I’ve never seen a new-born baby looking cynical. Sure, they cry – that’s physical. But have you ever seen a baby with a disapproving face, lamenting the lack of hospital facilities? “Oh, I wanted to be a Spring baby!”
We’re born free. We look around with wonder, giggling and gurgling. Life is what it is. We haven’t learnt to evaluate and judge yet.
Pretty soon though, we realise we need another person. Usually it’s a mother, but it doesn’t need to be. We basically need at least one servant — someone to fetch and carry for us, clean us and feed us. We aren’t able to do those things yet so we rely on outside influences. Our life depends on them. Without them, we’d die.
I think that’s when we begin to craft our personality. We notice that we can create more or less of a connection with other people. Depending on who’s around, we may find it works to be good, or funny, or clever, or cute, or brave… it’s different for all of us, yet it’s also the same. We each have the same capabilities as all human beings and we learn to emphasise the parts that seem useful for getting what we want/need.
It’s complicated, of course. People have written long books about how personalities are formed and this is a short blog post. My point here is simply that the whole of us creates a personality, and most of us start to believe that’s who we are.
What about the parts of the whole that weren’t welcomed into the world? What about all the parts that didn’t seem useful for getting what we want/need?
Have you ever had a sense that there’s something wrong you? I think most of us share that unexplained feeling, deep down, that something’s not quite right. And while different cultures have embedded the idea in different ways – Catholics talk about Original Sin, for example – I think it’s more easily understood when you realise you’re a human being with the same capabilities as all other human beings, yet you’ve also told yourself a story about who you are, and you believed it. When we withhold the truth of who we’ve always been, we feel that sense of otherness with ourselves.
Byron Katie asks, “Who would you be without your story?”
If you have an answer, I respectfully suggest you haven’t understood the question!
In the meantime, we busy ourselves with the questions we’re more familiar with – who would you like to be? what story would you like to live out?
If you know the world is hostile, you’ll find evidence to prove it. Know it’s friendly and the evidence is equally forthcoming. If you know you’re a good person, you’ll find evidence to make it so. Know you’re wise and there’ll be plenty to show you’re right.
Every definition of yourself and the world is lacking. Every evaluation and judgement separates you from raw experience. Yet knowing this shouldn’t stop us from picking a story anyway.
You are whoever you choose to be. Who are you choosing to be today?