Daring to be Yourself By Mike Bundrant with Peter Shepherd
One of the web’s first personal development leaders, Peter Shepherd has reached millions of people through trans4mind. His is an empowering message, that people can have a much better life if they are true to themselves – their conscience, their inner knowing, their talents and creative potential. His ebook, Daring to be Yourself, has sold 500,000 copies. I recently took the opportunity to ask Peter some questions about this simple yet profound concept.
MB: Why “Daring”…? This presupposes that it takes courage or involves risk to be oneself. How is this the case?
Peter Shepherd: That’s right. Of course, one is already oneself, inside… one’s spiritual and genetic makeup exists now. But you are not necessarily BEING that way, because that would require a re-awakening of parts of oneself that have long been put to sleep. Why were they put to sleep? Because we have learned to conform to other people’s expectations and to other people’s interpretations.
We may have been slapped down badly by parents or teachers in our early years, when we expressed our true feelings and inclinations. To belong to our peer group we may have had to compromise in a big way too, or to prevent being bullied. We may have had painful episodes when we tried doing (or being, feeling, saying) what we felt was right, and it all turned out wrong, so we don’t try that again. Unfortunately this new, diminished way of being becomes a habit. Habits aren’t changed easily, as we all know; it requires motivation and determination to do so, otherwise we slip back to what now seems “the easy way.”
MB: Do you advocate a specific approach to becoming oneself – or an eclectic approach…tell us a little about the process.
Peter Shepherd: I suppose the process is outlined most clearly in Part Four of the book: A Positive Approach and the first lesson about Invalidation. It begins…
There are many and various ways you might have been put-down by others and as a result agreed to have less power. You need to look again at what happened and ask yourself: What choices did I make? Consider:
• What did I decide about myself ?
• What did I decide about the other person or other people?
• What did I choose to think?
• How did I choose to feel? What emotion did I choose?
• What did I choose to do?
• How did my choices affect my behavior going forward?
• What other choices could I have made, and what might the effect of each of those choices be?
• What positive learning can I get from this experience?
The positive learning is basically whatever insight you have found after realizing you have chosen one direction and that you can revise that choice if you want. For we always have choices, and the following lessons go on to look at issues such as co-dependence, suppression, criticism, taking responsibility, and then reconstructing the beliefs and considerations that drive emotions and resulting behaviors. Letting go of fear, grief, guilt and shame is then possible, and creating one’s life purpose.
We all choose what we wish to be. No one can actually compel us… we may delude ourselves that it is so, but it is not. The same wind that blows a ship onto the rocks could equally blow it into safe harbor. In short, it is not the wind, it is the set of the sail. A thousand choices are daily open to every person, and we make our choices.
MB: Why don’t more people set out to become themselves? It seems like this would be a primary goal – like going to college, getting a job or starting a family – but “becoming myself” isn’t a popular goal and most people are not raised with clear ideas about what this means? Why?
Peter Shepherd: We have learned to conform to the expectations of our parents and later our peers. We have established a safety net of fixed beliefs and solutions to the challenges involved in living. We may have little awareness of our inner self, as that has been suppressed alongside our natural desires and inner expression, which have so often been knocked on the head whenever they emerged in the past. Mindfulness, where we retain a certain objectivity to our emotional reactions and therefore open-mindedness, is a facet of maturity that is usually undeveloped at the time we start our careers. And as soon as we take on responsibilities it becomes increasingly difficult to take on new risks or to go against the grain. A person’s self-image is their ego, and of course we identify with what we are being – we can’t see that objectively.
To “change yourself” therefore feels like a betrayal of self, and all that has been invested in you, rather than the exciting possibility of actually becoming more of your true self… .that is a concept few have discovered. Parents, partners and peers also may consider it threatening to their relationship with you, and an implied criticism of their values and influence, when you express a desire to change or develop yourself. They may be jealous, envious, possessive or manipulative. For these reasons, personal development is a courageous (as well as honest and true) path to follow.
MB: What are the top 2-5 things you’d recommend anyone do to grow more as a person?
Peter Shepherd: Each of us can make a lot of headway by applying some simple principles and disciplines…
Firstly, to always be guided by Love, since Love is the creative force, the intent, the quality, that is your essential nature. It always leads to truth… it IS truth. So whenever you act, ask “Am I doing this through love?” This is the best way to get in touch with inner guidance, to start to know your true self.
Secondly, be mindful before reacting emotionally. Take time to breathe, to get into the present moment – pull yourself in from attention trapped in the past and the future and be grounded and centered in your body. Here and now. Then respond, from love and not from fear.
And thirdly, remember that communication is the solvent of problems. When in doubt, or you’re anxious, or you feel stranded: communicate. That means to express your feelings and safeguard your rights – but equally to ask questions and listen intently, not just to spout off.
These will take you a very long way. The key is to take what you learn and put it into practice in your daily life. To change the engrained habits of a lifetime, and even to change the nature programmed into your genes, is possible but it will take your determined application, over and over again, to reprogram your mind and transform yourself.
No one need accept that they must remain as they were shaped by their hereditary body-mind and by the conditioning of their childhood and culture. Each of us can evolve consciously by undertaking our own path of personal development, according to our individual needs, weaknesses and strengths.
For more details and to order the book please visit this page at Trans4mind: http://www.trans4mind.com/daring/
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