Okay. Hold tight, because we’re venturing into my favourite topic.
Who are we?
I do love a bit of psychoanalysis. It’s the question we will explore… forever.
It will never end, and we like to try and exhaust all avenues for as long as we live. There are questions we’ll ask ourselves for the rest of our lives; after all, what is there to do once we’ve found the answers? Self-sabotage, perhaps, so we can start again. Or, more sensibly, create more questions. Find more unexplored areas.
What is the meaning of life? What’s the recipe for success? What is true happiness? How do you heal from heartbreak and trauma? How do you know when it’s love? How do we even define all of these things?
I think most of the difficulty in answering these questions lies in a lack of awareness about the self.
Unless we really know who we are, we can’t truly know where we stand in relation to topics that require introspection and deep understanding of ourselves … and questions like the above do not have universal answers. There is no right or wrong. As the world evolves, the answers change. For some, success is living so comfortably that you never have to shop price low to high. For others, it’s being able to comfortably cry whilst staring into your lover’s eyes; it’s being unable to find the words to truly tell them how much you love them in that moment and that’s the only way your body will let you. And for a handful, it’s living carefree and alone in an art studio with a Wholefoods around the corner.
It’s about time we accepted that it’s impossible to give an objective answer to questions that need even a smidgen of introspection. In a world with 7.8 billion different people who have had different experiences and have lived through different circumstances, in a world with 7.8 billion different perceptions of life, a universally accepted definition of love, of heartbreak, of trauma and fear, is impossible. No matter how hard you try, you can never see the world through someone else’s eyes; you can be in the exact same situation as them but you will still never know, simply because your brain is made up of so many different combinations of thoughts, ideas, and memories. You each have learnt different lessons in your lifetime, had different childhoods, went through different experiences that have affected the way you think. You even receive the same information at different points in your life, which goes on to affect the colour of the tints on your glasses. The journey you’ve taken is different to the next person’s, and all of your memories combined means you can never really empathise beyond the will to empathise. You can never truly understand – you can only accept the other person’s right to feel what they’re feeling.
What you can actually understand, however, is yourself. Why you see things the way you do, why you feel that way, why your fundamental beliefs are so. How that affects other people. The more, er, advanced of us can understand why we hate so much about the things we choose to be, Toby. How we’ve grown and where we lack; where we shine and where we need to improve. This, in turn, helps us understand that everybody else has a journey and a struggle that we will never know about.
In the great words of Mikky Ekko, the question we must really explore is:
Who are you, really?
It’s a heavy, much-avoided question.
Not many people know, mostly because the world is rife with inauthenticity. People are too scared to unapologetically be themselves, too scared about the opinions of others, too desperate to be accepted. But you don’t even know who you are beneath all of that – what if, maybe, just that is good enough?
You have to be willing to take the risk of embracing what you want, of having standards and boundaries, of challenging yourself, of living without filter or compromise. There will be pain, lots of it. You will almost give up, you’ll be enticed by the idea of becoming perfect in the eyes of other people at the expense of your own individuality and contentment – and for a short while, you’ll give in and attempt it. You’ll shave yourself down to make other people happy, bend over backwards for others without considering that you wouldn’t need to do that for those who actually deserve it. Some like the façade of happiness it brings them so much that they continue the act for the rest of their lives. Those people will always be searching for more, forever collecting more questions than answers. More questions and less answers makes Jack a perpetually dissatisfied and anxious boy.
But authenticity demands risks to be taken. Authenticity does not permit re-shaping yourself.
You have to break into a billion different little pieces and put yourself back together again in the wrong way multiple times before you can truly know who you are. You have to accidentally pick-up pieces that aren’t your own, and make peace with the fact that you’ve left some of them with people who don’t matter anymore. In places you don’t visit anymore. But rest easy knowing those lost pieces have turned to dust; they are void. To dwell on them is to dwell on something that has nothing to do with who you are now. Losing them is part of your growth because they were never meant to stay with you; some pieces just serve to show you that you haven’t quite got the combination right yet.
The self is lost in seeking to scatter your pieces everywhere and trying to retrieve them all. In painting them a different colour to match someone else’s, in trimming them down, in sticking parts on. In trying to jam them in places they don’t belong with so much force that they become crumpled and tattered and torn and they no longer fit in yourself anymore. They don’t fit anywhere.
Not many of us are truly acquainted with who we really are, beneath the surface. A lot of people think they are, but it is simply years of social conditioning convincing them they’re free and everything is entirely their choice. And maybe we are just that – we are everything we are influenced by; we are the people around us. We are the way we try to cut pieces of ourself off to fit into society. Who knows. Freedom is a topic I love exploring, because I don’t think any of us are truly free.
But before we consider the huge idea of freedom, we have to look inside and explore the first vessel we are trapped in.
Now Playing: Who Are You, Really? – Mikky Ekko