How to Be You Even When You Don’t Like You

by Stacey Curnow on · 4 comments


The 12th-century poet Rumi said each of us is try­ing to hide the same secret from each other. It isn’t any­thing mali­cious — we’re just hid­ing the mere fact of our flawed human­ness. Rumi called it the “Open Secret.”

I know that I expend too much energy feel­ing less-than-adequate and I expend even more of it try­ing to remind myself that I am just fine exactly the way I am. For me — and prob­a­bly for you, as well — a lot of my feel­ings of inad­e­quacy stem from a sense that other folks have it more together than I do.

But I do it to myself, too: I recently shared with a friend the things I do that con­tribute to my feel­ing inad­e­quate: I com­pare myself to oth­ers (and I always come up short), I strug­gle to cel­e­brate oth­ers’ suc­cesses (they’ve got friends and fam­ily who will do that, right?), and I day­dream about being “saved” (my book on per­sonal devel­op­ment will be wildly suc­cess­fully — with no more effort on my part, or I’ll receive a large inher­i­tance from a long-lost rel­a­tive — even though I have none, or I’ll win the Power­ball — which I don’t play).

Yet I sus­pect that even the peo­ple who seem to be liv­ing out what I would call the “per­fect” life prob­a­bly have an Open Secret, too. And while the friend who let me cat­a­logue my self-sabotage strate­gies didn’t say that she has the same weak­nesses, she accepted them with­out judg­ment. And it felt good to share them.

But within a short time I found myself once more com­par­ing myself to the more-together-than-thou in my life. And once more hav­ing trou­ble accept­ing my own foibles as right and nec­es­sary. Why is that?

This dif­fi­culty is espe­cially mys­te­ri­ous to me because I’m not all that inter­ested in sugar-sweet, sun-filled sto­ries anyway.

In fact, all of my favorite sto­ries are pretty bleak and don’t end par­tic­u­larly well. (I loved Cor­mac McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic novel The Road.) And yet in every one of the sto­ries I get the most out of, love for oth­ers — and true con­nec­tion with them-bring mean­ing and solace. My favorite tales are about hope and hope­less­ness; home and exile; joy and sorrow.

Great writ­ers are supremely gifted at cre­at­ing char­ac­ters who wres­tle with great chal­lenges and expe­ri­ence a more pro­found sense of mean­ing and joy because of them.

If you are feel­ing alien­ated, or anx­ious, or full of grief — or if the despair of the world is weigh­ing heavy on your heart — look no fur­ther than any num­ber of clas­sic sto­ries to help you find light in the darkness.

Think of The Lord of the Rings. It’s the ulti­mate story of strangers cre­at­ing com­mu­nity, shar­ing a dif­fi­cult jour­ney, help­ing each other to achieve suc­cess against all odds — and ulti­mately learn­ing though adver­sity to savor the pass­ing moments of their ordi­nary lives.

Get­ting to the space where you can do that, of course, may mean mak­ing peace with the dark­ness first. To do this, I take a page from another of my favorite nov­els: The Wind-Up Bird Chron­i­cle by Haruki Murakami.

In this book the pro­tag­o­nist, faced with a rough patch in his life, is told by a wise man that he must “sit at the bot­tom of the well” for a while — he must face his dif­fi­cul­ties and, for a while at least, not strive against them, but seek to under­stand the lessons they offer.

I have taken this so much to heart that most of my friends know that “sit­ting at the bot­tom of the well” is my way of say­ing that after a tough day, or week, or month I am going to my quiet place in order to dis­cover what I am sup­posed to learn.

So, first you accept that “there are feel­ings of depres­sion in you” (I learned from Eck­hart Tolle in A Whole New Earth that you never want to iden­tify so strongly with neg­a­tive feel­ings that you say things like, “I am depressed.”). Accept the feel­ings with­out judg­ment. Just let them be. Then, start ask­ing pow­er­ful questions.

Here are the ques­tions that I try to ask: What is the sit­u­a­tion that’s stress­ing me out most right now? Why is that so? What am I doing or believ­ing to cre­ate or main­tain or worsen this sit­u­a­tion? What is the ben­e­fit or pay­off for main­tain­ing this sit­u­a­tion? What is the cost or down­side of tak­ing action to change this situation?

The responses to those ques­tions form the basis for pow­er­ful responses that can give you enor­mous insight into you and your sit­u­a­tion. And when you stop try­ing to keep your­self a secret, it’s a whole lot eas­ier to be you.

So — how are you?

by Stacey Curnow

Stacey is a pur­pose and suc­cess coach who helps you give birth to your BIG dreams. To find your pur­pose and pas­sion, check out her FREE eBook, The Pur­pose and Pas­sion Guide­book.
Stacey Curnow
View all posts by Stacey Curnow

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan Kuhn March 10, 2013 at 8:43 am

Stacey, what a beautiful and sane post about living well. We share an interest in the same writers (Rumi, Eckhardt Tolle). I appreciate your perspective on managing the ups and downs of reality.


Stacey March 10, 2013 at 11:37 am

Hi Susan!

Thanks so much for your kind comment! It’s so wonderful to “see” you here!

If you love Rumi and Tolle, I think you’ll also love Elizabeth Lesser and her book, Broken Open. If you haven’t already read it, I hope you will and let me know what you think!

Much love,
Stacey´s Last Fabulous Post ..How to Stop Beating Yourself Up (without turning into a self-pitying slacker)My Profile


Erin Prais-Hintz March 11, 2013 at 8:52 am

Miss Stacey, this is exactly what I needed to hear today. I realized that I have been suffering from a crisis of confidence of late. I have been involved with a hugely talented pool of jewelry designers in an online course. Unfortunately, my schedule has not allowed me to participate fully in this course, and I have been playing catch up since it began and yet I still signed on for an extension of the course, that I am also finding it hard to stay on top of. But mostly I feel that the direction that I had been going in is at a stand still. I have put up roadblocks in my own way and I am not able to get past them. I need to regroup, get myself into that well, and find out the way through. And stop comparing myself to those others that I am seeing that have a different definition of success than what I felt I had achieved. I haven’t written on my blog in over a week (again due to circumstances and a profound lack of something to say) but I think that your post and this idea of an ‘Open Secret’ might just be what I need to push forward again. Thank you, Miss Stacey for sharing these insights! Enjoy the day. Erin
Erin Prais-Hintz´s Last Fabulous Post ..The Challenge of Music RevealMy Profile


Stacey March 11, 2013 at 4:58 pm

Hi Erin!

Thanks so much for letting me know exactly how my blog was able to help you! That really makes my day!

Having identified the source of your crisis (overextending yourself and over-comparing to others), I know you will “course correct” and be back on the path to KNOWING that you have valuable gifts to share. Once you know that, you’ll be ready to take the necessary steps forward.

One of the mantras I use when I’m feeling overwhelmed from too many to-do’s and too much “compare and despair” is “Everything happens at the perfect time for the greatest good of all.” It really helps me and I hope it helps you too!

Take wonderful care, and much love,
Stacey´s Last Fabulous Post ..How to Stop Beating Yourself Up (without turning into a self-pitying slacker)My Profile


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