Tallulah Bankhead quipped, "Nobody can be exactly like me. Sometimes even I have trouble doing it." But the truth is...we DO have trouble being ourselves, don't we? Especially in a world that wants us to conform. "To be nobody but yourself in a world that is doing its best day and night into making you like everybody else," said poet E. E. Cummings, "is to fight the hardest battle there is and never stop fighting."
One of the deepest cravings of young people, especially teens, is to be liked by their peers. Like all of us, they want to be accepted and they want to be valued. It's during those critical teen-age years that they begin to play a game that is sometimes called "Follow the Follower." The game is not the same as "Follow the Leader." Following the follower is about conforming ... talking, dressing, acting and even thinking like one another. The goal is to fit in.
In adulthood, we are supposed to discover who we really are and do our best to grow into that person. We find our value, not in acceptance by others, but because we believe in our worth. It doesn't always happen. But it's a wonderful day when we can say in honesty, "I know who I am and I'm glad I am me."
The lovable children's author Dr. Seuss got it right when he wrote, "Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." It takes strength to swim against the tide. It takes courage to speak your convictions. And it takes trust to act on your own intuition. It's hard and rewarding work to grow up and become who you really are. But in the end, whatever real success you find in life will be a result of your being true to yourself rather than an imitation of somebody else.
I'll never have to give an account for not being more like my favorite celebrity, that shining star in my chosen field or anybody else. And at the end of my life, the question I never want to be asked is, "How come you weren't more like YOU? You had such great potential. You were a wholly unique person -- unrepeatable and irreplaceable. Why you weren't more like YOU?"
It took me far too long to realize that, in a world that wants me to conform, my greatest job is to be myself. It's a challenging and rewarding job and nobody can do it as well as me.