For so many years, I have been dogged by the fear that I wouldn’t live up to my potential. Since high school, I have framed it as “singing my song.” It comes from my belief that all of us have a unique “being-ness,” a unique gift that we were given to develop and share with the world. Many of us, perhaps even most of us, are afraid of that gift, that unique expression of our true self.
Thoreau’s 19th century observation in Walden still rings true in the 21st, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” The desperation comes from having a sense, a deep knowing, that we are more but feeling obliged to live within the confines of what society, our parents, or friends expect of us. When we do what is expected rather than singing our unique song, restlessness and desperation forever walk with us.
That is why it is so inspiring to watch someone else reach for their true self, even when they’re terrified that the true self won’t live up to expectation. I think it’s why I love the show The Voice and clips like this one from Britain’s Got Talent. The singer doesn’t hit every note perfectly but she touches every heart (get the tissue ready . . .)
One reason it’s hard to be who we truly are is because we don’t see ourselves clearly.
For some time now, the Dove Corporation has had a campaign aimed at helping women and girls recognize their true beauty in all its myriad forms. In this video, they’ve hired a forensic artist to listen to a woman describe herself and then someone else describe the same woman. He never sees the woman; he draws only from the descriptions. It’s interesting, and instructive, to see the difference in the sketches. Here’s the video:
I don’t know which will come first for you, singing your song or seeing yourself as the beauty you truly are, but I hope you get to do both.