Re-Creating Your Self by Christopher Stone
Having examined why you probably don’t trust your self, it’s time to move forward to the subject of exploring and expressing your individuality. This form of unfettered self-acceptance is not popular with the organizations that want you to accept grim beliefs about the very nature of personhood, but genuine self-expression is a prerequisite for Re-Creating Your Self.
EXPLORING AND EXPRESSING YOUR INDIVIDUALITY
Being an individual in a culture that celebrates and encourages homogenization is difficult, though not impossible. You must explore and express that which makes you uniquely in order to discover the expansive self we’ve discussed previously; the self who will assist you in becoming the person you want to be, living the life you desire. Aware of your special talents and eccentricities, you may have made a conscious effort to downplay certain abilities because you fear your own uniqueness. In all likelihood, most of your teachers, in ways both blatant and subtle, discouraged your individuality while simultaneously encouraging you to behave like everyone else. At home, at school, at work, and at play, you are encouraged to “fit in,” to become “one of the gang, an “average Joe or Jane.”
Consequently, you may have learned early that this was a world that frowned upon individuality and personal style. In truth, you aren’t “one of the gang.” You are an individual. When you pretend to be less than you are, your perception of selfhood shrinks and, along with it, your potential for fulfillment, happiness and health.
On the other hand, when you express your individuality, self-understanding increases, and so do your accomplishments. You help your self, and you inspire others. Personal quirks, a by-product of individual expression, are frequently responsible for humankind’s most outstanding achievements in philosophy, the arts and sciences. Without individual expression, our species would cease to develop. Imagine the sorry state of our world if Buddha and Christ, Mozart and Lennon, Michelangelo and Picasso, had bowed to societal pressure to be “one of the gang,” to become standardized and homogenized.
I suggest strongly that you reject all organizational and societal encouragement and pressure to become standardized, a “regular” Joe or Jane. The individual is by definition and nature an irregular phenomenon. Put aside all cultural concepts of the average person, the norm, the “model” this-or-that. These are merely abstract ideas; you are flesh and blood, life-carrying reality.
PEEL OFF THE “LABELS
The expansive self of whom I’ve written is buried somewhere beneath the “labels” you’ve accepted previously as defining your self. For example, perhaps you define yourself primarily in terms of your gender. By labeling your self a man or a woman rather than a person, you restrict self-expression, limiting your experiences to those that you and society consider to be appropriate for the gender with which you identify.
Selfhood continues to shrink with each additional “label” that you’ve accepted: If you think of yourself primarily as a man, and then also attach the ethnic label German-American, you further limit your experiences to those deemed acceptable for a German-American man. Identify as a German-American homosexual and selfhood is further diminished. On and on it goes.
Tragically, as it regards re-creating our selves, we frequently mistake ourselves for the “labels” that we, and others, have attached to us. Years ago, a student explained how he’d been limited by accepting fully that he had certain traits, and by believing that he was those traits. As a youngster, Ken’s father always called him lazy because he didn’t keep his room clean and neat; he shrinked from the other family chores he was assigned. Ken spent the next twenty years trying to live up to the sour label his Dad had attached to him. By doing so, he limited severely his potential for personal fulfillment and growth.
How many self-limiting “labels” and pigeonholes have you accepted? Peel them off and uncover a more expansive self.
A Re-Creating Your Self Thought: Explore and express your self fully, sanely. Don’t allow the labels and names that others have thrust upon you, or that you have attached to your self, to limit your ability to become the person you want to be, living the life you desire.
Next time: Get out your Re-Creating Your Self notebooks for another exciting Adventure into your own Inner Space: My Beliefs about the Nature of Selfhood.
Have a comment, observation, or question about Re-Creating your Self? Please send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright 2009 by Christopher Stone