Who Am I? – How To Be Yourself (For Real Happiness)

Monkey gazing at its reflection in a hand-held mirror as if wondering "Who are you?"
Photo by Andre Mouton on Pexels.com

Independence Day in the USA has a lot to do with “Being Yourself.”

If you’re not free to be you – then you’re not really free or independent.

Nelson Mandela knew this. He knew that if he couldn’t be free himself, he couldn’t help a nation be free either. He knew that it is really up to a person to decide to be free in their own mind – and not allow others to dictate who or what you can be. So, even while he was imprisoned for 27 years, he was still free to be who he was.

Mandela said that while they could put four walls around his body – they couldn’t put walls around his mind.

Your body may be free – but is your mind imprisoned?

Being You

We hear it all the time in movies, on TV shows and from the mouths of well-meaning friends. We see it on T-shirts: “Be yourself!” … “Just Be You.” …”You do you.” Nice sentiments, for sure. But have you wondered what that actually means? After all, how can I not be me??

Here’s how you may not be being you:

  • Doubting that your ideas / feelings / desires are valid or acceptable
  • Needing confirmation on your clothing / hairstyle choices
  • Looking to others for answers to simple, everyday choices
  • Lacking confidence
  • Lacking self-love
  • Not doing work or a hobby that is really enjoyable
  • Being dishonest – with others or yourself
  • Feeling that you’re not quite living the life you could
  • The list could go on…

The Importance of Being You

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

– Oscar Wilde

“Know Thyself”

– Inscription on the entrance of the Temple of Appollo at Delphi

“To be yourself you must know yourself.”

Lara Palafox

Why you need to do both:

To experience a joyful and fulfilling life, you need to satisfy the different aspects (or dimensions) of you. Just as medical healing needs to address all of your body and mind by taking a wholistic view and not merely isolating a symptom in a body part – so too, we need to look at our happiness and deeper satisfaction with life by getting clear about our inner and “expressed” selves.

The first concept, “Being Yourself” covers your Personality

The second, “Knowing Yourself” covers your Spirituality

Recognizing and making the effort to fulfill both of these aspects are crucial for happiness. Spend too much time on one aspect or the other – leads you to an unbalanced and less then contented life.

The Inevitable Disillusionment of Idolatry (Or Why You Shouldn’t Put People on Pedestals)

What happens when we idolize a person or institution? We get disappointed in the end. We expect “perfection” when there isn’t such a thing to be found. For example, you think you local priest is amazing and because of that, expect him/her to be unflawed. Then you find out he/she has a drinking and gambling problem. Or you follow an awesome, loving and spiritual yoga guru, only to find out he’s an incorrigible womanizer.

Monks are a popular topic now: Think that they have all of the answers and live a happy life? Maybe some do! After all, there are varying requirements of monks… For example, when I was visiting the Potala Palace (in Lhasa, Tibet), I had not one, but two monks overtly attempt to seduce me. What??

A little shocked, I gained more understanding when I learned that the “Tanquas” on the walls not only signified a multitude of sexual positions but were meant to depict the levels of physical delights that awaited monks as they ascend through levels of monkhood. (This, despite the fact that they don’t marry.)

So. When we think one group of people, religion, or philosophy has all of the answers to life – we might want to think again. What I’ve learned through travel, research, studies and listening to “experts”, is that there is wisdom and guidance from a divine source, and many peoples over millenia have been made aware of it.

Knowing Who You Are Helps You Live An Authentically Happy Life – Regardless of Religion or Philosophy.

Feeling Free To Be Yourself

Hiding In Plain Sight – Our Divine Connection

The thing is, while we can learn from others we have to always keep in mind the WE are our own masters. We need to connect with our souls and inner wisdom for guidance. When we nurture a connection to the divine within us – we know what is right. We learn to see more clearly. We can sort out the wheat from the chaff.

Confucious knew it too.

At university I sat in on a Doctoral dissertation that had an interesting title. The guy was attempting to get his PhD in Classical Chinese. As a student of Classical Chinese, I’d been enjoying reading the original writings of Confucius (in Classical Chinese characters). To me, there was great depth to his work, which could be missed by the casual reader.

So, it was a surprise when I heard the PhD candidate state that some of the writings that were accredited to Confucius, must have been written by someone else since the “dao” described in a passage about a butcher cutting up a cow, had no relation to the explanation of “dao” given by Confucius.

In a nutshell: He was wrong. My opinion of course. But I gave it too – when we were allowed “question time”. To make a long story short: Dao (the way / the path), is about our connection to the immortal divine consciousness within us and how it guides us in negotiating our inner path through life. Confucius talked about how an action that is used for a skill, when it reaches near perfection in harmony of mind and motion, is, in fact, a connection with the divine or Dao.

So just as an Olympic archer becomes one with her breath as she fluidly draws back her bow, body and mind in a state of heightened sensory awareness, coiled and yet free of stress – she is connected to the Dao. So too, could an old, highly skilled, artisanal butcher (from centuries ago – they don’t make ’em like that any more), connect to the Dao.

The room went silent after a couple of professors commented that this was indeed highly possible. The candidate (I’m sorry to say, as I felt badly for him) was red-faced. He could offer no comment.

What he had failed to see all along, was that the truth was in plain sight. You just needed the right eyes to see it.

When we learn that it’s within us, always has been – and at the heart of other religions lies this message also – then we awaken to a whole new way of living life.

Knowing Who You Are Helps You Live An Authentically Happy Life – Regardless of Religion or Philosophy.

Lara Palafox

Being Yourself

Ok. What the heck does “Be yourself” really mean? It raises some questions:

1. What if I’m an ill-tempered, selfish person – should I continue to proudly be this?

2. Does “being me” mean ignoring the needs of others?

3. And here’s a really solid question: How could I not be me??

Re-Discovering Who You Are

The reason for the “re” is that we are born into this world not having to think about who we are. Our personalities are reflected even from a very young age. I say this because I have witnessed this in many children and I’m sure that if you’ve watched any child grow from a baby into a toddler, then into a child, you have witnessed this too.

There was a time, way back in your childhood, when you were naturally attracted to certain activities and had specific likes and dislikes. Around the age of 10 is an excellent point of reference – it’s before you were indoctrinated by T.V., magazines or teenage peers 😆

Right now, bring to mind this time in your life. Make a little list. Think about:

  1. What made you laugh?
  2. What made you excited?
  3. What were your emotional tendencies
  4. What were your characteristics?
  5. What could you do for hours without any prompting from an adult?

(Another great way to hone in on your natural proclivities and true desires is to imagine you are put on an island and allowed to have 10 things with you to enjoy the rest of your life – these are not to be necessity items such as food and water, and they are replenishable.) – this allows for mature desires to be taken into account…

Know Thyself

If you don’t know what you hold as important in life – or it changes like the wind, then you can’t pursue it. You can be easily swayed by the latest book or trend or the opinion of others. Leading you to feeling unsettled within yourself. Doubting your choices and actions. When what you do is aligned with who you are on a deeper level, things flow.

An interesting experiment is to draw out the Kabbalah diagram and see where in your body/mind/soul needs strengthening. I did this some years ago and had a revelation. It revealed that I was balanced in my various chakras, but there was a weakness in expressing outwardly or in my actions in the world, what was truly in my inner world. In other words: I wasn’t talking, being or taking actions that showed who I really was.

This rang so true. Perhaps a remnant of my childhood need to adapt rapidly to changing environments and please often violent and irrational adults – this chameleon-like, people-pleasing habit had stayed with me. I was afraid to be who I really was.

So now, just as I’ve learned to not be swayed be a toddler tantrum, I’ve learned to care less about the reaction of others to what I wear, the state of my hair… my choices in life.

At the same time, I’m less inclined to tolerate the negative actions of others. If I find someone being offensive (whether they meant to or not), it’s easier for me to walk away. “No thanks.” That’s what I’m effectively saying. And I feel fine about it. They don’t need to understand me. No drawn out explanations or justifications or worse – debates from their side on why I shouldn’t be offended.

I simply want to put myself in a happy, respectful and loving environment. If I don’t value myself enough to do that, others aren’t likely to either.


When you start being who you truly are, people who are truly like you (or resonate with you) will start to be drawn to you (for friendship, partnership and work opportunities)… And you will be a lot happier for it!

What will you do today to be truly independent – to be YOU?

Have a good one!



Feeling Fear-less

The Joy of Sand

I don’t feel fear. Am I stupid? Crazy? In my 20s? (I don’t think so. Sometimes. Um, no.)

This is a time that is difficult in different ways for people. Some may have a job, food or money but be stressed by fear and suffering from negativity and arguments within their families. While others may be more worried about feeding their kids after losing their jobs, than avoiding the corona virus.

My heart goes out to everyone in any situation that threatens to rob them of the joy of life.

What do we have in common? There is a thief among us. The thief is fear.

What can be done about it?

Fear needs to feed on something to stay alive in our minds. When people are cooped up indoors for long periods of time, not only can they get on each other’s nerves, but also, watching news and social media sites can feed fear through misinformation, exaggeration, and pushing people’s emotional buttons.

Fear or worry in and of itself isn’t going to benefit us in any way. In fact it can make a bad situation worse by making us sick before the virus comes anywhere near us. How? In psychology it’s termed psychosomatic illness. It’s when stress and your emotional imbalance for extended periods causes changes in your physiology that results in a physical illness. In other words : your mind makes your body sick

The antidote to fear is positive action. Do, think (this is an action), be – in a way that isn’t fearful. What we focus on, we experience. The more we focus on particular thing, the more we increase it’s effect on our mind and emotions. When our focus isn’t on fear, we aren’t experiencing fear.

So focus on looking for joy, seek out what or whoever makes you laugh (call them!), exercise, meditate or listen to uplifting music. There is so much in life that is beautiful and joyful if only we look for it.

I know that it’s hard to be joyful when you’re looking for enough food to eat. I’ve been there. But because I was in a situation I had no control over (as a child you are totally dependent), I came to accept that the hunger wasn’t going to go away (anytime soon), and so I turned to nature and my imagination to feed my soul. I was living in the outback, which might look desolate to the casual observer, but to me, it was alive with all kinds of creatures and interesting, twisted, leafless trees.

Our response to our conditions can not only save us, but also, uplift us.

Now, instead of going into details of all of the hardships I suffered, I just want to draw attention to the fact that, if you let it, the human spirit can not only be resilient, but on a deep level, it can be awakened to an unconditional appreciation and love of life. This appreciation and love can be found at anytime and in any situation because it is within us.

I’m feeling joyful and peaceful. It’s as if the outside world has again forced me to go inside, not only physically, but spiritually too. The current situation can be seen as a wonderful opportunity to refocus and refresh the soul. We can’t control outside forces such as viruses or what other people do, but we can control what we think and feel.

Right now, you are alive. I am alive. And I choose not to allow this virus (or fear of it) take away the life that I have at this moment. It is precious, and not to be wasted. I choose not to be scared, worried and miserable in this moment. I could be, but then it would have won, whether I’m sick or not.

We’re All Big Kids

Something struck me as I watched my toddlers at a gym class they attended (before I took them out of it for safety): the “Independent Play Time” could be an analogy for life. Large buckets of toys were brought out for about 3 minutes (I timed it), and they were supposed to play with them (while parents/guardians watched from the sidelines). When the time was up and the buckets were taken away, the toddlers variously cried, got angry, ran after the buckets or refused to give up any toys they were holding.

Like life, we get to play with things until the time is up. We all react differently when we realize the end has come (talk to nurses in a hospice), and there can be great stress. Although we actually face the possibility of death every day, we probably don’t think about this when we get in our cars. Now, with the possibility of death from a virus, many people are very fearful.

Perhaps what we should be more fearful of is not living each day of our lives fully.

If we saw life as “Independent Play Time” and told ourselves each day that we know we have this day to play our hearts out, would this change the quality of our lives? Oh, yes. Absolutely.
Living fully, joyfully, and gratefully in this moment that I’m alive is the best thing I can do for myself and my family.

So what does it mean to live fully? Being conscious of the incredible beauty of life all around, the kindness of friends and neighbors, the laughter of my toddlers, and the warmth of my husband’s hugs. Drinking in those moments and allowing them to sink into my bones brings me joy. I go for a walk and see a flower that is so vivid in hue, exquisite in design, and with a most gorgeous scent, it brings a tear to my eye. I smell the less-polluted air and see families exercising together.

You may think, “Ok, that’s nice but these times are stressful and I argue with my family, so where’s the joy in that?”

Well, why argue? Why get angry? Choose another option. It’s always possible.

We are often reactive and behave in a knee-jerk, automatic way. There are probably some go-to comments or facial expressions that you have a habit of giving to certain behaviors or remarks from people. Anything coming to mind? Wink. We can consciously choose to start retraining ourselves and the way we respond. Habits take time to change – but we now have the time!

If we take a second and choose to respond thoughtfully (rather than just reacting), we can prevent or change a negative situation. Before reacting to something, think “How can I deal with this in a positive way?” “Does winning the argument or point, really help me win?” (What will I win?) And with children: “Would it be so terrible if they ate one more cookie, or had cereal one night for dinner?” Or something like that.

Please don’t get me wrong, I think that rules and structure are important and necessary, but a little flexibility when something isn’t crucial can actually give everyone a happy break, and even bring out some memorable, fun moments that mean so much.

If you find yourself in the kind of crazy, tense, and argument-filled atmosphere (reminiscent of those annual family holidays), you might like to try taking an emotional step back for a minute and change course and try to discern the real root of your feelings and motivation for your comments or actions.

I like to think of tracing back impulses and emotional reactions as being like “pulling the string” on a sweater – you keep going until you unravel the sweater to its first stitch. Like a decorative knitted sweater, our mind is complicated, but if we go backwards stitch by stitch we can see how we got to the strong feelings we’re having.

It’s useful to do this because your “mind sweater” can be different from mine (even if we’re using the same wool and the first stitch was the same). We could both be angry, but we got there a different way. Or, you could be angry because your mind created a very complex sweater and you surprised the hell out of the other person!

Have you ever heard someone’s reasoning for feeling a certain way and wondered “Wow! What made them go there?” or “How on Earth did they draw that conclusion?” Well, some person, somewhere, has probably wondered the same about you, too!

On the surface, our reason may seem completely unreasonable to someone else. That’s why we can unravel, to understand.

Here’s an example:

I got angry at my husband for not doing the dishes. He then got angry at me for “demanding” that he do the dishes.

Let’s pull my “string” using “Why” questions to help: I was angry and yelled at my husband. Why? I’m thinking that he’s selfish and doesn’t care about me. Why do I think that? Because he didn’t do the dishes and ignored me. Why does that make me unhappy? He doesn’t want to help me. Why? Maybe he doesn’t care about me enough.”

Here we get to the emotional root which is often a need for love, respect or feeling valued.

Is it true that my husband doesn’t care about me? No. There are many more likely reasons for his non-compliance: he’s tired too; you sounded too demanding (people like to protect their sense of autonomy); he was watching a great movie and couldn’t drag himself away, and so on.

It’s always good to consider the other person’s perspective and interests when we ask them for things.

Now, what if an argument has begun and you need to de-escalate it (put the brakes on it)?

Simple but Powerful Ideas:

  • Say something kind (The shock of hearing that in a tense moment may be enough to derail the anger train)
  • Ask yourself “What would Jesus do?” (This may sound funny, but can work wonders as your focus turns inwards and draws upon the wisdom of your “higher self”)
  • Change the topic to something really interesting to the other person (it works with toddlers and with big people)
  • Focus on what you love about him/her and communicate with that in mind (when your intentions come from love, the other person will respond better)
  • Let it slide if it’s not really important (Don’t sweat the small things)
  • Say something humorous (laughter frees us from tension)

A Time For Love

What if we started looking at this time as a perfect opportunity to give more love and understanding to those around us. What if we made a conscious decision to embody those characteristics we admire in our heroes? We could find joy in bringing our best selves to the occasion.

Being loving begets love. Giving joy and kindness to others, sees it reciprocated. These things are needed now, more than anything else.

This situation of people temporarily stopping work and being at home with family is in some ways like being home for the holidays. Intense! But rather than fighting each other, we may feel closer when we acknowledge that we’re fighting a common enemy. “In this together “ are seen on signs around Honolulu. Indeed we are.

Is there anything positive that you’ve noticed around you or experienced in your life during these tense times? I would love to hear about it!

Take care, and big virtual hugs.



P.S. As ever, please feel free to comment or send me a private message through the Contact link.