Many of the problems we face stem from our psychological outlook, and how we identify with our Self.
The concept of “Self” is an extremely complicated one, so I won’t seek to unravel it in this post. But I’d like to begin with a simple definition before I address a problem most of us face in how we identify with our Self.
Defining the Self
The Self is the collection of everything that defines you as an individual. Your awareness, thought processes, beliefs, feelings, experiences, roles, interests, behaviors, relations, etc. They all contribute to define what your Self is to the degree you associate or you dissociate your Self from each and every possible facet in your life.
You can see your Self being defined by your cultural roots or your religious affiliation. You can see yourself as a painter, or a reader, or a father, or a compassionate individual. It’s always a combination of characteristics, rather than a single label that defines who we are. While you may see yourself as an artist, this does not mean that it is the only aspect of your Self.
You may undergo many changes in life, but there is always a sense of continuity in your being. Even if you’ve experienced drastic changes in your beliefs (as I have), you can still relate to your former Self, and see it as a state within your life and the evolution of your Self.
To lead a meaningful, joyous and constructive life, you need to have a healthy relationship with your Self and to nurture it with love and care. I won’t go into what a Healthy Self looks like now, because I’d like to first shed some light on several characteristics of the Self that can compromise our well-being.
This is the first of several blog posts on this topic, and I’d like to begin by looking at the problem of the Relative Self.
The Misery of Relativity
I think it’s safe to say that the Relative Self is a pandemic that transcends religion, culture, nationality and ethnicity. The damage it has caused is truly alarming.
I will hazard a guess and say that you have already experienced the destructive nature of the Relative Self, and may continue to do so. I know I have my struggles with it on a daily basis.
Rather than see myself for who I am, I see myself in relation to what others are like.
Rather than value what I can accomplish, I consider what I can accomplish in relation to what others have accomplished.
And when I compare myself to others who are better than me in any given field, I walk away feeling bad about myself for not being better than others. I walk away with low self-esteem and shattered confidence. Not because I completely lack skills, but because my skills don’t match or surpass the skills of others.
Relativity rears its ugly head in every aspect of life where distinctions and comparisons can be made. Whether it’s physical beauty, or inner conviction, or level of productivity, or style of writing, or number of blog subscribers, or size of bank account, or stamina, or dexterity, or IQ level. Whatever it is. If we can qualify or quantify it, then we can define how one relates to the other. How we relate to others.
A Relative Self (or a Self in a state of relativity) is unaware of its own absolute being. It can only make sense of itself in relation to others.
This is why jealousy exists. Instead of enjoying what we have, we condemn ourselves for what we lack in relation to what others possess.
This is why we can rejoice when we see others fail or suffer: we are relatively better off than they are, so we feel good about ourselves.
Relativity is a killer. It’s a Self-destruct button that not only blows us – and our sense of value – into smithereens, but destroys everything and everyone around us. The fear of success grows in the presence of Relative Selves. The fear grows because it senses a threat from those threatened by accomplishment.
The Absolute Self
Close your eyes (after reading the rest of this post!), and spend a moment with yourself, without thinking about others and how you relate to them.
What are the things you value in life? What spiritual principles do you want to live by?
What activities do you enjoy doing? What skills do you feel define who you are and what value you can create?
What can you do to improve your life, in relation to the life you are leading now (and not in relation to the lives others are leading)?
What can you do to increase your income? To improve your productivity? To refine your style?
Let the questions that matter to you surface in your consciousness, but filter out questions that relate you and your skills to other people.
Don’t let images of other people come to mind. Try and focus only on yourself, and how things relate to you and your life alone.
Get a sense of who YOU are as an individual. With absolute being. Not defined by others.
Get comfortable with your Absolute Self. You may not be properly acquainted.
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The Relative Self