In this day and age, and any for that matter, there is one burning question we all seek; who are we. Some search for the deeper metaphoric meaning, while others seek the more personal meaning. Many are searching for the reason they are here, or all of us are here. While these are all burning questions, and one of us someday will probably find the answer, a whole legion of philosophers will fail attempting. While we all have a curiosity to know these questions we need to look inward to a more easily obtainable one, that of who we are. There are many theories and many angles to this. There is no truly correct or incorrect theory, as long as the answers we reveal are accurate and bring us peace.
Some say we are a product of our environment, shaped by our experiences and how we deal with them. Some say we have certain genetic pre-determinates that influence our decision making processes. Some say our parents and peer mold and influence us through reward, punishment, acceptance, and ridicule. Yet others say we are truly individuals who make up our own minds and have made the view of our world conform to a perspective only we can understand. These are all great and probably true to a degree of two. To be completely honest, I believe it depends on the individual. Some people seem to be going through life with the deer in the head lights look, others seem to have seen all the tricks in the book and never surprised, while some look like they have a good grip on things, just missing the bigger picture. For this reason I think it depends on the person and there ability to understand the world around them and to see beyond the surface.
Once we have a clearer grasp on the individual answer to who we are can we begin the process of accepting who we are, as individuals, as people, and as a member of a group, whether it be a family, team, community or group of like minded individuals. Acceptance is a large process that requires a great deal of insight; this is why I talked about knowing who you were earlier. Coming to terms with who we are as individuals and accepting this is a very humbling experience. This is essentially taking the good with the bad and accepting them both. Many people are not willing to take a cold hard look at them selves and come to terms with the facets of their personalities they do not like. It is easier to ignore the ugly then it is to stare it in the eye and either accept what we see… or change it.
Each of us have many different and some contradicting views, stances, ideals, and values. If we are to accept ourselves for who we are then we have to know each nuance of our personality and our core values. We, as people, tend to live multiple lives. We show one side to strangers, one to family, another to friends, another to colleague, and yet another to our significant others. Some in the psychological field call this ‘wearing masks’. We continuously place different masks over our true selves in different social situations in order to protect our true selves for negative criticism. This criticism is usually perceived wrong, yet we are usually too insecure to stop the process, the best we can hope to do is to limit the amount of masks we carry with us and use.
We all possess good and bad qualities, and have the desire to accentuate the positive and bury the negative. This way we, like the chameleon, attempt to blend into the background. As part of the background we all gain the advantage of anonymity; however as people we desire uniqueness and individuality. This is the primary of many contradictions we have within our selves. As individuals we want to be noticed and cherished for our uniqueness, but only at the times and places of our choosing. Other stark contrasts to our selves include to be liked by those we want to be friends with, and feared by those we are frightened of. We want to be desired by those we desire, and invisible to those we do not. We want the fame and admiration of our peers while having personal space and privacy. We want equality and fairness as long as we are advantaged by its properties and directives. We want peace and harmony yet will gather round and watch a good fight with guilty pleasure.
In order to accept who we really are we have to recognize the masks we carry around, and who the real us really is. We have to come to terms with our dark and disturbing side as well as our caring and nurturing side. We have to realize that we are a composite of positive and negative energies. As I have stated before we are not purely evil, good, or a perfect balance between the two. We are a fluid combination of these energies, more on one side then another just as the tide ebb and flow, so do our thoughts, alignments, and perceptions. By embracing this and understanding that a bad thought does not make us bad, nor does a good thought make us good, but the overall deeds we decide to do and show the world are the determining factors that define who we are.
We are essentially a reflection of our actions. Notice I did not state our actions were a reflection of us. There is a large difference between the two. We have many impulses, fantasies, desires, wants, and day dreams, yet we only act upon and do those we feel are appropriate for the time and place we are in. We use our core values and perceptions of society to determine which to ignore and which to act upon. The impulses we do not act upon are not a make up of who we are, nor are they in any way a sense of who we are. They are fleeting thoughts our mind presents at certain times and our judgments give the thumbs up or down on. If they were a true part of who we were then we would accept them and incorporate them into our routine. The point here is when we look into our selves we will find things we do not like, this is ok and natural, just remember that unless we act upon these things they are just thoughts, not actions. Our values dictate which thoughts to act upon and which to discard. This is why some drugs are so dangerous, by lowering inhibitions and allowing all these thoughts to become actions. Our actions are the results of the ideas filtered by our values and allowed to pass by our conscience.
We must be mindful that we are judged by our actions and reactions, not out inner thoughts and ideas. Having a deep seated need for inclusion we crave acceptance. This is a hardwired part of who we are, for early humans could not survive without help. Accepting who we are internally will allow us to find the group we need to be in to feel comfortable. By accepting our positive and negative attributes we come one step closer to being accepted by a group of like minded persons. Acceptance allows us powerful insight into who we are and allows us to become comfortable in our own skin or to give us an idea and motivation to truly change the thing about us we no longer agree with. For change is a very traumatic and un-natural process, it can not be successfully achieved without 100% dedication and vigilance. We have to realize there is a pit fall here. The same pit fall many of us fall into as teenagers. Attempting to change to be part of the group we believe is the right one for us. If we can not accept who we are, others surely will never be able to either. Acceptance can only be achieved through understanding.
Our core values, those ideals we decide to accept and reject from the processing of information and level of understanding of our young minds, is the basic foundation used to build on who we really are. As we grow and develop we either solidify or replace these core values as our perceptions change. We can run into problems when what we learned as children was flat out wrong or misrepresented. We can also run into trouble when we find we believe in something that goes against the norm, or perceived popular notion of the time. We live in a very dynamic era in history, one of unprecedented communications and sharing of ideas, ideals, cultures, and perceptions. This increases the level of confusion and uncertainty about what is truly right and wrong and our place in it all. We have to put all this aside and figure out who we are before we try to figure out where we fit in.
In order to accept ourselves we have to know ourselves. We have to acknowledge all facets of who we are; the good, the bad, and the ugly. We have to understand the different faces we ware on a daily basis and why we wear them. It is not wrong to do this, and understanding the reasons for each face is vital in understanding who we are and how we see those around us. We all have thoughts we are not proud of, but this doesn’t make us bad, it makes us human. We have a set of values instilled in us by our parents and peers in our formative years. It is up to us to challenge these values and determine if they make sense to us, through trial and error and observation. Some may be found to be false, this is traumatic requires us to reevaluate our view of the world. We are judged by those around us every day. These judgments are handed down on the things we chose to show those around us. For this we are a reflection of our actions, because we chose which actions to expose to those who are judging us. In order to achieve the deep seated need to belong we need to be accepted by a group of like minded persons. This acceptance is only possible after we have looked deep inside and accepted ourselves. It is like love, you can not expect to love another person if you do not love your self. Only by partaking on a detailed journey of self discovery can we hope to understand and accept who we are. For to accept something, anything, we have to understand it.