On Being Yourself: E.E. Cummings and Me


“Just be yourself,” a trusted friend once advised me. I’d been in a panic over a public appearance, caught up in a whirlwind of self-doubt, and certain of only one thing—that ‘myself’ was nowhere near good enough.

What I needed, my inner critic assured me, was a razzle-dazzle multimedia presentation to hide behind and a pedigree that I did not possess.

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I had done my homework, knew my subject, and was well prepared, but I’d been lulled into believing by organizers that the event would be a low key affair. “A simple question-and-answer session with a few other media types,” they’d said. “No need for a PowerPoint or formal presentation.”

What they didn’t tell me, however, was that my fellow presenters—two impressive national magazine travel editors and a charismatic TV personality—would never dream of showing up prepared to ‘just be themselves.’ They knew better.

The magazine A-Listers had brought cutting-edge iPad presentations (well before iPads were mainstream) with professionally produced videos and storylines, and the good looking TV host had, well, TV clips. 

Oh, sure: Just be myself. WHAT WAS I THINKING?

Here’s the rub. There was no way I could compete. The facts remained: I was NOT the editor of a big brand magazine, I was NOT a popular Travel Channel host, and no jazzy slideshow was going to change that. 

The worst of it was that, in reality, there was nobody but myself trying to make me everybody else. The other panelists were gracious and kind, and there were hints—a slight shake of a hand, a tremble in a voice—that they too might be nervous.

The battle I was fighting was an internal one; and not an entirely unfamiliar one. 

I thought about my self-taught skills, the outlandish leap from math teacher to travel journalist I’d taken more than a decade ago, the uncertainty and promise of an independent life, the terror of faith, the questionable decision to pursue a life of freedom, and the people who supported my journey—many of whom would be in the audience.    

It wasn’t a high-tech presentation or a big-brand title that I needed. Rather the courage to be real, to show up as me, to believe that I had something unique and helpful to share, and that as one human being connecting to another, I will always be enough.

What about you? Do you struggle with being ‘nobody but yourself’? Share a comment below, on my Facebook page, or tag me on twitter to continue the conversation. I’d love to hear your thoughts. 

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About Ellen Barone: Consumer travel journalist Ellen Barone is the founder and publisher of TravelUpdatesbyEllenBarone.com and YourLifeIsATrip.com. She’s currently at work on her first book - I COULD LIVE HERE

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Ellen Barone has been creating words and images for travel and tourism since 1998. She co-founded and publishes the group travel blog YourLifeIsATrip.com and is currently at work on her first book "I Could Live Here".