"It's one thing to feel that you are on the right path, but it's another to think that yours is the only path." -- Paulo Coelho
Have you ever had others criticize you for the path in life you have been called to walk, be it spiritual, career, lifestyle, and so on? Often those who tend to have the greatest opposition to the pathway we walk are family and friends. Of course this can be extended to include religious institutions, political parties, and cultural traditionalists as well -- many of which make no bones about it, priding themselves on believing that their way is the only way. It can be incredibly difficult to separate from the "herd" and go our own way when it goes against the grain of the herd mentality (or majority) and yet, if we don't, we know there is a part of us that will slowly begin to die. Call it spirit, soul, life force, or what you may, there is that within us that knows who it is we've come here to be and what it is we've come here to do and if we don't listen to its call, it begins to wane. This is when life becomes more about enduring until we die rather than thriving while we are here.
Perhaps what our critics don't understand is that beneath the layer of what they may refer to as "choice," there lies another layer where lives the authentic self, and its voice perpetually whispers ever so softly in our inner ear, "Be who you are and you'll find freedom, fullness of expression, joy, peace, purpose and meaning in this precious life you have been given." This voice beckons us to be true to ourselves; when we hear and listen to that voice, it's not so much that we are then guided to choose a certain path in life but, in truth, realize that our path has chosen us. However, do not consider this a "get out of jail free" card for the bad choices we all have made along the way that may have caused pain and suffering in our lives or the lives of others; the reality that our path chooses us when we are ready in no way alleviates the fact that we are always personally accountable for the choices we make in our day-to-day lives. The voice to which I refer is incapable of guiding us in a direction that is self-destructive or harmful to others or that in any way dishonors the sacredness of life, because it is life itself that beckons us.
Shakespeare was correct when he wrote, "To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man." When we are true to ourselves it calls forward a level of integrity that absolutely refuses to allow us to compromise on being who we really are, regardless of who we are with or what we are doing: There is not one human being on this planet who does not hunger for the freedom to authentically and consistently be more fully who they are, without fear of criticism, condemnation, ridicule, or being made wrong. Those who have already arrived at this level of freedom of authentic expression understand what I mean by this because they have walked the gauntlet, and have come out on the other side as whole beings. When we honor the pathway that calls to us, we discover our authentic self along the way which then becomes the portal to our own wholeness -- it is only then that our authentic voice arises and gives unique expression to who we are.
Oftentimes those who disagree with the path we have been called to walk try so hard to dissuade us because they believe in their hearts their path is the right path (aka, the "only" path). The practice is to know (in our hearts) that, for them, it is the right path because they are on it and, at the same time, have the courage and conviction to continue to walk in the direction we are being called. Is this always easy to do? Of course not, primarily because we fear losing their love and approval -- and yet, if we don't follow our own unique path, at the end of the day, when we draw our very last breath, we will have to ask ourselves whose life was it we have lived? What I know is that it is never too late to begin living our own lives, being who we are -- we just have to listen to that voice within that never lies and take the first step... and then the next step... and then the next one.
So, the question I invite you to ponder is this: Whose path are you walking today, is it yours or someone else's? Whether it is your spiritual path, your career path, your lifestyle path, or all the aforementioned, know that once you find it, as unique as it is, you walk that path not alone: Not only are there countless millions of other people who walk their unique paths with you, but the ever present infinite intelligence that put you here is your constant traveling companion as well. Be at peace in knowing that It knows how to get you to your unique point of destination, which is that sacred and precious moment you arrive at fully being who you are. To thine own self be true, indeed.
For some useful tools in learning more about how to be who you are, click here.
For more by Dennis Merritt Jones, click here.
For more on emotional wellness, click here.
More:The Need For Love And Approval How To Be Who You Are Authenticity Being Your Own Person Emotional Freedom
HuffPost Lifestyle is a daily newsletter that will make you happier and healthier — one email at a time. Learn more