Along with millions of others, I recently watched the Ken Burns’ series on the three Roosevelts. As I watched these epic personalities unfold, I thought of the issue in my book of the authentic self versus the inauthentic self created by others.
“see my book”
Each of these three people was born into patrician families that dictated by almost historic formulae the mold into which each of them should fit. Each, in their turn, wrested themselves out of those restrictive molds, found and cultivated the authentic self that they saw within and resolutely, day by day, year by year, reformulated themselves.
Teddy changed himself both physically and psychologically. Franklin was changed physically by polio, and in that trial found a new inner empathy with others that gave him the strength to cope with the Great Depression and give hope and lift to the populace. Eleanor suffered long the strictures of her upbringing. She was anguished for years being the person that others wanted her to be. Only late in her life, by small steps along the way did she find the strength to first recognize what was her true nature and then the strength to pursue activities that fulfilled that nature.
In my book I posit that most people are living lives written for them by others. And given that fact, recovering your own true self from their grasp is a difficult and arduous journey. Watching Teddy, Franklin and Eleanor make this journey over the many hours of the PBS documentary is both thrilling and uplifting. In addition, this evolution took place within the context of history, and thus the impact and reverberations through America’s destiny is profound. We are, in so many ways, who we are today by virtue of the self-authentication of these three historic individuals.
So, when in the process of reading my book as a guide to authenticity, and seeking a road map….one approach would be to find those individuals who would stand as models of that behavior and its results. I have named three. Perhaps the readers of this post could add their own exemplars. Identify people who have defied those that sought to define them and defined themselves more truly to their own vision. Those are the people we should seek to emulate. Seeing their difficult road to selfhood can give us courage. Seeing how long and hard it was for even the three Roosevelts, with all their privileges in life, to re-define themselves can inspire us to pursue our own paths.
If you haven’t seen this documentary, find it on the PBS site and watch it. But watch it not just for the history it portrays and that impacts us so largely, but for the personal odysseys of the three Roosevelts. Watch as they seek to change and define themselves more accurately and in that process engage in the history they so influenced. It will give you the courage to find your own true self. It will inspire you to take on that same journey. It will gird your loins for the arduous process and the trials therein.