How Much Would You Pay To Be Yourself?
“Investing in yourself is the biggest investment you can make.”
I recently saw the film Being John Malkovich, a clever tale about an unhappy guy named Craig who discovers a portal into movie star John Malkovich’s mind, though which he can live vicariously for 15 minutes. When an opportunist hears about this extraordinary phenomenon, she devises a scheme to charge customers $200 to enter the portal. Soon there is a long line of people anxiously waiting to be someone else.
Like Craig’s customers, many of us pay dearly to be someone else. We spend a great deal of time, energy and money to live the life of one we admire or idolise. Fashion trends are so born, fan clubs thrive on the phenomenon, and bedroom walls of many teenagers are altars to stars who offer the kids borrowed worth and identity. Yet the most significant truth about identity is that you cannot borrow it. Either you find it within or you do not find it.
Wouldn’t be wonderful, I thought as I gazed at the long Malkovich wannabe line, if people were that motivated to find truth through their own eyes. You are the eyes of God gazing upon creation from a breathless perspective, and your mission is to report the view. A great poet once noted, God is a flower that grew a nose to smell itself.
There are two kinds of teachers: those that take your power, and those who give your power back to you. The inferior teacher tells you that something is wrong with you and offers to fix it. The superior teacher tells you that something is right with you and helps you bring it forth. Your therapy is a success only if you walk out of the door being more of you.
I know a woman who became enamoured with a shaman and dropped everything to live and study with him. How can I be more like you? She asked him. The best way to be more like me is to be more like you, he replied. The shaman was teaching her to replicate not his presentation, but his authenticity. Authenticity is the one quality of life that is always the same yet always different. We are all equally powerful when we are real, yet our realness is like none other.
A consultant is someone who borrows your watch to tell you what time it is. A guru is someone who sits by the side of a river selling bottled river water. The inferior guru implies that his bottles are your only source of refreshment. The superior guru announces, If this tastes good, I can show where to get all you want for yourself forever. A real teacher makes him or herself progressively more unnecessary.
If you have paid a teacher or therapist large sums of money to become someone else; given your power away to your husband or wife; followed a regime that ultimately blew up in your face; or gotten sucked into a cult and escaped with your soul still intact, then rejoice. Such lessons are priceless. The experience, painful and costly as you now recognise it to be, was an extraordinary teaching that This cant be it! The next meaningful question is, What is it? When you achieve such a course correction, you are well on your way back home. Your adventure was worth every penny if you take back the power you gave away and keep it for the rest of your life.
A friend is someone who remembers your song when you have forgotten it, and reminds you to sing it. A good teacher is such a friend. The greatest compliment to a teacher is the students graduation. As a counsellor, coach, or therapist, work hard to put yourself out of business. Develop such powerful students that they grow beyond your lessons. Fear not; you will not be at a loss for clients or income. As you empower others to be more of who they are, you will empower yourself to be more of who you are, and you will advance to your next level along with them. Then the world will beat a path to your door for your next insight.
To be John Malkovich for fifteen minutes – $200. What would it be worth to you to be yourself for a lifetime? Authentic power is free. You don’t have to invest a penny to become who you are. All you need to invest is yourself.
Copied from pp. 64-66 of MIND OVER MATTER, a Times of India publication, 2011.