The question of the ages.
Philosophy aspires to understand the answer. Religion claims to possess the answer. Science researches to ascertain the answer. Psychology determines to solve the answer. Government avails to prescribe the answer.
Yet do the answers given by these authorities truly satisfy? Do I find myself swallowing another’s perception, accepting their judgments and determinations of who I am as true? It can be good to internalize feedback from outside sources, it promotes self-improvement and objectivity. But is accepting the authoritarian conclusion of one actually ignorant of the subject matter good practice?
A student of the subject matter of self realizes there is no authority more crucial than self. Yet how often have the words of subject matter amateurs echoing in my mind given birth to false ideas about myself?
If something is repeated enough it becomes accepted truth, be it false or originally rejected. The consistent repetition of, “You’re making this up,” or “You’re a [insert so-called witty comment here, I’ve heard them all],” especially on a young mind, shapes and molds self-perception without regard for physical reality.
Hearing false criticism enough led to me internalizing it, repeating it to myself, and believing it. This gave birth to a warped belief I discovered in myself and wish to publicly reject, here and now.
I am not doing this to myself.
Consider this puzzling psychological scenario. If I experience excruciating physical pain that I cannot deny but believe that I am lying about or making up, then there is only one logical conclusion, given that both the pain and the lie are real: I am the one responsible for creating the pain I experience when exposed to the sun. The same is reinforced if not classically recreated by the idea that I am a freak/[insert unoriginal insult here]. I was never told, “Your disorder is a freak.” It was only ever that I am a freak, and thus I am responsible for my own pain, which pain is, in reality, oblivious to my status of freakhood.
Who am I? In summary, I have believed that I am a lying freak who hurts himself on purpose. Deep down, drowned by the cacophonies of accepted beliefs ringing to be heard, resonates the elusive sense that I’m not actually lying, but that I have bought a lie and am enforcing it upon myself.
The belief about who I am has defined me in many ways throughout my life. I can have an open mind enough to accept that it has on occasion indirectly benefited me, which may be why I subconsciously held onto it. The truth is, this idea that I am ultimately responsible for the excruciating pain inherent in a defect of my birth is ultimately disempowering and poisonous.
For when I start to succeed, who is there to cut me down but me, to guarantee failure because I believe that I am supposed to hurt myself on purpose? When I experience something joyful, who is there to ruin it but me, to remind me that I’m a liar who must have cheated my way to this moment somehow? When I wish to develop, maintain, or even accept positive attributes, who is there to doubt but me, to compare my lofty vision to the loathsome freak I will always remain?
Who am I? It is not always enough to simply insert a “not” into the same idea and repeat it, thus remembering it, even with full intention of dismissal. Sometimes just acknowledging in plain daylight, anywhere outside of the overpowering bias of the inner mind, is enough to reject a belief as unsubstantiated. I can certainly conclude that seeing this belief out in the open reveals it to be fairly ridiculous, and I know I can reject it outright. But as it has affected me so deeply in my life, I feel it warrants a replacement.
For now, I am not sure what that replacement will be. I have to lull it over, and I want it to be something I can genuinely buy, not something I superficially proclaim half-heartedly only to have the old belief later crawl back like Smeagol’s alter ego after my first epic failure. I accept that my new belief will be imperfect and subject to revision, but that is so much better than unquestioningly living according to the self-imposed dictatorship of false ideology.
So who am I?
I am excited to find out.