How To Be Who You Are
In the Bhagavad Gita, when the great warrior Arjuna is faced with the biggest battle of his life and seriously contemplating jumping ship to hit up a meditation retreat in the woods instead, Krishna tells him “It is better to do your own dharma (duty, purpose) imperfectly than to excel at another’s dharma.”
There’s no getting around it. We have to be ourselves. As Oscar Wilde put it humorously “everyone else is already taken.”
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
We each have a specific nature, a particular aptitude for something, a primary purpose for existing. It’s why we’re here. In yoga this is called dharma.
The dharma of sugar is to be sweet. The dharma of salt is to be salty. The dharma of water is to be wet and to flow. There would be no point in sugar deciding it wanted to be salty. The world doesn’t need another substance to be salty, salts got that covered. The world needs sugar to be sweet.
The same goes for humans. We each have a unique gift to offer the world. It’s our duty to true to ourselves and offer our unique essence.
I went to a yoga festival this weekend where I attended various different classes. They were all fabulous in different ways. An acroyoga workshop was a beautiful lesson in connecting with new humans and collaborating and supporting each other into poses. The two teachers had such a sweetness and playfulness about them that really conveyed the caring and connection that acroyoga facilitates. After this I went to a drumming workshop. The drumming teacher was larger-than-life. She was a sturdy woman with a wicked sense of humour that had us all singing, dancing and drumming. Totally different energy. Both equally awesome. Now if the acro-teachers had convinced themselves that they ‘should be’ drummers and the drumming lady had convinced herself that she ‘should be’ doing something more dainty like acrobatics I’m pretty sure neither workshop would have been as good. It’s precisely because these teachers were being themselves, sharing their gifts built on what they love that myself and the other festivalgoers got to have such a great experience.
What’s your dharma?
Our dharma is that which we’re naturally called to do. It’s what we can offer most effectively to the world. Basically, it’s what we’re good at. We’re potentially very good at it because there is a huge pool of energy from the universe that is just waiting to be channelled through us and poured into this one thing. If we align with it. When we align with our dharma we’re supported by the universe. Life is fulfilling and we can enter a state of flow. When we’re not in alignment with our own personal dharma it’s like swimming upstream. We’re on our own. The universe isn’t going to support sugar in its quest to be the saltiest baddass in town. It’s going to be an uphill struggle.
Who are you
It’s not always obvious what our purpose in life is. A good place to start however is knowing who you are and what you stand for. We can get to heart of these questions by identifying our values.
Our values are what we deem to be most important in life. There are hundreds of different values, all of which are worthy and honorable, but which ones make the top of your personal list?
Our values show us who we truly are, not who we think we should be. Our values indicate our unique and individual essence, our most fulfilling way of expressing ourselves. Our values serve as a compass that guides us home to the truth of who we are.
When we live in alignment with our values life is good and fulfilling. We’re stepping into our authentic selves and into our dharma
Why you want to write your values out and look at them daily
How can we make decisions about how we live that will support our fulfillment if we’re not clear on what’s actually important to us? We can’t. We’ll end up making decisions based on what we think we ‘should’ be doing rather than what truly fulfills us.
When we know our values we can use them to make decisions about how we live our life. From what job we take to how we spend our free time. Our values guide our behavior and choices to ensure we’re living a life we ourselves love and not someone else’s dream life. Should we take that steady, high-level 9-5 job with great employee benefits and a pension package? If our top values are stability and status than it’s probably a fabulous fit. If our top values are adventure or risk-taking, maybe not so much.
How to know what your values are
The process of clarifying values can be difficult precisely because there are many, many, worthy values. Both sweet and salty are necessary tastes, we need both, but which one are you? No two people will have exactly the same values.
The task of working out values can have us intellectualizing and fantasizing about the person we ‘should be’ rather than accepting who we actually are and what honestly lights us up.
When I look at a list of different values things like compassion and honesty stand out as things that I think should be high up on my values list. While they are obviously important, when I dive in and do the exercise below to work out what my values actually are these don’t top the list. That doesn’t mean I’m bereft of compassion or dishonest, I’m just not going to filter my life choices through these particular values.
Identifying your values
Here’s a simple activity to identify your values. You can download the worksheet with a list of values here.
Identify 3 peak moments in your life. These are special, peak moment when life was especially rewarding, happy or poignant. Moments when you felt happy, proud and fulfilled.
It’s important that the time frame be limited to a simple “moment” so you can pinpoint the exact values at play. Don’t over analyze and intellectualize. The first happy memory that springs to mind is probably the most telling and accurate measure of your values.
“What was happening?”
“Who was present and what was going on?”
“What were the values that were being honored in that moment?”
When I did this exercise the first moment that sprang to mind was an evening in a hotel in Thailand. My partner and I were away for Christmas holiday and we’d just had a night out on the disco whiskey (funghi-based magic shakes!). We spent much of the evening rolling around the hotel room laughing so hard I think my abs actually got a decent work out.
One particular thought that got a lot of air time that night and fuelled much of the laughter was why people still eat dead animals when there are so many other things they could eat that don’t involve murder. We found this so baffling and bizarre that it had us in stiches for hours.
Back to the topic of values. What does this moment tell me about my values? I like to explore exotic locations, both geographically and in terms of consciousness. I like to be ‘out there’ in the world and in my mind. And I like to laugh. A lot. When I look at the list of core values the ones that stand out from this memory are adventure, free spirit, humour.
When I think of a moment when I felt proudest the funniest thing happens. What springs to mind is not any of my academic achievements of which there are plenty. Not any of my professional achievements of which I could also highlight a fair few. Nope. None of that. I recently made a page on this site for a new course I’m offering in January and I worked out how to make an ‘apply now’ button in photoshop and how to hyperink this to the application form. I am ridiculously proud of this. It makes no sense that I should feel so much pride and fulfillment from this tiny thing that, let’s face it, no-one else is going to be impressed by. And yet, it’s what springs to mind for me as a peak moment. What values are at play? Well I got creative around putting together an attractive looking page for the new course with the resources I had and I learnt a little bit more about the technicalities of photoshop. I have a story I tell myself about not being very technical and I’m slowly breaking that mofo down as I build this site without running to mr-tech-savy-boyfriend every two minutes. I’m learning so much by creating this site and I’m loving every little part. The values that speak to me here are learning, creativity, and independence.
For a moment that felt most fulfilling, I would have to say one of many meetups I’ve arranged where I get to connect with people in Reading and talk consciousness-evolution. Just last week I held a one-hour meditation workshop where I got to guide a group through the benefits of meditation, the challenges to doing it, how to overcome them, and the experience of a few short meditations in group. I consider myself a bit of a loner but there’s no denying the power of group dynamics. A few minutes of group meditation is like being back on the disco whiskey.
I felt so full after this short time that I couldn’t sleep that evening. The energy it gave me was like a double espresso. Not ideal right before bedtime but a good indication I was in my zone of genius.
What does this tell me about my values? Connectivity is probably a big one too. As is meaningful work and serving in a particular way through teaching and sharing what I’m passionate about.
Another way to identify your core values is to look at moments when you’ve been most angry or hurt. Often this happens when our core values have been screwed with in some way. When friends let me down it screws with my values of connectivity. I have to start reclassifying previously strong connections as not-so-strong connections. Major bummer!
Identify and live by your values to be happy and fulfilled
When we know clearly what our values are we know ourselves on a much deeper level. We can confidently make better decisions based on what’s likely to bring us the most happiness and fulfillment. Decisions about how we live, where we work, who we associate with, what we do in our free time, and where we place our energy can be taken through the filter of our values for a more awake and authentic life. We can be true to ourselves.
DOWNLOAD your values worksheet here.