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Nandakishore Padmanabhan

Imagine a mirror that shows you not just your face but your thoughts, feelings, desires, ambitions, fears, strengths and everything else that defines the person behind the mask. Now imagine looking into this mirror, every day, every moment of your life. At home, at work, at play – everywhere, reflecting the exact truth about your existence back to you, reminding you of many things you’d ideally not want to acknowledge. Scary thought right?

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But why is it so? Why does it seem so difficult for most of us to accept who we really are, what our true persona is? What we do well now and are comfortably habituated with is to dig into a cupboard full of masks that we rely on for different situations life throws us into. We put that specific mask on and suddenly we’re all geared up for battle, the confidence is high and its action time. Pretend to be someone, conform or blend in and the world is an easy place to thrive in. Put simply – just fake it! And all will be well.

But look inside; dig deep within and there is a tiny voice that keeps telling you that this is not right. That this is not the real YOU – that this entire game of self-deceit is self-destructive. You’ve heard it many times but you’ve also quickly smothered it too. Now try and recollect that one person you admired so much for just being himself/ herself and happily so – that confidence-personified winner who always seemed to have people, circumstances and good tidings ready to oblige. And you promised to yourself you’d be that persona one day, come what may.

Well, guess what? That day has come, the time is right and it is NOW. We’re living in a time when originality is being recognised, respected and rewarded like never before in history, sans prejudice, bias or forced constraints. Look around and you will find more and more examples of original, unorthodox thinkers who’re flaunting their uniqueness and using it to achieve success much to an appreciative world’s applause.

So what does it take to be original and why does it seem so difficult? For starts, when you dare to be an original, you are in essence daring to be “yourself” and everything that encompasses who you really are. To many of us, that can be a scary and daunting proposition because we’re conditioned to be everything else but that.

And why is that? Because it means putting ourselves on the line. It means subjecting ourselves to scrutiny, judgment and possible ridicule. It means exposure and vulnerability. Certainly there is more comfort to be found in conformity, lying low, and blending in with the crowd.

But it takes courage and self-confidence to dare to be an original – to reveal your uniqueness and to show that you’re one of a kind. However, as with any frightening endeavour, the rewards of overcoming obstacles and prevailing far outweigh the consequences of not venturing forth.

As Steve Jobs noted in his speech at a Stanford University graduation commencement:

“Your time is limited; so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

It’s true. Life is too short to live it trying to be anything other than your true, original self. Be who you are, and be it the best way you know how. Celebrate your individuality and uniqueness. Stop faking it and dare to be an original!

Here are some tips that could help you to be an original or your true self:

Know who you are.

Before you can be yourself, you must know who that is, and then be true to that self. Centuries ago Socrates wisely observed that self-knowledge is the pillar of all virtue. Without it nothing else is genuine.

Trust your intuition and instincts.

Part of knowing who you are is trusting your intuition and instincts. We all have an inner gauge that guides us along our most fulfilling path. Look deep within to find the answers to your life. No one is better at knowing what you need and want from life than you. Of course, it is prudent to listen to the advice of family, friends and professionals, but you are the ultimate authority on you. You are unique and original and no one but you can make your decisions for you. To go against that intuition is to go against your fundamental nature and source of satisfaction.

Express yourself by cultivating your own style, tastes and personality.

Stop trying to copy others and lose yourself in the process. Much time is wasted in such pursuits and the results are disillusionment and feelings of failure. Work on cultivating your own style, tastes and personality and you’ll discover that you’re more interesting and attractive to others. Let go of fear and embrace your uniqueness. Make your life an expression of who you are. As Steve Jobs said, have the courage to follow your heart. If you desire to be an artist, don’t settle for being an accountant because your parents want you to be, or because you can make more money at it. In the end you will lose out because the money won’t matter if you’re unhappy, unmotivated or depressed.

Believe in yourself and don’t worry about what others think.

When you choose the right path for yourself do not allow the opinions of others to distract you. People are good at offering well-intentioned, unsolicited opinions, however only you know what’s best for you. Don’t let a lack of self-confidence or self-doubt prevent you from pursuing what you know is best for you. Let go of your personal insecurities. If you strive to be someone you’re not, you will never be happy. Be yourself. Be proud of who you are. People who have a more positive view of themselves live better, healthier lives.

Benefits of being an original:

– You are true to yourself, therefore derive greater personal satisfaction and fulfillment.

-You are more noticed, interesting, and attractive to others.

-You are willing to take risks, think originally and be creative, therefore are open to greater career opportunities and advancement.

-Due to a willingness to let go of convention, you live life to the fullest and on your terms.

-Whether in your career, the arts, or in your community, you offer a fresh, new, diverse perspective.

-You are usually a trailblazer, set new trends and discover new ways of doing things.

Before we sign off, here’s the full speech made by one of the greatest ‘Original’ champions of our times – Steve Jobs at the Stanford University Graduation Commencement.