Personal, Renaissance Reflections

When are you most naturally yourself?

As you may know, I’m currently going through the How To Think Like Leonardo da Vinci book as an exercise in Renaissance-style thought and general self-improvement.

This week’s question for contemplation was about when you are most naturally yourself.

The question

When am I most naturally myself? What people, places and activities allow me to feel most fully myself?

My reflections

What people allow me to feel most fully myself? 

I am most naturally myself in Glastonbury with Anna and Simon. They allow me to be myself – or perhaps more properly, I allow me to be myself around them – because of their total acceptance of who I am. Also, it probably springs from the situation in which we first met.

I went there on my first ever holiday, when I was about twenty-one. I was desperately stressed and had been overworking all my life. I chose Glastonbury because I’d been there for a research conference and loved the area. Anna confiscated my laptop and removed all the caffeine from my room. I slept a lot, read a lot, and walked a lot. They encouraged me to join them for a glass of wine in the evenings, without being pushy.

Glastonbury Tor
Glastonbury Tor

Nowadays I feel like I can be who I am around them because there’s no shell. I’m not sure quite how to describe it, but everyone else in my life started off with me being in some kind of position of power or responsibility.

Most of my friends are people I used to manage at work, or people I’ve met in professional situations. Now that we don’t work together it’s different, and there isn’t the same power structure anymore, but I still take on the role of “responsible one” and anything else is a break or diversion from that. I can call my friends when I need to talk, and I can show them when I’m not OK (progress!), but there’s an expectation – on my part as much as theirs – that I’ll spring back into my old position. Like a stress ball, or a rubber band.

With Anna & Simon it’s more like I’m meeting them on equal ground – by which I just mean that there aren’t, and never have been, any expectations.

They are also the only people in the world who have ever called me “nice”. I don’t really cultivate “nice” in my day-to-day life; I cultivate “badass”, and I try to cultivate “good”, but “nice” isn’t one of those words you’d necessarily apply to me, and I’m cool with that. Except that being a badass 100% of the time can be occasionally exhausting. 😉

What places allow me to feel most fully myself? 

In terms of places, again I think it’s Glastonbury where I can be most myself. I think there are a few reasons for this:

  1. No one knows me, so it doesn’t matter what they think of me;
  2. It’s the kind of place where most things are accepted anyway;
  3. I only associate it with positive life experiences;
  4. The activities I do when I’m there probably help, too.

What activities allow me to feel most fully myself? 

In Glastonbury I go for long walks. This is something I’m trying to implement in my London life, too; but the Somerset countryside is particularly beautiful. The walks relax me; improve my general state of mind; make me feel physically healthier; and encourage me to notice the world around me.

Countryside walks in Somerset
Countryside walks in Somerset

I also dip in and out of religious buildings. In town I will often visit the church, walk up to the little quiet reflection room and kneel on the floor for a while, and then go to the Goddess Temple and do a similar thing. I enjoy this because I like silent, reverent spaces that encourage quiet reflection.

However, it’s hard to do this in London. If you frequent your local church, people get to know who you are. Churches aren’t constantly open here like they are in the countryside. I don’t know if there are any pagan spaces, but I’d be reluctant to go because I have to live in London, and I don’t want people impinging on my reflection time. I want to be anonymous in my silence.

Perhaps that’s it: for me, Glastonbury provides the best mix of friendship, friendliness, and solitude.

The final thing I do differently in Glastonbury is my Blue Note Café tradition. They have a lovely courtyard and I like to sit there with a hot chocolate, reading and writing in my journal. Again, I’ve tried this in London, but it’s the countryside that makes it special.

In Summary

People Places Activities
Anna & Simon Glastonbury long walks
religious buildings
countryside cafés

Now it’s your turn 😉

When are you most naturally yourself? What people, places and activities allow you to feel most fully yourself?

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