The clearest benchmark of our personal view on ourselves is whether or not we trust that small voice within, or feel the need to survey the crowds.
I used to think it was a necessity to ask everyone I was trying to impress what to do next, or at least ask those I wanted to keep within my orbit.
The idea of looking within and trusting myself seemed too risky. If no one else ended up agreeing with me, I might be left standing alone. That left me feeling like my true self, buried under all of that advice, was not someone anyone else would like to get to know, including me.
That created a wall of separation between me and everyone else, including my version of a higher power. I felt alone even when standing in a crowded room.
But it was never the truth of who any of us are, and during this holiday season, we can instead celebrate that idea of unconditional love passed from one to another. Hopefully, we are giving a lot of love to ourselves as well.
Fortunately for me, times have also changed, and I've learned there's a large price to pay for being as shallow as a puddle. I had prevented a real relationship from forming that could have been based on a sturdier foundation.
Those are the ones that are at the base of any good marriage or lifelong friendship and can be counted on regardless of the circumstances.
What stops a lot of us from ever asking for help, when we could really use it, is that false front and the amount of resentment that gets heaped onto everything. We figure everyone else will judge us because that's what we're already doing. That's a natural fallout from the survey method of living.
Turn that around, though, and begin with trust, or what some might call faith, and believe that you're enough right where you are without shedding a pound or gaining some hair or buying a fancy car. You are exactly what's desired for a large group of people out there just waiting for you.
Imagine living a life like that. The upside is the need to get angry in traffic or snipe at a coworker disappears, and is replaced with a sense that everyone is doing the best that they can. Peace follows and takes up residence in all of those previously empty spaces.
As I came out from behind my own false front, it turned out to be true that not everyone wanted to stick around, and that was OK. Not everyone is meant to be in our lives. There is constant change even there, and the more we can leave that door open for people to come and go, the easier it is for some to return and for those who really want to be there to stay put.
It has taken time, but now I am a beginning guitar player, somewhat of a runner, love chili and Thai food and prefer wearing bright colors. I've embraced my inner-suburban and celebrate that I'm more versed about a good TV show than a classic book, even though I read a lot. I am as thrilled by over-the-top Christmas decorations as I was when I was a kid and I'm very good at starting a meaningful conversation with a complete stranger.
In other words, I'm enough for whatever task is at hand, so no more need for surveys. I can just start with the step that appears before me, take it one day at a time and get on with things. No worries about how it'll turn out, or if it'll turn out. Those aren't questions we can ever answer, anyway.
Instead, I'll put all of my efforts into doing my best to stay present with the loved ones right around me and being of service whenever possible. More adventures to follow.
Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. Ask Martha how to get to your dream, and receive a free gift of Martha's new Big Adventure book, "The 3 x 5 Game" www.martha.