You want to change. You want to shed your past. You want to stop some things and start other things. You want to improve. You want to be better. You want to maximize your potential. But the problem is who you are today. Once you make it past your issues you’ll be awesome. But as long as you’re like that—like the way you are now—you’ll just never really be able to fully relax and live the life you were meant to live. Right?
Okay. I’ll go with the fact that all of the above is true. Whether you’re conscious of them or not, you do have conversations with yourself that sound something like that. But your job isn’t to find answers to those questions and solve those problems. Because those aren’t even problems. They are simply self-constructed judgments about other times where your personality did not suit a situation or circumstance. You’re talking to yourself as though you should always have a graceful answer. Like you should always know what to say or do. Like when you don’t know what to say or do, that you are failing and that is a problem. But it isn’t. You’re just misunderstanding. You don’t have a duty to the world. You don’t owe it anything. It’s just somewhere for you to be you.
First off, everyone’s a shape. The way you think of yourself is your ego which we’ll represent as the top, or table, of a diamond. That’s the flat part in the middle where all the other angles combine, which is why that’s where all the fire and sparkles come out. The only problem with an ego is, you think that’s what everyone sees when really it’s only you. That person only lives in your imagination. So you’re creating yourself in your imagination and that’s who you see as yourself.
Likewise other people all see you through their own thinking. And you have no control over that any more than they have control over your opinion of them. Influence yes. Control no. And yes, everyone’s personal thought-judgment-view of you will absolutely distort you in various ways. You’ll do that to yourself too. That happens to everyone by everyone. Everyone. It’s kind of what it is to be a human in today’s society. The cool, beautiful dramas are all inside The Matrix, where the egos are. And everyone brings their sense of themselves to that process so, as Anais Nin wrote, “We [all] see things not as they are, but as we are.”
The reason people will have such different views of you is because they will see you from different perspectives. So despite your constant efforts to polish it, in actual fact people won’t be looking at your shiny tabletop, they will be down below looking at just few of your facets. Every person will see a different collection of facets but they will only be able to recognize the ones they can see clearly and any that are relatively close to their perspective. If it’s your grandmother she will not understand the perspective your peers have of you because that is hidden by the diamond itself. You know better than to let grandma know everything you do on weekends with your friends. 😉 And you don’t really want your friends knowing your grandma gave you a Tweety Bird onesie to sleep in either. And so that shiny, sparkling table to the diamond that you’re always polishing is in fact just the verb of you weaving all of the best views of you together. And you want everyone to feel that way about you. And despite periodic angry outbursts to the contrary, you won’t be happy until they do.
Well. “…won’t be happy until they do.” The problem there is the word “they.” That means your happiness is in someone elses hands and that tells us we’re lost. Because happiness is a feeling inside yourself that comes from your assessment of a situation and no one has control over that but you. So you keep striving to get better, and you do grow and improve, but you’re always focused on what’s unfinished—and of course that goes on until you die. You just never feel like you’ve done enough to be impressive enough to have earned to the right to relax as a full member of the tribe of humanity.
I’m here to tell you you’re safe. You always have been you’ve just been telling yourself otherwise. Because you’re not actually supposed to be better or improved or different than you are. You’re always exactly, perfectly you. Some other egos might claim otherwise, but being you was the only job you ever truly had as far as the rest of the universe was concerned.
As it stands, your ego looks at the amazing collection of atoms that will only come together once and that once is to create you. But instead of being that, the ego looks at other clumps of atoms and you tell yourself a story about how you want to have their story instead of yours. But of course just like people do with you—you can only see a few facets of the people you know. You have no idea what the other side of them looks like. So wanting to be them can be a perilous thing. Besides, it’s painful. It hurts to be unsatisfied with ourselves. Nature made it painful to help remind us to stop doing it but instead we got addicted to the suffering and now we spend more and more time trying be someone rather than just being who we really are.
Look, you have to be someone. You have to bring a perspective to bear, that’s what being alive is. Without that you’re entirely unconscious and I doubt you imagined enlightenment as a coma. Enlightenment is being in the world without objection. Not about the world and not about yourself. And how can you do this? Because you understand. What do you understand? You understand that no matter how hard you or anyone else tries, all we see are a few facets of everyone we meet. We occasionally catch a bit of glint from some people and we assume it’s always like that, but that will be because we just caught them at the right time and from the right angle so they sparkled. That same angle in a different context can go flat and dull. There is no way to be shiny from every direction all the time other than in your imagination, where your ego lives. But even it is under constant attack to improve. So just go quiet. It’s all just talk in your head anyway.
There is no need to feel guilty about who you’ve become. When I hear people in conversation my brain immediately works to figure out how to join it because when I was learning how to talk, I grew up in a house with two parents and two full adult brothers. So if you wanted involvement then it came through talking. And so I’m known as eloquent and talkative. I used to think I talked too much. Now I know just some people feel that way. But whatever they feel, this is the me my life created and I no longer battle that. I’m enjoying it and it turns out there’s a bunch of other really wonderful people who recognize the challenges I offer, but they like me the way I am too.
I tend to be very caring and losing someone’s love is painful. My mother didn’t want another kid and so I spent some years feeling unwanted. I get that. It makes sense. So I’m aware that’s the reaction I was raised to have, but now that I recognize that as an ongoing choice, I just mute it most of the really negative stuff out of my reactions to things that do trigger that identity, and I live in a way where it is a part of my life but it isn’t impeding or informing all of my decisions. It informs a few. But never many. Instead I love my Mom and say it every day when I see her in the morning, and our relationship has grown ever-closer every year.
The past does not need to hold us back even if it has been painful to deal with prior to now. Because it’s always a new now which means you always get to keep making new choices about where to invest your consciousness. Do not use it to replay belittling, harsh or cruel things to yourself about yourself. It doesn’t do anything but make you weaker. Just accept that different people are good in different situations and then ride out the people and situations you suck at and move strongly forward in areas where you fit. Everyone has to do that. And it’s important to remember that our toughest times build our greatest strengths, which why even the most successful people you know have people that hate them and think they’re stupid. That’s just how the universe goes. The diamond can’t be well-rounded if it doesn’t have more than one side.
So stop trying to be someone other than who you are. Trust me, if you go quiet inside and just start loving yourself and focusing on the stuff that’s going great in your life, you will do all kinds of amazing growing without even trying. Because when you were a baby you weren’t trying to learn anything and you certainly weren’t trying to succeed because you didn’t even know what that was yet. But you did want to participate. So just by happily paying attention, without any pressure or whipping, you learned at least one language in a very short period of time. That’s remarkable. You’re still that remarkable. So get out of your own way. Stop saying mean things to yourself and stop talking like your past dictates today. Wakes don’t push ships. Decide where you want your life to go and go that way boldly and then whatever happens happens. No matter what, all will still be fine so long as you’re perfectly you. And it’s important to remember that, no matter what facet people saw when they looked at you, every one of them was forever and always looking at a real diamond.
Have a fantastic day.
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own overthinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.