Thank you for being patient with me while I’ve taken a little “vacation” from blogging. Don’t worry, it was just a short stint, and I promise I’m back!! And I’m back with a pretty hot topic that I know I’ve wrestled with for ages: What does it mean to be “me”?
Well, I mean, I guess the simple answer is: whatever you are or do, that’s who you are, right? Because you are you, so if you do any particular activity, that makes it “you” and part of your personality, right? It just seems to me that there are a number of people out there who have a really excellent sense of “self”. They know who they are, they know what they like, they know where they’re going. Now maybe that’s an illusion – maybe inside they’re no more certain of anything than I am – but it’s put me on the path for quite a while of trying to define that for myself.
I really love the unique people. The people who combine the strangest interests, personalities, and unexpected talents. For example, if you watch “Modern Family”, one of my favorite characters, Cam, is a gay father, music teacher, fashion diva, AND college football player. I mean, WTF, you just HAVE to love that!!!
So what is that for me? Well, I don’t really know, and I’m starting think that perhaps I’m overthinking it just a *tad* (imagine that). I recently, however, caught myself displaying two quotes in my house that are related to this topic, but are seemingly in contradiction to each other.
See, I’m weird. I like contradiction. It seems like the best insights and learning come out of contradictory statements, situations, or truths. I’m not sure we would be able to find balance in life without contradiction. Or interest, for that matter. Here are the two quotes. The first one I put up a couple of years ago is:
“Simply become who you are”
Pretty straightforward, right? I like it because it encourages moving forward and just going with the flow to a certain extent. There’s no need to force anything, just be. Kinda buddhist in a way, I guess.
The second quote which I purchased for our TV room a couple of months ago is:
“Life isn’t about discovering yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”
I just love this one too. Not just because I ADORE creating things, but because it gives me a measure of control over who I become, and let’s face it, I’m a bit of a control freak.
But it’s not possible to love both of these quotes, right? I mean, they really speak to opposite world views. One says pretty clearly that you are who you are and you should just let it blossom, and the other says that there is not “who you are” but that you get to create the person you become.
If you’ve ever studied psychology, you know there is always this tug of war between nature vs. nurture. Are we who we are because it’s in our genetics, or are we who we are because of our lives and experiences? Psychology proves again and again that it’s both – there is simply disagreement as to which has more power.
That’s how I feel about these quotes. One speaks to the nature of who we are, and the other speaks to the nurture of who we could become. And quite frankly, either of these quotes by itself is actually a rather scary and unsettling prospect. If you are who you are, you don’t get a choice in who you become (or at least whatever choice you make is going to be a result of who you are, so in the end it’s still pre-destined). On the flip side, if you get to create yourself, that not only gives you WAY too many options to choose from, but awakens this sense of over-control to try to regulate and make sure the person we make ourselves into is ideal and not a murderer or a hobo.
So that’s why I prefer these quotes together. Together they give us two edges to our sight so we can shoot straight down the middle. They allow us to accept that maybe some parts of ourselves are just there, and we can feel free to embrace them, and some of them are squarely in our control so we can alter and manipulate them. It means there are some limits to the kind of person we become, but also a huge world of possibility when we maximize who we are to amplify and supplement the person we become.
For example, I’ve never been a dancer. Probably never will be. Some people might say it’s just not in my personality, or even my physical capabilities. But I’m taking dance classes right now. And it’s great! And even though I don’t see this as a core part of the “who I am” equation, I think it contributes greatly to my future self. It’s the part of me I get to create.
I have to end this with this incredibly intriguing TED talk by Julian Baggini which pulls information from philosophy and neuroscience to attack the question of “Is there a real you?”. Give it watch and imagine the person you can create from the person you’ve already become: