I am an imitator, from birth, it seems. I would repeat things I heard, whether appropriate to the situation or not, whether true to my experience or not.
Here's an example. I met a former teacher of my brother's when visiting a school I would later attend, and sat in the classroom. "Of course we miss Andrew, we all wish he'd flunked," the teacher said wryly. Then many years later I repeated those words to a student worker of mine who, having just graduated, was bringing her parents around on a visit. Of course, they were horrified at what I said, and I had not thought how it would be inappropriate or misinterpreted. And this was my favorite student with whom I enjoyed a wonderful working relationship. And I still failed to learn, continued to parrot words I heard elsewhere even when it didn't make sense. It is unconscious, it is not a working part of the mind.
It's one thing to use another's words for inspiration or to really get inside them and see how they say something to my life. I quote less and less because I know that the words are empty unless I apply them to my life and can show by example how that is done. I like to feel connected through quotes and through sharing of words and stories. And yet for so long I have interfered with the telling of my own story.
If what I have learned from others teaches me something it is humility and my lack of originality, on one level. On another level, as far as I am concerned, I am the only one who can act for me and in my own interest. It is a fluidity between self-assertion and letting go, effort and relaxation, the will to change and acceptance.
And it is not what I like or prefer that will make the difference but what I do. I know that but I fail to act.