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Dare to Live: 10 Unconventional Ways to Be True to Yourself

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“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” ~E.E.Cummings

Have you ever had a clear sign of who you really are, and then totally ignored it?Maybe it required too much change, or taking a big risk. Maybe you were scared to have to convince a loved one how much you needed this.And so you rationalized that “it wasn’t the right time.”Convinced yourself to “be sensible and put it off for a while.”I know how this feels, because I did it too.

I was 21 then, and in my third year of medical school. We were in one of our first psychiatry classes and the professor was demonstrating to us a patient with conversion disorder.

I was hooked. In no other class had I been so completely absorbed. I fell in love with a big thud, reading everything I could on neuroscience and the brain.

Although exhilarating, in my mind, this was also a disaster.

You see, my dad was (and still is) a prominent eye surgeon who owned several hospitals and had been waiting to hand over his empire to me. My falling in love with psychiatry wasn’t part of this plan.

I was raised in a culture where kids obeyed their parents. No questions asked. Even more so if you are the first born; added points if you were female. Unluckily, I was both. And so I ignored the sign and buried my desires.

Then, tragedy hit and my mother unexpectedly died. And just like that, life was turned topsy turvy.

That’s when I realized that planning to fulfill obligations first, and then chase dreams, is an illusion. Even the heady immortality of youth is sobered by meeting death up so close. I developed this urgent, almost desperate need to be fully alive and true to myself in the time I had left on this earth.

It has been more than 10 years now since I took the plunge. I have become a board certified psychiatrist in the U.S, my siblings have grown and my dad and I have made up.

But I would not have changed this journey, difficult as it was in some ways, even if I had the chance. Because it taught me, through trial and lots of errors, how to become real.

Everyone’s journey is unique. And so this is in no way a generic prescription. These things happened to work for me and I share them with the hope that some may help you in your travels as well.

1. Cherish those special friendships.

I had (and still have) friends who knew and loved me unconditionally. This is truly invaluable. Make and keep good friends and be honest with them. They can be your moral compass during stormy times. Not just psychologically, but literally, like in share-her-last-sandwich-while-reading-poetry-on-long-afternoons kind of support.

2. Don’t hate those who stumble; we all do sometimes.

It would have been so easy, and actually it was, to hate my dad for a while. But as time passed, I was able to see his side too. This guy was so poor while growing up that he had only one meal a day and wore torn rags to school.

He had to sneak to elementary classes from his day job herding sheep. From there, he had risen to be one of the top surgeons in the country and built an empire. Me rejecting it felt personal, like I was rejecting him.

We all make mistakes. It’s part of being human. If you can, forgive and allow compassion into your relationships. It makes the ride more beautiful.

3. Take responsibility for your own life.

This is the beginning of self-esteem. Although stuff happens, ultimately you are responsible for your actions.

When we deeply and utterly understand that to be true, life takes on a whole new meaning. Whatever has happened until the past moment is gone. This present moment is again yours. And you have the power to do whatever you want with it.

4. Have a big vision and keep your goals aligned with your vision.

I struggled with this one for a while. First, I had no big vision. In fact, I didn’t even know what that meant. So my goals and actions went in circles for a while.

Make sure to know what kind of person you want to be and what kind of job/life you would like to lead. Then shape your short-term goals so it is moving you in that direction (or at least not away from it).

5. Remember that death makes life real.

In the words of Steve Jobs, “Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

Death can come at any moment, to any of us. We don’t have forever to be who we are. In fact, we owe it to ourselves and those we love to be truly alive and authentic in each moment. It is the only legacy we can be proud to leave behind.

6. Don’t worry too much about making mistakes.

It is better to have tried and failed than to not have tried at all. Think and analyze your decisions carefully, but once you feel reasonably sure you have made a good choice, just trust yourself. Be bold and go forth into the wilderness.

Whatever happens, you will have gained an experience from it that only the courageous can boast of.

7. Know your strengths.

You are unique. There is only one you in this entire universe. No one has exactly your strange and magical mix of genes and experience. Learn what makes you tick. And keep building on that. You will make wonderful things happen.

8. Be kind to yourself.

We all mess up once in a while. When it happens and you finally catch on, drop your ego, admit your mistake fully, and make amends. Learn from it so you don’t repeat that same lesson again. Then forgive yourself and move on. Life is hard and we are not made to be perfect.

9. Be in the moment.

This present moment is alive and full of potential. Learning to be mindful has helped me tremendously by keeping me in my life, as it happens.

Whether you are playing, sleeping, working, lazing, watching TV, or hanging out with someone you love, give your awareness to it 100%. I highly recommend a daily mindfulness practice. It has changed the way I relate to life.

10. Don’t forget to laugh.

It has gotten me through many a sticky situation. And created hours of pure fun. Include as much good humor in your day as legally possible. And that’s a doctor’s order. :)

So dear readers and future friends, don’t wait to be who you are. You are special and there is a reason you are on this earth. No matter what your situation is, there is something you can do today to move toward your true self.

Dare to live; your dreams are counting on you.

Photo by Mourner

Avatar of Kavetha Sundaramoorthy

About Kavetha Sundaramoorthy

Kavetha is a psychiatrist, passionate about using neuroscience and eastern mindfulness to help people live their best lives. Subscribe for a free E-book on “How to beat depression using mindfulness,” or find her on Facebook.

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  • Alexey Sunly

    Legal possibilities are not always desirable, and illegal ones might be much more constructive than those ;-P But great message overall, thank you for putting it out there! :-)

  • Kavetha

    Haha, good one Alexey :)
    Glad you enjoyed the post!

    Kavetha

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Leigh-Ann/766390222 Leigh Ann

    simply stunning…felt so connected to you and your experience, which was in many ways similar to mine. blessings to you.

  • Kavetha

    Hi Leigh Ann,

    So glad the post connected to your own experience! Yes it’s amazing how many of us put off living for “the future” right? hope you are on the journey to feeling alive. Blessings to you too ❤

  • http://simpleworksorganzing.com/ Simple Works Organizing

    Kavetha, nice post! I really enjoyed it, especially the idea of death making life real.

  • Kavetha

    Death is definitely the best was to make life meaningful…

    Glad you enjoyed it :)

  • rajan

    I read it mindfully..good points and thank you for the post..it was on time..Cheers

  • Kavetha

    Kudos to you for reading stuff online mindfully Rajan! I think that’s something that Lori encourages too!

    Have a wonderful day

  • Kathy www.yinyangmother.com

    Nice post Kavetha – love the laughter too.

  • Leah McClellan

    Hi Kavetha,

    Loved this post! So great how you tied in the tips with your own experience with your dad and your mom’s passing (so sorry to read that, but I’m glad things worked out with your dad).

    This line is like a quotable quote: “Even the heady immortality of youth is sobered by meeting death up so close.” I think I know what you mean. I had some serious realizations when I was 19 and hit by a car and almost died–yep, it makes you think and live life differently. And the part about making mistakes is great…it’s all good.

    Thanks for such a great read :)

  • Lisa Takamiya

    Loved it!! Especially about holding a Big Vision–I like that–and keeping your goals aligned with that–not thinking too small or only thinking of what we think is possible…there is more than the mind can imagine…
    thanks!

  • Khurty Ramudu

    Wow. This made me cry. Really needed to read this today. Also just downloaded the e-book! Thank you for your good work.

  • naina singh

    hi kavetha,your insights were wonderful,more so because they were as simple as they could get,really helps when the last thing you want is some complicated wisdom to get you through your life.

    your name suggests that you are from southern india. are you practicing in india? well,i live in northern india:) and the reason why your post hit home for me
    is because i am a pre-med.there are days when i shout to myself-”hello med school,hold on,i am coming!!” and then there are other days when i just can’t convince myself enough that this can be done.but i guess ,living with this uncertainity is the only certainity i will have for now.JUST WANTED TO SHARE :) thanks again for your post.

  • http://twitter.com/EBRecordings Ξℬℝ

    Getting away from the routine from time to time helps also doing things from day to day that is enjoyable. Having a release (exercise) & grow all the things all the time.

  • AllSeeker97

    Very positive and gave me some very good ideas ^.^ thank you

  • Krishty

    DARE TO LIVE! … I WILL! :D

  • kavetha

    Glad you enjoyed it Kathy :)

  • kavetha

    Hi Leah,

    I’m so sorry you were in a serious MVA at just 19! Wow good for you for taking love of life as a lesson from it!

    Glad you enjoyed the post :)

  • kavetha

    Hi Lisa,

    You totally hit the nail on the head with “There is more than the mind can imagine”,

    so so true! The forest is bigger than any individual tree could imagine huh?

  • kavetha

    Hi Khurty,

    You’re so welcome and thank you for such warm words of encouragement :)

  • kavetha

    Hi Naina,

    Good to hear form you. Yes I’m originally from South India (coimbatore), right now I live and practice in the U.S.

    Yea med school is a loooong journey for sure. But you know what Naina….looking back, those days were so wonderful and I wish I had appreciated that stage more then. So if I had one suggestion for you: don’t worry too much about the future. Uncertainty is always part of life, at every stage. Have an overall big vision of your own values and dreams, stay true to yourself, then enjoy the present as you go toward it.

    The journey IS the best part :)

    Glad you enjoyed the post. Feel free to stop by at http://www.talk-doctor.com sometime :)

    Kavetha

  • kavetha

    Love those suggestions! Especially the grow things one. Thanks for sharing! :)

  • kavetha

    You are welcome Allseeker97 (what a cool name! :)

  • kavetha

    That’s the spirit! Go for it Krishty!

  • http://twitter.com/Cigirlys Cigirly’s

    After reading about something I can do “TODAY” to change my future, I’m deciding to move forward and make a change that I’ve been thinking about for a long time. What’s the worst that can happen?

  • Kavetha

    Hi Cigirly,

    Awesome!! I’m so glad for you that U’ve decided to take the plunge and try something you’ve been wanting to do for a while! Enjoy the process and I wish you tons of good luck

  • christina

    Thank you for this!! I needed to hear the story about you and your father and the differences you both had. I am going through the same thing. I have been confused and angered but now I realize that I should show more compassion not only towards him but myself.

    Your tips reaffirm that the unconventional life leads to a more fulfilling life. THANK YOU FOR THIS! :)

  • kavetha

    You are so welcome Christina. My warmest wishes to both your journey and your fathers :)

  • CM

    Beautiful

  • Kavetha

    Hi CM, glad you enjoyed it. Have a daring day

  • Kiran Kadambi Srivatsa

    I’m really glad to read this. Thank you for having written such a beautiful post :)

  • Jenifer Lamug

    Thank you for this beautiful post! It’s a great reminder for everyone.

  • Dee Wise

    I appreciate the fact that the writing of this is, itself, an example of soul baring authenticity which add immediate credibility. Secondly, one of the most humbling things I’ve discovered on my path to authenticity is the newfound connectedness I feel to other humans, something made literally impossible through the haze of a false self. In fact, I made a virtue of emotional ” independence.” To understand that we are all subject to the human condition makes compassion for myself easier and quiets the inner critic.

  • jake

    Thank you for this article. I am 18. In a few short months I will be graduating high school.
    Everything will change and I have really reflected on that.
    I have recently come to terms with my own mortality (no one I knew died btw), I just realized that life is short. Too short to do anything but things that make me happy.

    I am definitely going to take a lot of your advice as I move forward in my life.