Imitation is Suicide. Insist on yourself; never imitate. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
In most aspects of my life I do insist on being myself ad nauseam. As a matter of fact, I think we are living in a culture constantly insisting on itself–look at me, notice me, love me, objectify me, hate me, pay me, gimme gimme gimme. But I don’t think this was the divine ideation of self Ralph Waldo Emerson intended when he wrote “insist on yourself.” Every woman (and every man who knows a woman) could name a few all-consuming ways in which women feel the need to imitate each other right off the top of their head–makeup routines, Botox, highlights, shaving, waxing or laser removal of any unwanted hair (pubic or otherwise), anti-wrinkle creams and designer handbags.
If for one minute you think men are immune, who do you know that doesn’t wear the daily man uniform of a baseball hat, a button-down or polo shirt, and jeans? Every lifestyle and consumer brand is built around this phenomenon because societal standards set the rules that drive the desire for imitation within each and every one of us. From sorority to nunnery, have you ever noticed how women who spend a lot of time together end up speaking with the same inflection, laughing in the same pitch, wearing the same colors? Conformity is a subconscious way to garner approval, because let’s face it, we all have a deep need to be accepted, to be loved, to be adored and the people who need it the most are the quickest to push it away. But, I don’t think Emerson was referencing fashion choices or vocal cadence either, it’s just an easy place to begin looking at the intrinsic ways people imitate each other.
So, what is the divine idea inside of me? Basically, my willingness to grow and my ability to express my sense of truth based on whatever it is I discover. When I was a child, my parents tell me I was constantly asking, “What’s that?” No matter if their response was bird, tree, giraffe, car, baby, lightning or whistle, I would follow it up with, “Why?” Even now, I’m still fascinated by the what-ness and why-ness of things in order to understand and empathize with the world around me. And, when I’m really honest with myself, it’s because I want to be seen for all that I am and loved anyway. For a long time, I struggled with how I wanted to be seen by others. I thought it was actually possible to control the perception other people may have of me. I longed for people to see me as tough, cool, smart, funny, bold, trust-worthy and, of course, attractive. I did not under any circumstances want them to see me as self-conscious, boring, stupid, or worst of all, needy. But the truth is, people will see what I’m willing to reveal and they’ll also see what I’m not willing to reveal. It’s always the stuff I refused to reveal that would end up kicking me in the ass with regret. Besides, there’s more to learn in what we unwittingly reveal when we are unwilling to reveal ourselves. We only have to open our hearts to see everyone exactly as they are.