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"Be yourself!" They say: How possible is it to be ourselves?

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Avatar for Zotrivous
Written by   10
6 months ago

"Be yourself!" How does his motto make you feel? What image comes to mind in your mind? Is it a state of freedom, the pleasure of being able to express emotions and mind comfortably, and a bit of self-confidence intoxication? Maybe a way of being that you've always wanted and never been able to achieve? Maybe a utopia that sounds very good but you can't find a response in your own life? In fact, sometimes the price you pay when you say "let me be like myself"?

While talking about this subject, I think we should first come to terms with that indefinite concept called "me". What am I, who am I, how do I establish myself? Although it is not easy to answer these questions, let's do an experiment.

When a person is born in an environment and time that he did not choose, in conditions that he did not choose, he has a material body and an inner (mental) world that he did not choose. He is trying to maintain his existence and self in an outside world that he cannot control from a body that he can partially control. In the world outside itself, there are objects, other living things and people. While things are a little easier in relation to objects because they are fixed entities, it is not so easy in relation to other people. You ask why?

I have been interacting with other people since I was born. These people make some judgments and comments about me. For example, they like something I did as a child and they applaud me, they get angry at some things, they are insensitive to some things, they exclude or condemn me for some of my behaviors. They approve or disapprove. Since I feel happiness and peace when I am approved over time, and I feel excluded when I am not approved, and because exclusion is not bearable for any of us as a social creature, external judgments have an impact on my emotions and behaviors. In other words, my accepted behaviors are getting stronger, and I give up on the ones that are not accepted sooner or later. Sometimes the approval of even a small group, not the whole society, can act as a reinforcer. On the other hand, there are also things that come from within me, what I want to do and desires.

Let's say I'm at a friend's table and I'm so hungry that I want to sweep everything away, but the possible negative judgment of others prevents me from doing so. Or I just gobble it up and don't care about the attitude of others. Both attitudes have certain consequences. When I clean the table, I will be seen as an egoist, and when I restrain myself, I will not risk being disliked by acting as others expect, but I will suppress my desires and needs. If I don't hold back in the example of the table, the price I will pay can only be a reprimand, but if I get too caught up in my instincts and inner desires, if I try to act as I feel at every moment, it is inevitable that I will be ostracized sooner or later by the society. Such people are isolated by the society either in prisons for committing crimes or in hospitals as sociopaths, antisocials and psychopaths. In other words, all kinds of human societies continue their existence with a mechanism that does not allow them to go beyond the values ​​and compromises they have created. These common judgments change according to time, environment and geography, but they always exist. For example, if we lived in the Ottoman Empire or Victorian England one hundred and fifty years ago, or if we were born in America or Iran today, we would encounter different social teachings, so we would be completely different people with different habits.

In line with these determinations, it would not be wrong to say that the so-called "me" is formed by the feedbacks of the outer world, not by what comes from our inner world. On the other hand, each person perceives and experiences what he calls "I" as a content. We know to a great extent the inconsistencies, desires, confusions and intentions in our inner world. However, we perceive other people as images, that is, we see only the outside, not the inside of them. Since we do not have a chance to know other people's inner worlds and their minds, we know and evaluate them with assumptions or as much as they can express themselves. Moreover, people have the ability to show themselves differently. Even if there is no conscious deception, the person cannot reveal himself as he is, for the reasons I have explained above, out of fear of being out of society. Language and communication are very valuable tools for us to understand each other, but contain falsehoods… It is inevitable that we use big and small and multi-faceted filters in every relationship. We do not have a chance to open and reveal our inner world with one hundred percent openness.


Here, unfortunately, we see an important contradiction, a dilemma regarding human beings. We are social creatures who want acceptance and approval, and we do not have the chance to fully live out our own desires and impulses for the continuation of social reconciliation. We are controlled by society. Moreover, this control takes place continuously and uninterruptedly. For example, if you get angry about something and do unexpected things, become aggressive or show violence when you are with a group of friends that you are approved and adopted, you will upset the judgments of that group that have been formed up to that point and lose your reputation. Repeat this a few times, and it is inevitable that you will be excluded from even the most trusted environment. In short, some (a large amount) of falsity is necessary in our relations with others, under the headings of diplomacy, courtesy, and compromise. For example, even if you are in an anarchist community that does not recognize rules and rejects sociality, this time you need to regulate your behavior within the framework of anarchism.

Although I may not seem to be able to give you good news about "being like yourself", I think we can reduce our dilemmas on this subject by being aware of some things and making small adjustments in our lives. We can start by realizing that all the contradictions and tensions we experience are a common situation that we share with other people. Since we cannot escape the nature of being human, we can only turn small wins into big victories. For example, by being together more with people we are comfortable with; by being more present in non-solid environments where we use less filters; instead of stigmatizing a kind world as “fake”, thinking that it somehow serves our happiness; Remembering that even in the face of its natural elements, man is not a living creature with rigid lines, but is flexible and open to change. Some of the change comes with “acceptance” and some of it comes with “courage”… If you are on a land on which you will never be able to grow, like the courage to migrate to another land instead of giving up being a plant… Only in this way can we take care of “ourselves”.


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