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Be Yourself, Everyone Else Is Already Taken

I’m at a place in my life where I’m comfortable with who I am. Most days I can even appreciate something about myself! I want to surround myself with others who are also comfortable with themselves. It’s so much easier to be around people who feel comfortable in their skin.

That’s why I enjoy the GaGa Sisterhood so much. Grandmas tend to be a happy bunch – in large part because of the joy our grandchildren bring us, but also because we’ve reached a point in our lives where we’re comfortable with who we are. We have interests and passions that have evolved over several decades. We have friendships we’ve nurtured over many years and we’re at a time in our lives when we appreciate that life is precious. All the grandmas I’ve met seem to be truly authentic, which is why I enjoy being around them.

Mike Robbins’ new book on the power of authenticity appealed to me for that reason. The clever title: Be Yourself, Everyone else is Already Taken is a quote from Oscar Wilde. His premise is that when we’re being real and owning who we are, we feel peace, passion, and purpose.

Robbins explains that to be authentic is to accept ourselves exactly as we are – appreciating the good and making peace with our shadow side. We need to recognize and appreciate our uniqueness and build on it.

He looks at the age-old issues of self-judgment and negativity and reframes them in a fresh perspective that uses simple accessible language. He begins by explaining all the negative forces that make it so hard for us to be authentic – family, culture, our own thoughts and fears. He explains the paradox of authenticity—we seek it but fear it at the same time.

Like his first book (see my review) Focus on the Good Stuff: The Power of Appreciation, this new one is well-organized and filled with questions to ponder and practices to use in your life. For example, he suggests writing a mission and vision statement for your life. His mission is: “I create a world of love and peace by loving myself and reminding others to love themselves.”

After explaining the benefits of being authentic, Robbins devotes the first part of his book to showing why it’s so hard for us to be authentic. We worry about what people will think and we feel we have to be a certain way to please our family and friends. We get caught up in the 3C’s: Comparison, Criticism, and Competition.

In Part 2 he gives five principles to move through the fears and limitations that prevent us from living true to ourselves and how to bring more authenticity into our lives. For me the essence of the book was in the final chapter, Principle 5: Celebrate Who You Are.

Because we spend so much time and energy focusing on the negative, celebrating ourselves is the most challenging. The first step is to make peace with ourselves, just the way we are. It takes a lot of practice and reminding ourselves, the way Mr. Rogers used to sing everyday at the start of his show: I like you just the way you are.

Robbins illustrates self-acceptance with a story from one of his friends. She was tired of dyeing her hair for fear of looking old, despite her inner voice that was screaming: “Let your hair go gray.” The woman decided to let her roots grow out during a long vacation and discovered her fears of looking old or haggard were unfounded. She said she felt empowered, authentic, and more radiant than she’d felt in her youth.

He quotes her: “I think I’m able to connect more deeply with people because I’m more real and approachable. Instead of saying sixty is the new forty; I’m saying sixty is the new sixty!”

He explains that an essential part of making peace with ourselves is self-forgiveness. We must face our weaknesses, failures, or mistakes, take responsibility for them, make amends if necessary, and ultimately forgive ourselves. He gives a long list of the benefits of forgiveness, which include lower blood pressure, better anger-management skills, and more friendships. Then he offers some simple examples of self-appreciation: speak about ourselves in a positive way and accept compliments with gratitude and ease.

He makes an interesting observation: whatever we admire in others is also true at some deep level about ourselves as well. So pay attention to those qualities you admire in others then ask yourself if you possess them as well.

Robbins concludes by challenging the reader to take action and practice some of the techniques in the book. He suggests it will be even more powerful if you can find someone to help you on your journey to authenticity. Make a commitment, tell a friend, and ask her to hold you accountable.

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