This is not an advertisement for body or face lotion. That may please most of you and displease some. It is a time dear reader for reflection, not lotion. Didn’t you hear, the world is about to end. That’s what the Mayans predicted anyway. But as you and I both know the world will not end, that will perhaps be too easy. No, we will be experiencing all that life has to offer for the foreseeable future. And what better way to start the rest of our lives than with a little reflection on what has gone before. As you must be aware by now I am given to bouts of reflection, perhaps a tad too much one might argue. Most of the deductions from these reflections are rather fleeting in nature but this one in particular has stayed with me: “know and accept thyself”. You can see how well that works with the title, I thought it was quite clever of me. Enough of this frippery though, why don’t we get to the juicy bits?
Awareness of self is an important tenet of eastern philosophy. Knowledge on its own does not matter however, what matters is what you do with it. This is where “being yourself”, a central belief in modern western societies, comes into play. Basically we need to marry knowledge with acceptance. That’s nice philosophy you say but why should we care? The answer is that this philosophy can help us in leading more enriching and fulfilling lives. Remember we only get one life and more often than not we need to make consciously smart decisions to make the most of it. And as you may have guessed already, awareness of self is the first step towards that. Self awareness can be as simple as knowing your likes and dislikes but in a deeper sense it is to know your strengths as well as weaknesses. If we have a good idea of what makes us tick, the things we are good at and things we are not good at, we give ourselves our best shot at life. In the world of sports, players and coaches always talk about playing to your strengths. I am simply advocating the need to adopt the same approach in other spheres of life.
This knowledge of self that I speak of is not that difficult to come by. As we interact with our surroundings, we start to develop a fairly good notion of who we are (see disclaimer below). In fact it is amusing that we spend half of our lives running away from ourselves, trying to become the exact opposite of who we are and therein lies the rub. One of the major issues in my opinion is that we have always been taught to measure and compare ourselves against others. In itself that is not a bad thing, without competition and incentive society would probably come to a standstill. It becomes problematic however when we start tying our self-worth and self-esteem to how well we fare compared to others. If we think about it clearly the whole notion is downright silly. No matter what walk of life we are talking about we can always find somebody who is better than us and somebody who is worse than us. If that’s the case why worry about it at all? It will be more fruitful in the end if we can just focus on performing to best of our abilities and according to our inclinations. Too often this tendency towards comparison leads to self-doubt, which can snowball into a sort of identity crisis. We are liable to start heading down the wrong roads in such a state of confusion. At some point or other in our lives, we have all experienced it I am sure. I speak of a state where we are not comfortable in our own skins and think that people are constantly evaluating us when in fact we are doing it to ourselves. We want people to like us so much that we create an outer persona that is not us. Of course it does not lead to intended consequences. Most of us appear rather foolish and unattractive when we try to be somebody we are not (except for some people who are very good actors and manage to fool themselves along with everybody else). We are instinctively leery of people who do not appear genuine to us, why should we assume that others will welcome us when we are not being true? So take a good look at yourself, start liking what you see or else life will be a long, lonely, arduous and ultimately futile trek.
Disclaimer: I am well aware that a large percentage of my fellow human beings on this planet are trapped in extremely de-humanizing circumstances and philosophical musings do naught to counter hunger and poverty. For that reason I am specifically talking about the fortunate ones who do not have to live under such circumstances.