Recently, I went to a surprise party for my friend James Robare.
Jimmy recently has accepted the position of athletic director at Johnstown.
He has poured a lot of time and energy into the Gloversville Enlarged School District for several years as a student, volunteer coach, teacher, coach and administrator.
Now it's time for him to move on to the next phase of his life. Throughout the night I had the great pleasure of talking to some old friends and former coaches that came to pay tribute to Jimmy.
It was quite impressive to hear how deeply Jimmy has been able to touch the lives of the people around him and it was an honor to be invited to share in his accomplishments.
Jimmy got up to speak and in a touching way said thanks to everyone in the room who came out to enjoy his moment with him. He said that it was difficult leaving his friends and the students of Gloversville but that he looked forward to the opportunities in Johnstown.
He thanked his wonderful family and friends and spoke with certainty that this was the right move for him at this time in his life.
During his talk, he said something that really touched my heart and afterwards I went to him to point out the truth in what he said.
What touched me the most is when he said, "If I am just me, I'll be fine." No greater truth could be told.
So often we try to live up to the expectations of others and we miss the authenticity that makes us special. Too often we look outside ourselves to find acceptance and approval that ironically is readily available when we are just who we really are, the real "me."
So often we put aside our personal truth to make someone else happy or to get their approval.
Often we are taught that we should put other's feelings ahead of our own or that we should consider other's feelings before our own.
Too often we take this to mean that we have to put ourselves behind the individual we are trying to "help."
I have been blessed with a lot of opportunities to find my niche, but in the end, I learned that it wasn't the niche that made me special. It was being authentic that made me special.
This is the same thing that makes all of us individual and special.
The irony is that the more I tried to be better at what I thought I was, the more difficulties I had and the more my life was a struggle.
So when Jimmy said that if he was just himself, then all would be well, I wanted to stand up and yell, "Yes, that's it. Follow that."
I have noticed that when I am not being authentic, true to the person I really am, then my own well-being suffers.
I choose foods out of habit, not because they are really what my body needs to be healthy. I work more but accomplish less when I am trying to live up to others' expectations of me.
My life gets out of balance, which makes my decision-making abilities suffer, and then I am caught in the wheel of bad decisions and get more conflict and chaos in my life.
If we are doing things to make others happy, eventually we will feel bad. Perhaps they don't receive it the way we want, so we become resentful.
Or we begin to expect something in return from them. This is not a true gift. This is a gift with conditions.
Sometimes we do things out of obligation and neglect ourselves physically or mentally/emotionally. This catches up to us in the form of illness and disease. I have countless patients that keep pushing themselves to "do" and often force themselves to the point of physical breakdown. So even though we know we are pushing ourselves too hard, we keep pushing trying to "help" someone.
When I do things out of obligation, I notice that I really don't do a good job. My heart is not in it, so it ends up taking longer, or I get frustrated and lose my temper. Often the results are mediocre at best and the toll on me personally makes the activity not worth it for me or anyone else. I have noticed that at these times, I am not actually helpful, which of course makes it even more difficult to do the next time.
Often I meet people who are struggling with a conflict between what they know they "should" be doing and what they actually are doing.
This comes in the form of personal health, relationships, career or any number of other areas in our life.
We all try so hard to fulfill the different roles in our lives that we forget to start with the one that is the most important, being who we truly are.
For example, I have a patient who has multiple body parts that are breaking down. Physically, her life is getting harder and harder.
Quite frankly, as she continues to take on more than she can handle, she is less effective at the tasks she is working on.
She is spreading herself so thin that instead of finding the light at the end of the tunnel, she is digging deeper and deeper into the dark.
She tells me that she is "thinking about" cutting back on how much she is doing for others in the future. Why wait?
We all know when we have stepped outside our own truth. We can feel the frustration, resentment, obligation, guilt, remorse, angry etc. These are all sure signs that we are no longer being true to ourselves and we have veered off the path of wellness.
I understand that in difficult situations, we often act out of necessity.
We genuinely don't have the luxury of considering why we do what we do.
I am not suggesting that anyone should stop helping loved ones or otherwise.
I am merely suggesting that it is worth considering your situation to be sure you are on your path, living your purpose on the planet.
I have experienced in my life that the really difficult times are our greatest lessons and become opportunities to get back on track. In the midst of the storm, it is awful and certainly not easy to see the gift.
But upon reflection, after the storm has passed or at least calmed down, most people can see how the struggle is the very fuel we need to propel us back onto our path. The struggle is the contrast for us to notice what happens when we "help" out of obligation or sense of responsibility compared to when we genuinely help because it feels right inside uswithout expectation of reward or payback.
I have found that as I change my day-to-day handling of situations, I am better prepared to handle larger issues. Being authentic moment-to-moment allows us to make appropriate decisions that reinforce our life's purpose, even when times are tough.
The first phase of wellness is the recognition that we are drifting away from our true self, we are neglecting our well-being. The second phase is that we are being called home to our authentic self. Wellness is when the real "me" is in charge.
The authentic "me" does not pretend to have all the answers and make up excuses about what we do or don't do.
The authentic "me" does not live by the definition someone else gives us about the job we do. The authentic "me" does not do what others think is important but does what our hearts tells us is important, despite the outside noise.
My friend Jimmy nailed it when he said, "If I am just me," then things will be fine. The authentic "me" is just that, authentic.
We naturally reach out to help others. We naturally forgive the mistakes of others (and ourselves). We naturally find balance. We naturally support others in our lives cheer for the success of everyone, including our competitors. We naturally find a path that has fewer bumps.
In fact, finding the real "me" is as easy as noticing when you feel bad inside. Because when you feel bad, you are off-point. You are no longer the "true you" and that feeling is re-directing you back.
If you are putting someone down, criticizing them or how they do things, you are living in an idea of who you are. If you are argumentative and combative towards people around you, or are defending a position you have learned, or if you are talking badly about someone, basing your opinions on what others have told you rather than what you know from your own personal experience, you are creating more harm than good for yourself and those around you and you are no longer your true self.
When we are authentic we support good health, we prioritize a peaceful personal life, we strive for accomplishments that unify, we choose kind words of praise and support, we encourage those around us to be who they are instead of who we want them to be, we are patient and recognize that we all see the world differently and that this is a gift, not a curse. Basically, we stop trying to do the right thing and trust that the right thing starts by being authentic. End of story.
To my friend Jimmy, I am very happy for you. As you transition into your new position, just being yourself, you will not only make the right decisions, but your effect will be felt throughout the district and beyond. Good luck, my friend.
Matthew Goodemote, a Gloversville native, owns Community Physical Therapy & Wellness. His Health & Wellness column will answer your questions and discuss topics that are relevant to your everyday way of life. If you would like to ask a question, e-mail Matthew at firstname.lastname@example.org.