I was watching the Oprah interview with Barbara Walters the other day and part of what they did was show clips from an interview Barbara did with Oprah in the early 90’s. In the interview, when asked what she saw for herself in the future, Oprah said she felt she was “destined for greatness.” Apparently, she got a lot of criticism for making that statement, but in a lot of ways, it came to fruition. Maybe on some level she feels like she got the last laugh but overall, the true reward, I believe, is that she probably feels she’s living a life where she’s being true to herself.
One of the other interesting things about that interview were some of the statements made by others that worked for her; people like Dr. Oz who has his own show supported by Oprah and Nate Berkus, the designer. Nate said that Oprah always encouraged him to ask questions if he didn’t understand something and always be true to yourself. Dr. Oz reiterated this approach. When I heard this, it rang true to me. But what does “being true to yourself” really mean?
In this age of technology, we have access to more and more information. Along with that availability, we also have an increasing ability to compare ourselves to others. We can see what others are doing, see what their day is like, read about their latest accomplishment. Media alerts let us know about public figures and the ups and downs of their lives and the plethora of “reality” TV shows can influence us and make us feel like in order to be in synch or popular, we need to have, read, do or drive a certain thing. In the middle of all of this information, we can sometimes struggle to find our own way.
“Being true to yourself” and all that means to you also can shift over time. What we thought we wanted for ourselves at one point can change as we get older, gain wisdom, survive failures and revel in success. But ultimately, being true to yourself means that you are authentic and real. You’re comfortable in your own skin, don’t put on airs, don’t imitate. You’re honest, both with others but even more so, with yourself. You listen, hear the “other side” but know what your boundaries are. You live in a way that allows you to feed your passion, even if you find you have to limit the time you spend due to practical responsibilities. You find a way to express yourself, show your unique qualities but at the same time, you know your shortcomings and are willing to work on them. You have courage to show up and give of yourself one hundred percent, regardless of what judgments might be thrown your way. You make your own decisions, including the unpopular ones. You refrain from speaking poorly of others in order to attempt to elevate yourself in the eyes of someone else. You enthusiastically share your successes as well as hand out kudos to those around you when they have one of their own. You speak your mind not to draw attention to yourself but to honestly share your own knowledge and information with others. You don’t make apologies for your actions or speak poorly of yourself by making self-depreciating statements. You wear what you want, read what you love, spend time with those that love and support you. You stay away from those that try to bring you down or who are self-centered and self-focused.
Being true to yourself is an attitude. Not one of self-centeredness but more of authenticity. It requires a commitment to being honest with yourself and in a way, always putting yourself first. We are all destined for greatness, each in our own way, in our own areas of expertise and passion. The true test of achievement for each of us lies in the personal strength and fortitude we will show over time as we are poked and prodded and challenged to change course. How we weather this storm and stay on track is a test not only of our integrity, but of our commitment to ourselves.