I always wanted to be someone else. When I was a little kid, I aspired to be either Roger Staubach or Drew Pearson. After discovering literature, it was then to be like Fyodor Dostoevsky. Upon my first listening of Dark Side of the Moon, it was a toss-up between David Gilmour or Roger Waters.
There was never a shortage of personalities that captured my attention. If I could be like so-and-so, then I’ll be really happy.
But a strange thing happened on the path of growing up. I realized that no amount of skill, attention, or accolades brought an increase in happiness. In fact, I found the more I focused on external validation, the less happy I was.
Oscar Wilde is famous for quipping, “Be yourself, everyone else is taken.”
I really like Edna St. Vincent Millay’s stanza in The Singing-Woman from the Wood’s Edge in her 1922 collection A Few Figs from Thistles:
Oh the things I haven’t seen and the things I haven’t known,
What with hedges and ditches till after I was grown
And yanked both ways by my mother and my father,
With a “Which would you better?” and a “Which would you rather?”
With him for a sire and her for a dam,
What should I be but just what I am?
What should we be but just what we are?
Being true to ourselves is the fastest path to growth. Sure, others can inspire and motivate us. But at the end of the day, there is still an I that is. And the more the is-ness reflects the I-ness, the more impact we can have – and the happier we feel.