Posts tagged as:

be yourself

I have signed up for some training courses offered at work, one of them is called “How to present with confidence”. Yes, at 40+, I still struggle with opening my mouth in front of a group larger than 5. It’s a miracle that I even survived this many years in corporate America. Someone overheard me and commented, “Is this the same as the course ‘How to present with charisma?'” “Nope. I am not qualified to take the charisma class,” I joked.  I then made everybody laugh when I said, “Actually, I am all charisma and no confidence.”

I thought about this throwaway punchline on my 2-hour flight back home. (I am trying to read Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom and unfortunately my brains seem to want to think of anything else but focusing on that book…) We were laughing because it is impossible, right? to have charisma when one does not have any confidence. Doesn’t charisma come from a surplus of self-confidence?

However, deep down I knew I was kidding on the square when I threw out this line. I have been known to be charming on many occasions, but I never ever feel truly confident.

Is it possible to fake confidence and/or charisma? And if you fake it, is it still confidence / charisma or is it something else altogether? Could it be possible that charisma sometimes comes from one’s unawareness, unassumingness, and humility? Something more akin to quiet grace?

But of course, I already know this definition of charisma is, at best, marginal, if not considered outright incorrect, in a course titled “How to Present with Charisma” and the business world that propagate such courses.

Head. Desk.

I am unrepentant though, and probably will continue to be even after taking the “confidence” training. And I will continue to smile at the thought that I am all charisma and no confidence. Secretly, of course.

 

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This post is inspired by The Bloggess‘ latest post I have no fucking idea what I am doing which has inspired 500 (and counting) comments so far, including the three comments I’ve left there… *cough cough* yes, I am a comment hog… 

I have been grappling with this question: Who am I? since high school, and it has induced a lot of angst and crazy shit, including reading and misreading existentialist novels, and a suicide attempt because it felt exhausting and pointless to go on living.

I remember one of my teachers was particularly asinine. For example, this being an all girls’ school, she would interfere in people’s friendships whenever she thought the young women were too close to each other emotionally. (More about that, and my life in all girls high school some time later…)  Anyway, one day she decided to talk about our mottos in life. So she wrote a bunch of standard, expected, nice things, e.g. the Golden Rule, be grateful, Karma, etc. Then she asked us to vote. I did not raise my hand, thinking it would not matter. That bitch went and added up the vote, and got pissed when she realized she was one person short. “Who did not raise their hand?!” she hissed. She had that look on her face that made me defiant (otherwise I’m usually quite easy going) and so I raised my hand.

“Why didn’t you vote?”

“Because none of them are my motto in life.”

She smirked. “Well, what is it then?”

I got up and walked to the blackboard, picked up a piece of chalk and wrote my name. True (or truth). Then I sat back down.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” She hissed again, taunting.

“It means one should be true to themselves and be who they are.”

She rolled her eyes. “Ok then. Let’s vote again.”

Nobody raised their hand for the first choice. Nor for the second one. Nor for the third one… … When she got to the last one, the one I added, every single person in my class raised her hand.

This youthful obsession with finding oneself and staying true to it came hand in hand with my obsession of Hermann Hesse’s Demian. I was hooked by the very first line from the book:

I wanted only to try to live my life in accord with the promptings which came from my true self.  Why was that so very difficult?

This being one of the classic Bildungsroman, the protagonist’s main objective was to find himself, on a path to enlightenment and self realization.

Each man’s life represents the road toward himself, and attempt at such a road, the intimation of a path. No man has ever been entirely and completely himself. Yet each one strives to become that — one in an awkward, the other in a more intelligent way, each as best he can.

This sounds great and vaguely romantic on paper, unfortunately, it caused a lot of heartaches and confusion because try as I might, as pretentious as I wanted to be, I could not seem to embark on that journey. I did not even know where the Yellow Brick Road started.

During my “self searching” formative years, I wrote the only short story of mine that was ever published. Don’t get too excited, it was published by the school magazine. I don’t even have a copy of the magazine and I can only barely remember what I wrote. It was narrated in first person (of course!) fashioned after Notes from the Underground. The Narrator complained about having trouble recognizing her own face in the shop windows when she walked by, in the mirrors, and in group photos. What she saw was a young woman with an unnatural smile that made her look as if the corners of her mouth were pinned to the sides of her cheeks. She could not recognize her. Blah blah blah. She ended up carving herself a smile. (WAY before The Dark Knight with Heath Ledger as The Joker…)

Now that I am (much much) older and (debatable) wiser, I think I’ve got it figured out. The problem is that most people still subscribe to the idea of a true self being somewhere to be found, that there is this essence of oneself to be discovered.  (I think this has something to do with Plato and Aristotle from the very beginning but I have given all my knowledge about Greek philosophers back to the teacher as soon as I received my diploma…)  It is somehow our job, as we grow, to discover what that essence, that core, i.e. our true self, is.

But here is the right question to ask, imo: What if there is no core? What if we are more like onions? What if we are made up of all the layers? If so and you still believe in finding that core, no wonder you feel lost: as you peel away each layer of the onion, you are like, FUCK! There is another door behind this door!   What if we shift the paradigm of how “selves” are defined, and that every single layer is YOU?  The real you. Everything you do, everything you say, every decision you make, every breath you take, is what makes you you.

To steal Sartre’s famous line: “Existence precedes essence. ” Your essence, who you are, is defined by the way you live your life, the actions you take, the decisions you make.  This also means one’s true self is constantly changing, because our actions are constantly changing.

The person you encounter each time, even though she may be slightly different from one moment to the next, is you.

Ergo, even when I am pretending, I am being myself because in some sense, when I become so sure of myself, I cease being myself. Ouch my head hurts! I need to stop right now!

Before I end this rambling, I just want to quote e.e.cummings, yes, again, because the quotient of pretentiousness in this post has not gone through the roof just yet!

 

 

* I am not endorsing the message from the one-hit wonder I’ve Never Been to Me. Just borrowing the title. Although I’ll admit, the song is a sweet sweet gem for a good old drunken Karaoke session.

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Can’t Hardly Wait

March 28, 2011 a picture is worth a thousand words

    Some random associations from a picture I took this Sunday. Budding. Can’t hardly wait. Spring Awakening. Frank Wedekind Frank Wedekind who in 1906 gave us a play criticizing the sexually repressed society with depictions of group masturbation and other subjects that scandalized theatre goers. This quote attributed to Wedekind which made me chuckle […]

54 comments

Know thyself. Be thyself.

December 7, 2009 therapy in session

It is 2:03 am. I am all of a sudden wide awake. Note to self: Listening to PRI Selected Shorts podcasts while cleaning the house is a sure way that your mind will become overactive and that you will have trouble falling asleep. I will pay for this indulgence: lying down on my Therapy Couch […]

27 comments

What is your blog rated?

November 15, 2009 a picture is worth a thousand words

I have to say, and yes, the following reaction says a lot about my pretension, my secretly wanting to appear to be what I am not: edgy, devil may care, swashbuckling, avant garde, ground-breaking, cool, I WAS DISAPPOINTED MY BLOG WAS RATED WTF? I am seriously crushed. G? I would think it at least warranted a PG-13. […]

21 comments

In praise of the book, “American Born Chinese”

January 5, 2009 random

For Chinese people or people in the know, American Born Chinese are known as ABC, and different from Chinese immigrants (be their parents or their distant cousins), they have to cope with a different set of tribulations, and many of these are psychological. This book, or rather, graphic novel, follows the tradition of Frank Chin's angry […]

The trend continues: the hat stays. And I am inspired!

November 17, 2008 no manual for parenting

And it is not just a hat, nor is it a cowboy hat. It is a FEDORA. My 5 yo got a wool fedora for his upcoming 6th birthday. He has been wearing that hat ever since. People would comment on how cute he is, esp. when he tips his hat slightly, and say, “How’d […]

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My youngest’s got a fedora and a cane…

November 8, 2008 no manual for parenting

Son: Hey, do you know the name of my cane? Us: No. What? Son: John McCain! (Confession: he was, for the longest time, pro-McCain. There, I said it. He actually cried over this several times pre-election day. His mind was set on McCain because he saw a lot of the commercials by the GOP camp […]

2 comments

Obama calls himself a Mutt and I have two!

November 8, 2008 this i believe

. Is it wrong to have hero worship towards a politician? Ever since the night of Nov. 4, I have been walking through the clouds. Elated, of course, but that feeling also comes from my disbelief that we actually did it. Or rather, he actually did it! And of course, we all know there is […]

2 comments