longest time, I couldn't quite see how my obsession for TV shows like "Law and Order", “Line of Duty” and “Luther” fit in to that work.  It then occurred to me that reconnecting with your self is like detective work. You look back over your life all the way back to your childhood to find the hidden clues and evidence of your self.  The things that you loved to do, the things that came naturally to you, the things that you lost track of time doing while a child, the things that you miss most from your pre-motherhood days, the things that make you laugh out loud, the things that you could talk about ad nauseum.

In the extraordinary book, "Life is a Verb" by Patti Digh, there's an essay called "Give Free Hugs".  In that essay, Patti writes:

A friend, Marybeth, recently told me about gathering a group of women from around the country to help her celebrate her birthday - and to help her be more herself - to give her feedback, to embrace her.  At one point in the weekend, Marybeth said to the group something like: “I am trying to find my voice.”

Her friend Pat spoke up, giving the kind of honest feedback Marybeth needed and wanted:

”I’m so sick and tired of middle-aged white women saying they need to find their voice.  I’ve heard that a million times. I just have one question for you: If you did have a voice, what would you say?”
— Patti Digh, Life is a Verb

If you did have a voice, what would you say?

In the same way, if you did have a self, who would you be?

What would you eat for breakfast?

How would you choose to spend your days?

What clothes would you wear?

Who would you choose to spend time with?

What books would you read?

What movies would you see?

What would be your favorite restaurant?

What countries would you want to visit?

What would make you laugh? Who would make you laugh?

If you’re struggling to answer these questions, be patient with yourself. It can take a while to peel back the layers that you’ve put over your real self during the past few years or decades.

One book that I love to help me to remind me who I am is called “The 52 Lists Project: a year of weekly journaling inspiration” by Moorea Seal.

I also absolutely LOVE the book “My Bucket List” - it’s a gorgeous journal to capture the things that your self would love to do in the years ahead.

Another book that can be helpful to stimulate your memories of your self is “The Bucket List: 1,000 Adventures Big & Small” - as you read the book and look at all of the adventures described, you will get a visceral sense of the adventures that appeal to you as well as the ones that, well, don’t!

There’s a TEDx talk that I love by Caroline McHugh. Laurence McCahill of The Happy Startup School reminded me of it today.

All the work I’ve done has led me to believe that individuality really is all it’s cracked up to be. In fact, people who are frightened to be themselves will work for those who are unafraid. Now your job is not to be anything like any of the people that I put up behind me. In fact, your job is to be as unlike them as you can possibly be. Your only job while you’re here on the planet is to be as good at being you as they are at being them. That’s the deal.
— Caroline McHugh

Just bring yourself.
You have everything you need.

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