“I am trying to figure out how much of me is a response to what others feel about me and how much is really me.” This from a thirty two year old who is on a mission of self discovery.
Is being ‘me’ just a social construct?
I thought about his statement and said to myself –
“The whole is me but is most of me just a ‘social construct’?
Do we live much of our lives merely responding to others? Such as,
- Trying to please people; bothering about what people will think about our action and so trying to behave such that we fit in.
- Doing things as a mode of defiance and perhaps regretting it later; doing things because others are doing it and not stepping out of the surge to see if our actions really resonate with us.
- Taking things up because someone challenges us; and not because we really wish to or believe in the issue.
- Behaving in a way that is expected of us in the particular gathering or by a particular person; seeking validation and feeling confident only if we get the nod of approval.
- Being a different ‘me’ depending on who we are with and sometimes getting confused about which ‘me’ we are most comfortable with – the ‘inspirer’ leading from the front and making all the major decisions at certain times.
- Or, being the quiet, lost in the crowd follower at other times??…
“We are all creatures conditioned by the environment and the ‘socialisation process’. This has been our journey through our evolution from uni-cellular organisms to complex beings,” remarked a friend.
‘Me’ also needs to belong
Many of us have heard the song, ‘No man is an island, no man lives alone…’ We all want to belong. We want to feel connected.
We want to belong to a person, a family, a group, in our workplace, amongst our friends…. We also have a need to be needed.
We would like our absence to be missed, our words to count, our presence to be valued. We want to love and be loved.
We want to have that ‘specialness’ about us. But we don’t want to be an outcast either.
So we want to be ‘me’ and we also want that ‘me’ to gel and belong. And in that process, the defining line between ‘me’ and society often gets blurred.
We also want to own our uniqueness and this sometimes leads us to resisting all of the above.
This is not a weakness if we can find the balance between integrating and not losing our individuality.
The inner me
There is a lot of talk today about getting in touch with the inner you – finding some quiet time searching for your core in the tsunami of living life. It is like having a date with yourself.
When we are interested in someone, we are curious about the person and ask questions – What makes you truly happy? What are the things that bother you? Are there things you would like to change about yourself? How would you like to be remembered?
The questions are many and we can customise them to what matters to us.
In this case we are curious about ourselves and have a self conversation. It helps in understanding ourselves, questioning ourselves and in the process getting a more defined picture of ‘me’.
Closely linked with this is the Japanese concept of Ikigai – ‘Me’ getting up and close with our individual meaning for living. And that is an intimate introduction to being me.
This reminds me of the activities for children which I enjoy doing – Finding Waldo or Where’s Wally – in pages of books where he is apparently lost somewhere in the blur of activities that are illustrated. It is an effort and requires focus and concentration but sooner or later Waldo or Wally can be located – in the crowd but distinct.
Is there a distinctiveness about me?
‘Me’ is evolving, growing and changing
I don’t believe there is the right or correct answer, a “lock kiya jaye” type me. Maybe deep, deep inside there is a flame burning steadily that does not waver, but in many other aspects – views, attitudes, beliefs – the ‘me’ is not constant.
It is evolving, growing and changing – an ongoing process. It is to do with our personal life experiences; how we respond to them, what choices we make and what we take away from them.
Sometimes we go happily with the flow of things happening around. At other times we step out and take the scenic route or the short cut; and sometimes, we simply succumb to the pressure.
So if someone we have met after a long time is surprised by a certain response from us and says, “Oh this is not you. What happened?” our reply could be, “This is me but the ‘now’ me. Since we last met and today, ‘life’ has happened.”
And this was possible because we were flexible and open to changes and hopefully used our wisdom while adapting.
The ‘me’ that is not sustainable is the one that follows someone blindly and tries to become that person. We cannot live someone else’s life and become a copy.
Understanding and accepting what we value about being ‘me’
Education, challenges, exposure to hugely contrasting climes in every sense of the word, get us to question ourselves.
We go through a lot of churning – not being able to let go of the ‘me’ we knew and were comfortable with; and the reworked me taking shape inside us.
Sometimes, in fact more often than not, both co-exist.
A person got on to an aeroplane to go overseas and there was a visible change in his being.
On being told this, his response was, “I can feel myself feeling freer. Like a cloak being taken off. I am one aspect of myself here in my hometown and it is my default mode. I am not even conscious of it. But whenever I travel abroad another aspect of me emerges. I play hide and seek with myself – depending on where I am.”
“But who are you more at ease with?” he was asked.
Thinking a while he replied, “I feel more like me when I feel free and that makes me happy.” He had understood and accepted what he valued. How he would walk the future was a decision he would have to make.
The Psychological make-up
So yes we are all complex social constructs – we live in a society, in certain cultures and we are defined by them to a very large extent.
We are also moulded by our childhood experiences. Yet the same scenario can have two entities who have grown up in the same set up, responding entirely differently to a situation because of that elusive ‘me’ factor.
The psychological make up of the individual is different. And that is also where being ME happens. It is possible that in the course of events there will be two conflicting ‘Me-s’ inside us engaged in a duel – with contradictory views, beliefs, stands.
We need to resolve this internally and with time we will come to accept the ‘me’ we are more comfortable and confident with and stay with that one.
At the metaphysical level
This conversation can be taken to the level of the metaphysical where it is said that there is nothing like you and me – this ‘you’, ‘I’ or ‘me’ is all a part of one energy, one Universal Consciousness. We are mere specks in this vast cosmic canvas and we all dissolve into this one life force.
On the other hand we are living, breathing human beings who have been blessed with the opportunity of existing on this planet for a certain number of years, however insignificant it may be relative to cosmic time.
This lifespan is what we have as an individual and it is important to us. And with this opportunity comes the responsibility of navigating our own little fragile vehicle, with concern and care; so that it can add a wee bit of enrichment to the dynamic one energy when it once again dissolves into it.
So one could say to the young man on the mission of self discovery:
There is only one you and you are your responsibility. Live it, love it, protect it, nurture it, cherish it and celebrate it.
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