"Just be yourself" seems like the simplest, most straightforward life advice, but how many of use truly know how to just be ourselves.
For a long time I felt many parts of me were separate from me, out of my control, in another box from where I was. I spent most of my time in my mind - calculating, pre-empting, having pretend conversations or re-living past ones, imagining how my most feared experiences would play out and what I might do to defend myself and so on.
This is not to say I am now completely free from the mind chatter. It is the nature of the mind to chatter and have thoughts bouncing back and forth. And the mind is commonly perceived as being the primary source of our human intelligence. When we think of someone being called smart or clever, the image of the brain comes to mind. But there is so much more intelligence in our full capacity as human beings if we could just tune into it a bit more, then we may know how to just be ourselves. With unapologetic confidence and kindness for self.
In 2010, I signed up for the MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) course in Cape Town run by IMISA. This was really the start of developing my understanding about and being able to be present. Then later when I began coaching, this understanding deepened as I learnt about the emotional and somatic intelligence centres.
A.K.A. Somatic Intelligence. When the mind is so busy and ever-occupying your attention, it is hard to recognise the real capacity for body's ability to support you through change, recognising new insights and guiding you to what you need.
It is easy to perceive the body like one might perceive a car or vehicle. As long as you have fuel in the tank, you expect it to work for whenever and however long you need. However vehicle care is more than fuel in the tank. It may be checking the oil, topping up with water, giving it a wash, getting the tyres checked and rotated or taking it for a service. That might be enough, but what about when it unexpectedly breaks down, you have a flat tyre, you hit a pothole or have an accident. It's easy to perceive that the vehicle let you down. However, how could it have been different if you could notice how you were driving daily in a way that could lengthen your tyre wear and sensing when to have them checked/ replaced, or you could be present to notice the pothole in advance to avoid it before hitting it. Our relationship with our body is similar. We may expect it to get us from A to B, but how present are we in them before and in that journey to B?
Somatic intelligence is developed through body practice. For me, this may be a hike or walk outside, stretching at home or a 5Rhythms or Yoga class. It also includes breathing techniques and practising gratitude, kindness and sensitivity to my body when it needs it.
For me, tuning in to my emotional intelligence meant I had to work through my fear of feeling and expressing my emotions. My experience of anger for example had a scary association to it from a childhood memory, so when I felt it come up in me, I chose to bottle it in rather than let it out. Emotions are complex and come from the thoughts, perceptions and beliefs we have.
Emotional intelligence is developed through awareness of your own emotions, and being able to control, express and connect with others with empathy and compassionate judiciousness.
So when we can work on all three of these intelligence centres, we will likely gain greater confidence in knowing ourselves and being able to just be ourselves.