Do you know who you are?
It’s a question I ask myself frequently. We all have such a fluid opinion of what we assume makes us unique that we almost always miss the point entirely. What makes you different, what makes you stand out, what makes you you? How do you know who you are and what defines us? Is it the things that mark our life as being ‘complete’? Are we the tags we mindlessly apply to ourselves describing what we have achieved? Or is it something far more subtle and undefined. Is it even quantifiable or understandable.
It’s a hard question, existential retrospect is almost always impossible, but it’s one worth asking yourself often. It’s my way of holding myself to account. It ensures transparency in my convictions and cultivates the conditions for happiness. But is understanding who we are only understandable in hindsight? Can we only truly know who we are on the basis of the historical precedent that our lives has set and therefore who we are in the present or future is an unknown.
When I don’t feel like me I struggle. Something small may be a miss but it conspires to affect me mortally in almost every aspect of my life. Seldom do I admit such difficulties but the reality is that nobody is happy all the time. Sometimes we hurt for no reason, oblivious or ignorant of the reasons for our pain. It’s in these times I look inside myself and understand my journey.
When pain arises it is often because we have been fooling ourselves in one way or another. I know how hard it is to admit, I’m recovering from the symptoms as we speak, but it is a necessary requirement. We are all master manipulators of our own mental disposition; we can deceitfully hide our needs by distracting them with what we think we want. And at the time it may enable us to function amicably, but eventually we uncover the fraud we have perpetuated against ourselves.
This is the challenge of life. Are you happy and have you been true to yourself. Many people aren’t. In many ways we all become the people we are expected to become; we are a product of the environment that we have flowered in. Too much light and we wither in die, not enough water and we fail to grow. The genetic lottery of life is what enables us or hinders us forever, but winning does not guarantee that you are any more likely to know who you are.
In fact, in many ways, it can be even more confounding. Making your own way in the world with a parent who is a bright light can be as hard as having no direction or understanding of the opportunities you might have. You might think these things are at the opposite ends of a spectrum but they are on the same latitude of a bell chart.
Not only do we struggle to know who we are but we are equally as inept at deciphering who other people are either. We see the things they have, the things they do, they relationships they have an make assumptions. By imagining false assumptions about other people we detrimentally effect our own ability to understand the world in which we live.
Who we are is never fixed; it is something which changes with our mood and inclinations. We change and evolve where our cognitive dissonance assumes we remain the same. The two guarantees in life that we all face are that time passing is inevitable and that we will change. Understanding who we are now means recognition of who we were before. To understand who we are now we need to understand who we have been, which lets us figure out who we want to become.
And change is hard, it hurts because it involves killing parts of ourselves to enable new growth. We must sacrifice portions of our contentedness and complacency for doubt in order to ensure happiness. It’s the easiest thing in the world to accept the life you have fallen into it take tremendous bravery to admit your mistakes and change. Other people don’t see it like that, you will be vilified and hated.
Life is about being the person you want to be not the one that you were expected to become.
One road is easy, the other perilous; but only one can bring you ultimate happiness.
Be brave, be happy.