If you have to hide anything from others, or even worse, evade certain parts of yourself – escaping through sleep, work, relationships, hobbies – if you have to avoid thinking about certain things about yourself or the people around you: check your premises (your foundation, your starting point). You’re either doing the wrong thing, in the wrong place, or you haven’t fully understood yourself.
One of society’s biggest problems today is that many of us live the way we think we’re expected to (even when we think we’re being contrarian or rebellious). I can’t fully analyse the complicated problem of people who want to be different and think they’re being different but aren’t really… I don’t want to do that today. What I’m thinking and writing about now is the problem of people who live lives that don’t feel like their own, because they think they’re expected to, or even if they are expected to, they think: ‘Because I’m expected to, I must.’
You don’t always have to be who other people expect you to be; but if you choose to be that person, don’t force yourself into thinking that the role you are playing is who you really are – it’s a cruel and unnecessary punishment. You can submit yourself to the necessary rules and motions of a certain kind of profession, or lifestyle, or class in society, and still be yourself on the inside or wherever else. Being yourself and performing as someone else when you have to isn’t always hypocritical, sometimes it’s being considerate. If that sounds strange, it’s because it is. But if you think carefully of all the different roles some people have to play as human beings you’ll realize that it’s true to a certain extent.
Some people are fortunate to find that they fit into the roles that other people have set for them. If you’re one of those people, kudos. You probably have no idea what I’m talking about. But if you’re not one of those people, if the life you’re currently living sits uneasily on you like clothes that don’t exactly fit, you have the power to accept that you’re just playing a part. It’s a burden, but it’s one you can bear with honor. If you choose to do so, acknowledge your choice and carry your decision with the knowledge that it was your decision. You could have chosen to be bitter and angry, one of those people who live life as though they were forced to wake up in the morning and move their limbs. It might not feel like the right kind of life, but it can be a life you live with dignity and a rare kind of mental freedom, if you choose to accept it.
Whatever you do, don’t waste time and energy holding or taking out a grudge against anyone for the role you have to play. Bear the responsibility of the life you have chosen to live because even when it appears that you don’t have any option, you can choose to be at peace with the fact that you had no option.
And if, because you had options and after carefully weighing those options, you choose to reject those ill-fitting clothes – then step out of them and into whoever you would like to be with confidence, consideration (because even when you are disappointing others it is possible to be considerate of them), and goodwill. The process of being set free is a thing to celebrate, to smile about, to be thankful for. Resist the temptation to be arrogant, vengeful or scornful.
Take the time to observe your own tendencies, your own dissatisfaction, your own happiness, your own pains. It becomes easier to identify discomfort, and to map your way towards peace, when you know where it is that you are comfortable. You become less angry with injustice and more motivated, more intentional, more focused, and more confident about getting to the place where your mind is at rest… Even if the road that leads that way isn’t smooth.
You cannot understand the full extent of how lost you are if you do not have map, and a map will be of very little help to you if you do not know where it is that you are supposed to be. Many of the remedies that we prescribe for ourselves in our struggles do more harm to us than good because we do not take the time to plan our recovery, or to think about what a healthy version of us even ought to look like in the first place.
If a thing (a situation, a habit, a mental pattern, a relationship) strikes you as bad, then you have accepted that it once was, or that it can be, good. So before you attempt to fix or remove the bad, what does the good look like?
If we ask for something in the abstract, we might get something concrete.