We often say to people – especially children and young people – that they should ‘be themselves’. However, this is easier said than done. It could be said that discovering ourselves is the journey of a lifetime. We have to distinguish between what is genuinely our own views and those we inherit from other people. We have to discover what psychologists call ‘The authentic self‘. The pop-psychologist Dr. Phil uses this term to good effect.

There’s a human desire to conform, which can lead us to doubt our own opinions when they differ from our those of our friends. Some people see themselves as individualists because they have views that are different from their parents, or because they have tattoos or piercings. Having  different views from your parents doesn’t make you an individualists and certainly doesn’t mean that you have necessarily thought through those views, Many young people assimilate the views of their friends and peers. They are simply conforming to a different set of values. The remarkable thing about tattoos is that any real creativity or individuality was done by the tattooist. The person with the tattoo is simply a canvas. To ascribe any merit to that is scraping the barrel in terms of aspiration. Such people would be better to be proud of their parents, after all they owe them much more than they do a tattooist.

Imagine that your friends are talking about someone you have all just met. They are talking in glowing terms, but you have reservations, or maybe they don’t like someone who you thought was genuinely good. Would you say anything? Sometimes, it may just be tactful to keep quiet, but often people belittle their own opinions because they are are out of step with the group. We have to become aware – mindful – of these subtle thoughts that come into our mind.

We all say that we should be rational, and some men will even attempt to degrade women by saying they are irrational. Well, theres nothing wrong with being irrational. You don’t need to always explain yourself. Sometimes we get a hunch, a feeling but it doesn’t stand up to rational thought. We have to learn to refine, and trust, these hunches. This are the key to real authenticity. I’ll write more on this in a subsequent post.

Being an individualist is not the same as being in contact with that authentic self. There are people who revel in being different, it’s like a badge of honour to the although usually these people are no more in contact with the authentic self then the conformists.