Pearl Bailey said: You never find yourself until you face the truth. If you’re lucky, you might have cracked it by the time you reach mid life. There is a slight possibility that you may go to your grave without a clue. Without getting into the works of Freud et al, the discovery of self does indeed mean you have to face the truth and that can be a pain in the derriere. It’s so much easier to fantasize, don’t you think? To create a myth about yourself and enjoy putting that myth on the front page of your life. What’s wrong with fantasy, anyway? Must we face the truth? The truth might be painful or ugly.
So how do you find yourself? Who is yourself’? Do you wake in the night wondering who you are? Do you wake up in the morning and look in the mirror and say, Ah – that’s me; that really is me, warts and all. When you meet people, do you become a different person with different people? Or are you the same, day in day out? And what is THE TRUTH? Suddenly my brain hurts.
Here’s a huge generalisation: creative people are fantasists. If you are making a piece of art out of nothing, you have to fantasize about it first, don’t you? You have to summon up the committment to make it happen. That takes a great deal of imagination and isn’t the imagination all about fantasy? A life, to my mind, should be full of creative, imaginative moments. To free the imagination is to be free as a person. Never seeing the wider picture, or indeed any pictures at all, could make you a very dull person with a very dull approach to life – just my opinion and not THE TRUTH.
Back to finding yourself. Can you be selfish and ignore everyone around you in pursuit of finding yourself? Do we ever really know anyone, let alone ourselves? And what is there to know? How much you weigh? What you like to eat? How you deal with conflict? What choices you make? Most of this is explored in books, or dictated by the media. Most of us follow trends like sheep. Does this help you know who you are?
When life feels all wrong, feels out of kilter, that’s when you may start to question who you are. It’s a mechanism by which your poor, overstretched mind tries to sort out some explanation for the vagaries of life. Life goes along perfectly happily and then one day, the train reaches a set of points and veers off in another direction, totally unexpectedly. You cling on for a bit and then you say, this is no good, something made this happen. It must be me. Perhaps I need to find myself…
I guess it’s a process that we go through without knowing it, throughout our lives – this desire to identify the real person, the real truth about who we are. And when you finally sit down and face this so called truth, will it make you feel any better? Some truths can be shoved out of the way and ignored. Others – nicer truths, can be bought to the surface and polished up like diamonds. It just depends how we feel on the day, on who is listening to us, on what inner reflection tells us.
Are we really listening to ourselves, when we seek to find that truth? We can choose not to believe anything or anyone; be critical of everything and everyone. We can make life into a sort of internal museum, where we store in dark boxes in a mind vault all the unsavoury truths about who we really are. Some people live happy lives doing just that. Or – and here’s the punch line, we can accept oursleves like a blooming daffodil accepts yellow petals, with a sweet and vacuous naivety. To tell you the truth, I prefer an arbitrary acceptance.
Religions, all of them it seems, say they have answers to the truth question. Through prayer and meditation, through God you will find yourself. Religions are very creative, don’t you think? It’s all the other stuff that accompanies religion – the rules, the prejudice, the killing in the name of one God or another that puts me off. Often, the true cause of conflict is usually very pragmatic – money, land, oil etc. That’s the stuff that makes religion hard to stomach at times. And if you can’t accept any of the world’s religion, which constantly proclaim that if you subscribe, you will find the truth, what then? Back to the mirror.
So, not having found the elusive truth, here you are, looking at your face, which isn’t a true representation of your face as it’s a mirror image, and asking that question, have I found myself yet? Maybe it’s time to take the actor’s route. Learn a new script every day. Try out a few personas and see which one fits, which one works for you today. Of course, your nearest and dearest will become confused. They may suggest you see a doctor. But you can persevere, refuse to discuss it, retreat into a fantasy world where you are the sole performer, and demand that the process of ‘finding yourself’ is underway and you should not be contacted until the new you emerges.
I have read that finding yourself can be enlightening. It teaches you not to be needy, to stand on your own two feet. You start to count your blessings and become really thankful for what others have done for you in the past. You start to love yourself, for who you are and not for what anyone else thinks of you – so they say. So how do you know it has happened, this finding your true self? I think you recognise it has happened because you begin to create a sort of internal moral code and you stick to it. It’s not based on anyone else’s philosophy, but you know it’s right. It could be that we all have a natural, internal monitor that tells us what is good and what is bad, but sometimes, we just don’t see it. You realise that you can stand up to all the nutters out there who don’t know who the hell they are and are trying to pull you down to their level all the time.
You begin to escape from all those things that stopped you in the past from being who you really are: you stop smoking, overeating, undereating, drinking too much, associating with people who have no morals at all – in fact, you start to throw away the crutches and walk free. Okay, I know this sounds preachy, but think about it for a moment. Every cigarette you smoke, every drink you down, every drug you take makes money for someone else – so much money, more than you will probably ever have in your life. Why destroy who you are by filling up someone elses bank account?
To move forward, to really know yourself takes courage. That’s the truth. Leave the rear-view mirror out of it and move forward. But do it with all those healthy morals in tact, nicely oiled and functioning well. Good luck.