A hundred years ago, society frowned upon those who were left-handed. In fact, the bias against lefties goes back quite a while. The Latin word referring to the left hand, sinister, means evil, while the word referring to the right hand, dexter, means correct. A hundred years ago schools “broke” lefties and turned them into righties. It’s estimated that seven to ten percent of the population is left-handed, so plenty of people were just plain wrong, perhaps even evil, in society’s eyes.
Imagine the internal stress for a young boy in those days who yearned to do the most natural thing in the world — to pick up a pencil and draw with his left hand. But he knew he shouldn’t. It was wrong. It’s not what everyone expected. He’d be shamed if he used the wrong hand. But he already lived every day with the shame of his innate preference for the “wrong” hand.
Do you struggle with similar internal stress? Plenty of us do. It’s being introverted in a family of extroverts. It’s being extroverted in a family that expects silence. It’s being a gentle soul in a workplace that expects you to be a shark. It’s being a shark living in a monastery. It’s wanting to live in the woods and paint when you’re expected to live in a gated community and be a lawyer. It’s wanting to live in a gated community and be a lawyer when everyone in your world values painters who live like Thoreau.
A few years ago I had the incredible opportunity to be at the Smithsonian when they brought out the rare Stradivari, and had virtuoso musicians play them. The sound that came from those ancient instruments! The skill with which they were played!
It seems that every instrument has one note it resonates to — the note that is true and clear. When this note is played, the instrument transcends itself and the musician and creates a wholly new, marvelous thing. Singers, too, have this kind of resonate note. It’s the note you sing when someone says, “Sing.” It may be sharp or flat, high or low — but it’s your natural note. And when you sing it, your soul thrums.
Internal stress comes from having to sing another person’s resonant note. You live in constant contradiction with your essential, true self. No thrum. Ever.
If you don’t know your own internal resonant note, don’t fear. You can find it. You may have repressed it in order to fit in, or, like our left-handed friend, to avoid shame — but, believe me, it’s still there inside you. How to find it?
Start by daring to live as your essential self. Be introverted if that’s the way you were born. Be loud if that’s how you really are. Be a goofball. Be serious. Be sentimental, be generous, be a hopeless romantic — be whatever you are when you’re truly, authentically your best self.
When you stop fighting your innate yearning, and just pick up that pencil in your left hand regardless of what people say — you will have found your creative, true self.
To defeat your internal stress, all you have to do is dare to sing your own note.