We claim that we are content — that our lives, as we lead them, give us all that we could ever need. Yet we are so occupied convincing ourselves of this that we ignore the true promptings of our inner selves. We fear our own emptiness. We’re afraid to be alone with ourselves. Thus, we are always seeking a distraction lest we begin to see ourselves as we truly are.
Those who seek something such as fame are really attempting to run from the loneliness in their own lives. They believe that accolades, success, and recognition will give them the approval that they are consciously or unconsciously withholding from themselves. But the attention and admiration of the multitude rarely present anything but momentary satisfaction. Why? Because down deep within ourselves we know that someone else’s opinion of us never changes what we think about ourselves.
If we but followed Socrates’s sage advice, “Know thyself,” instead of merely paying lip service to it, we would be on a journey of self-discovery instead of on an adventure of temporary pleasure and self-gratification. Perhaps, you say, it is impossible to ever completely know oneself. Well, even if it is, there is something admirable about the person who has the courage to begin this daunting quest for self-knowledge.
When we begin to see ourselves clearly, we see many truths that are painful to acknowledge. We may see that we have deceived ourselves for as long as we can remember — that the deceit we thought we have perceived in others has actually been self-deception instead. We may also see that the hurt and pain we have caused ourselves far exceeds any hurt or pain that others have caused.
Ah, how easy it is to find fault with other people! Yet, how difficult it is to acknowledge the ingrained flaws within ourselve.! For, we must completely destroy our self-pride if we are to see ourselves as we truly are. We must stop listening to the compliments, the flattery, and the praise of other people because their words, though they are kind and gratifying, will give us a false sense of self-confidence that has no genuine foundation beneath it.
If we feel proud of a false self, what does this tell us about who we are? How can we be so deceived as to believe what other people tell us about ourselves when their conception of us is completely different from our real selves? Do we imagine that believing the flattery and praise we hear in some way elevates us as human beings? Can we not see the folly of accepting this flattery? To even accept it as sincere is self-betrayal. Yet, who can blame us? Who wouldn’t like to hold on to an idealized conception of himself or herself?
The problem is, self-pride cancels out humility, thereby making it impossible to peer clearly into our soul. But if we are brave enough to choose to look within not only with honesty but also with a certain amount of ruthlessness, we will see that there is no reason for self-pride. At the same time, there is undoubtedly every reason for humility. After all, we are all guilty of the sins that we condemn in other people. Each one of us is capable of committing crimes that we judge as horrendous when someone else commits them. We look at another person’s life and imagine how much better we would have handled their opportunities, challenges, and circumstances than they have. But how do we know unless we are living in their shoes?
If we continue to run from our true selves, there will come a time when we are no longer capable of distinguishing between the person whom other people praise, flatter, and admire and the person we genuinely are. Ultimately, then, we will have given up any chance to be authentic. For, we will have deceived ourselves to the point where even we no longer know who we are.
This page and all written material at My Odyssey is written by Sascha Norris. (C) Copyright by Sascha Norris 2012. All Rights Reserved.