What Does it Mean to Be-Yourself?

Photo by Nina Uhlíková from Pexels

There’s this famous quote attributed to E.E. Cummings:

“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best day and night to make you like everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight and never stop fighting.”

While we all go around telling ourselves and others to be your own self, what does it actually mean to be yourself? Can anyone even be other self? Isn’t everyone just his/her own self?

I think the idea of being yourself is about being able to perform certain functions independent of other people or systems. In this regard, I see a few major ones:

  • Being able to understand what you want
  • Being able to decide or reject what to want
  • Being able to think for yourself
  • Being able to act in your own accord

Let’s take a look at all of them.

Being able to understand what you want

This particular function can be interpreted as finding the answer to this question — What do I want?

We are all here together on this planet, yet, apart from a few basic wants, we are all very different from each other. This is largely due to the fact that we all share life experiences absolutely unique to each other. There are no two people who have seen, heard, smelled, touched and felt absolutely the same thing throughout their respective lives. Each person experiences different things. Subtle ones. This distinct and subtle experiences of life makes us all unique and distinct in our own regards. These are the things that shape us and our wants and desires.

Understanding what our particular individuality really wants is the basic function that determines whether we are being ourselves or not.

We live as social animals and therefore, most political, economic decisions are made considering all of us as one collective. This creates an urge to do things everyone else is doing as those things have the most value. They are even inevitable. Most people ignore the call of the self. Justifiably so…

But the skill of being yourself lies in the ability to consider and understand what our particular individuality is like and what it wants. There is a lot of diversity in unity.

It doesn’t mean that wanting things that most people also want necessarily implies not being-yourself. It’s about understanding those subtle signals and sparks, whatever you like to call it — that makes us who we are. If they tell us to pursue that which is popular, we have still been ourselves although we may seem like every other selves.

Hence, asking What do I want is really all about knowing what we really are like.

Being able to decide or reject what to want

This particular function can be interpreted as finding the answer to this question — What should I want?

If answering the question above reveals to us what we want and what we are really like, this particular question allows us the chance and opportunity to design and decide on our own as to what and how we should be like.

For instance, if my innate desire has been to pursue relentless power relentlessly, being myself also implies me being able to question whether I really would want that or not. I have this opportunity and ability to not only understand what I want but also to decide what I should or shouldn’t want. If the first function is like understanding Freudian Id, this one is about using Freudian Superego to design the self.

This function is about choice. It is intellectual designing of the self. Being able to do this also implies being yourself.

Being able to think for yourself

This particular function can be interpreted as finding the answer to this question — What the hell is going on?

This particular function includes the ones above and much more. It is not only about understanding the self and its wants. It is also about understanding others’ self and their wants; the world and it’s wants — all by our own self!

Of course, this doesn’t imply that one should stop listening to others altogether and only read from the book of the world. That would be absurd and impossible. It means that the final evidence before deciding anything to be true or false has to come through the reasoning of our own self. Not from any person or system we follow and admire.

The ability to determine right and wrong is also a part of thinking for the self.

If someone comes and tells me a friend of mine is a rascal, I should have the evidence. I should be able to make the final reasoning-link/logical-link by myself in order to determine whether that friend is a rascal or is the one telling me so one.

It is about having that essential judgement, essential taste!

If someone comes and tells me that the newly elected Government of my nation is now going to work for my welfare, I by my own independent self should be able to judge whether that is plausible or not. Even if that someone is a writer who has influenced me immensely. That person may be high on drugs for all I know!

Similarly, if someone comes and tells me that the newly released movie is awesome, I by my own independent self should be able to judge whether that is the case or not. Even if that someone is a close friend with whom my every interest and tastes match.

This function is about judgement. It is intellectual thinking for the self. Being able to do this also implies being yourself.

Being able to act in your own accord

This particular function can be interpreted as finding the answer to this question — What should I do?

Sometimes it doesn’t suffice to know and determine what we want; nor does it suffice to understand by our own selves. We are creatures driven by actions. A thought I had last night hardly bothers me while a deed done a decade ago constantly haunts me.

While we may be well-equipped with our understanding abilities and our self-understanding, when it comes to making decisions, we start from ground-zero. We are most vulnerable when we have to make decisions.

This is a very complex and difficult function. But has to exist if we are to be our own selves.

If I tell myself I want to be a novel-writer full-time but immediately jump at the next job offer of a computer programmer, have I been myself?

My answer is: YES!

I have been myself and acted exactly the way I should have acted — like a feeble-petty hypocrite I am!

It goes on to show that being yourself is not about pursuing the ‘id’ or the most fortunate opportunities. It is a much higher and sophisticated task than that.

It demands from us to — understand the self, design the self, think for one self and act according to it all!

It is about rising from herdism and passion towards self-exploration, self-design, free-thinking and self-decide!

Coming back to Cummings,

“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best day and night to make you like everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight and never stop fighting.”

Why is the world doing its best day and night to make you like everybody else?

and

Why is the battle to be nobody but yourself the hardest?

My answer to these questions is the same and is simple:

It’s not the world, it’s us. Because being how everyone else is and doing what everyone else does is much more safer and easier!

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Adesh Acharya

I write. I create. Mind-Exploration. Self Explorer. Think, See and Experience Mind-Life-World with me. Subscribe to me via email. More at https://fradesh.com |