By Henrylito D. Tacio
“He who trims himself to suit everyone will soon whittle himself away,” reminds Raymond Hull. That statement came into my mind while reading a story written by Daniel Gottlieb, the man behind “Learning From The Heart: Lessons on Living, Loving and Listening.” It tells us why we have to be comfortable with who we are rather than who we think we should be:
Max, a sixty-year-old tailor, follows a routine that hasn’t changed in forty-five years. Every day, he puts on the same threadbare clothes and sets off for his shop. Along the way, he stops in at the church to pray. After working hard all day, he returns home and hands over his earnings to his wife. Max has only one little vice. Every day, he spends a dollar on a single lottery ticket.
One day, Max comes up with a winning ticket. He arrives home with a check for a million dollars. As usual, Max hands the check to his wife. The next morning, he gets up, puts on his threadbare clothes as always, and gets ready to go to work.
His wife stops him. “Max, you’ve worked so hard all your life and now you have the opportunity to enjoy yourself. Go get a new suit and a massage. Take care of yourself!”
Ever-dutiful Max does exactly what his wife suggests. He gets a massage and a facial, and then spends hundreds of dollars on a beautiful new outfit. It’s a complete transformation. Who would ever believe this is the same Max?
He crosses the street with his shoulders back and chest out. Just then, a car barrels down the street and runs over poor Max.
Because he has been so good throughout the years, Max takes the express lane to heaven. He gets to talk to God directly: “God, I only have one question. I have been such a good person my whole life. Always, I’m the same Max, living the same way. Finally I get to be a different kind of guy, and you take everything away. Why?”
God pauses for a moment and says, “Max, to tell you the truth, I didn’t recognize you.” In ‘Battle Royal,’ Ralph Ellison wrote, “All my life I had been looking for something, and everywhere I turned someone tried to tell me what it was. I accepted their answers too, though they were often in contradiction and even self-contradictory. I was naïve. I was looking for myself and asking everyone except myself questions which I, and only I, could answer. It took me a long time and much painful boomeranging of my expectations to achieve a realization everyone else appears to have been born with: that I am nobody but myself.”
A reporter asked British playwright George Bernard Shaw to play the ‘What If” game shortly before he died. “Mr. Shaw,” the reporter asked, “you have visited with some of the most famous people in the world. You have known royalty, world-renowned authors, artists, teachers of the world. If you could live your life over and be anybody you’re known, or any person from history, who would you like to be?” “I would choose,” replied Shaw, “to be the man George Bernard could have been, but never was.”
I have known a lot of people who want to be somebody else. In fact, some even go to the extent of dressing like that person, acting like that person, and talking like that person. It’s like award-winning actress Meryl Streep transforming herself into another person in ‘Sophie’s Choice.’ Or, Leonardo di Caprio as Howard Hughes. They want to be the other person and not themselves.
Judy Garland, who popularized the song ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow,’ reiterated, “Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.” And Johann von Goethe himself admitted, “If God had wanted me otherwise, He would have created me otherwise.”
Be yourself and live happily ever after. “Be what you are,” echoes Julius Charles Hare. “This is the first step toward becoming better than you are.” John Mason reminds, “You were born an original. Don’t die a copy.”
Egyptian author Boris Pasternak was right when he said, “The great majority of us are required to live a life of constant duplicity. Your health is bound to be affected if, day after day, you say the opposite of what you feel, if you grovel before what you dislike, and rejoice at what brings you nothing but misfortune.”
Be the person of who you are and not person other people think of who you are. Leo Tolstoy was a man who always talked about living the way of love. But his wife said this of him: “There is so little genuine warmth about him; his kindness does not come from the heart, but merely from his principles. His biographies will tell of how he helped the laborers to carry buckets of water, but no one will ever know that he never gave his wife a rest and never — in all these thirty-two years – have his child a drink of water, or spent five minutes by his bedside to give me a chance to rest a little from all my labors.”
In ‘The Rambler,’ Samuel Johnson penned, “Almost every man wastes part of his life in attempts to display qualities which he does not possess, and to gain applause which he cannot keep.”
William Randolph Hearst asked Arthur Brisbane, his chief editorial writer, why he rarely took an extended vacation. “There are two reasons,” explained Brisbane. “The first is that if my editorials did not appear over a noticeable period of time, the paper might lose circulation.”
“And the second reason?” inquired Hearst. Brisbane replied, “They might not.”
Be yourself. Don’t pretend. Remember the song of The Platters? It goes this way: “Oh-oh, yes I’m the great pretender / Pretending that I’m doing well / My need is such I pretend too much / I’m lonely but no one can tell.”
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