“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Who am I really? What makes me, me? Am I actually the person that the society thinks I am? These are very difficult questions. But sometimes we have to dig deep to find that which we are looking for.
In Panchatantra, there is a story of a fox who fell in bluing liquid. While returning home frustrated, other animals looked at him with awe, as they were seeing a blue creature for the first time. They believed he was God and started worshiping him. The fox enjoyed the new found attention and used it to achieve his motives. Unfortunately, one full moon night, the fox couldn’t help but howl. Other animals realized that he is just a fox and kicked him out of the forest.
The fate of the fox is a reminder to all those who try to find their niche in society by posing as someone that they are actually not.
The society we live in wants us to follow the known and well trodden paths. Venturing to challenge the social setup begets hatred and hostility. Gradually, dissidents are forced to follow the crowd and non-compliant ones are expelled.
The society has attested to certain views and behavioral patterns. These outlooks are a product of long evolutionary process. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the ultimate truth. On the contrary, most ideologies are lopsided owing to the lobbying of some institutions.
For instance, the media has hypnotized us into believing some notions deemed universal. Advertisements and movies have greatly influenced our outlooks on beauty, happiness and masculinity. Even social media has glorified backpacking and gluttony. (Read more on The Travel Myth)
These unrealistic concepts have led to many mental disorders. Twenty first century psychology has coined a term called Celebrity Worship Syndrome (CWS). It is an obsessive addictive disorder where people adores celebrities to the point of imitating and worshiping them. The recent political climate around the world which hails identity over performance is one of the visible outcomes of CWS.
Society behaves like this because of the fear of anarchy. But sometimes this typecasting of society will negatively affect a person as it can easily squander her real talents or worse; make her unaware of it.
In the community, many hide their true self and try to be someone else. Hence there is a great deal of identity crisis. Some, unable to handle this, succumb to depression and may turn anti-social.
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
Personally I have been ridiculed for my eccentricities since my childhood. Gradually, I became afraid to express myself honestly. But I could not keep up with the act for long. Eventually I dropped the mask and behaved naturally. Though I had to face some criticisms most of my friends remained and even new friends came around who appreciated me for what I am. It was very comforting.
Embracing the true Self
Unlike other animals, who have a very common traits and behavioral patterns, humans are quite different from each other. This uniqueness provides diversity and enriches our race. But the society adores predictability and hence typecasts the citizens.
If we fail to break out of this pigeon hole, we cannot attain our true potential. People afraid to break conventions out of fear, have never been free.
“When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everyone will respect you.”
― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
Without being ourselves we cannot accept others for who they really are. Mostly the people who condemns others are usually those who have latent feelings themselves because of the society’s subjugation. Usually they take out their frustration on others like them.
It is not to say that we should detach from society and live like a hermit just to follow our heart. Being a part of society, some norms should surely be followed. But we should accept who we are, rather than hiding and living in denial.
With the emergence of Big data analytics and Artificial intelligence, the cyber space knows more about us than we care to admit. Already the behavioral patterns are mapped and individual responses can be predicted. Thus the future may be one in which the identity of each and everyone is dictated by some algorithms, the implications of which cannot be foreseen today. Hence preserving identity matters more than ever.
Defining our self
In one of the most emotional TED talk I’ve ever seen, Lizzie Velasquez explains her fight with the rare disease Marfanoid–progeroid–lipodystrophy syndrome. She explains in her whimsical way how she rose from being branded as the most Ugliest person in the world to be a motivational speaker and writer. She ends here talk by asking the most prominent question “how do you define yourself ?”. You can listen to her talk here.
Realizing that it is not our looks, riches or fancy job that defines us is the first step. Rather it is the quality of the being that matters.
The quest to define the ‘being’ has led mystics and philosophers through the intellectual and philosophical plains ending up in the spiritual realm. Those few who claims to have reached the destination, have understood the secrets of the universe.
May be it is not the religious acts, but small steps in honesty to self that lead us to the ultimate truth. Or in other words, path towards self realization may start with self acceptance.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
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