Building You

At some point we all grow up. We figure out at least some idea of who we want to be and what we would like to become. As we grow that image may change and evolve based on realistic expectations and goals, but we know (or at least should know) ourselves well enough to be able to choose those dreams and expectations.

It is kind of like building a house. We have the brick and mortar, our genetics and societal influences, which include, school, parents, family, peers, community and the society projected through social media.  Ideally, we would like to think that every project uses the highest quality of supplies and that all the supplies should complement each other.  We want things to happen on schedule and, in the end, have a well constructed house that is strong and able to weather the world.

However, we know that life isn’t that easy. Throughout our lives there will be communication errors. Things may not get completed on time, if ever.  When there is a problem in our growth something follows us on into our adulthood. They may be fears, insecurities, or even emotional trauma.

If we grew up with a good construction we would love ourselves and be true to ourselves. But in this world, we know that isn’t often the case. We all have problems because our parents couldn’t be perfect and neither can we.  We are the only ones who can love ourselves unconditionally in the truest sense of the word because we are the person living in this body.

Many of us develop a false self or a mask that we present to the world.  In the view of our construction analogy think of it as a façade put over a problem spot in the house.  A little hole in our perception of ourselves can, over time and without treatment, cause the whole thing to fall apart.

This false self can be brought on by any of the problems mentioned in the last two posts, leading us to have too narrow of a view of success or to put ourselves down.  We destroy ourselves when we value results over effort, demand perfection, and define our self-esteem by success or failure.  These are some of the things that drive us to put on the mask.  Others are trauma perceived to be caused by our loved ones; sexual abuse or physical abuse. The list can go on and on. What triggers one person to start to tear down their foundation won’t be the same trigger for another.

The false self is greedy. It expects way too much of us and always wants more and more, until we collapse.  Right now our society pushes us towards a false ideal of what we should be and this often harms us.  We think we have to be a certain way to be happy.  This internalizes powerful negative messages.  It doesn’t help that society’s unhealthy expectations are the hardest to overcome.

Red Flags of the False Self

1. Self-hate. When we self-hate we say that we don’t like (insert trait here) about ourselves or that we are too stupid. We tell ourselves that we cannot do anything right. It’s very depressing and often feels hopeless. It’s a battle I’ve had with myself every day due to the bullying I faced in elementary.

2. Self-punishment. To reconcile self-hate, we convince ourselves that we deserve it. Yet another vicious cycle. You may withhold pleasurable experiences thinking that you don’t deserve them. You may not enjoy the things that you used to. You may be really depressed or really angry.  We are often preempting a punishment that we didn’t deserve in the first place.  This also gives us a false sense of control, which we desire when we are having inner conflict.

3. Self-destruction. When punishing yourself and hating yourself doesn’t work, humans often seek a way to escape themselves. This may come in the form of cutting, substance abuse, or eating disorders. Once again they give a semblance of control over the issue. All of these are issues that should cause you to seek help before you seriously harm yourself. Remember as a pagan that we seek to harm none, including ourselves, and that our body is our temple.

How to Build Your True Self

Now I can’t tell you exactly how to fix your problems.  Part of that is self-reflection and part of it may require health professionals. It just depends on what issues you are having. I may have a psychology degree, but I don’t claim to be an expert on anything.  Even I have needed help on occasion to overcome the demons of my past that have created my false self.  Even I’m still in the process of dismantling years of damage.  That’s why I felt the need to share this with you.  These concepts from Positive Pushing resonate with my childhood and through it I’m learning ways to prevent my child from facing the same problems. I’m also learning how to fix some of my own.

1. Know Yourself. This goes back to the pagan concept of to know, to dare, to will, to be silent. To know is to know yourself. It also pertains to knowledge and a few other things, but for our purposes here, it is to know yourself. One way you can do this is to reflect on your day.  Are there things you have done that didn’t feel right or made you feel off? Or do you ever feel uneasy with your decisions? Better yet, do you base your decisions on what makes you most comfortable in a group? In the end you have to make the decisions that make you feel okay and not worry as much about everyone else.

For example, one time in college I let a teacher push me around when he didn’t want to do his job and answer my questions. He was a tough guy and had a reputation for taking sexual favors from students and grading harshly just because he was an old curmudgeon.  I didn’t want to push back or defend myself for fear of making it worse. He had a reputation for that as well.

By the end of the semester I was failing. I was telling another teacher about it and they reminded me that I always stand up for myself and that they were surprised I hadn’t gone to the dean or said some fairly awful things to him. Among the teachers I had a reputation for being beyond brutally honest to the point of annoyance (What can I say, I’m a rebel born and raised). I tried to get his help, but it was too late and he refused. He even locked his door on me. I took the final anyway and was ready to turn in my test without a word when he decided to say the following “I would have helped you if I thought it was worth my time.

I went off. I completely lost it. I told that man off three weeks from Tuesday and just reamed him to heck and back. He deserved it and was in shock. I had to have another teacher to get him to stop following me demanding an apology, but in that moment I was more true to myself than I had been that entire semester and I realized that I had suffered, and so had my grades, for not insisting that he do his job.  Luckily the next semester he went on sabbatical and I had a teacher who was amazing.

But know yourself, so you don’t end up harming yourself with your false mask.

2. Recognize your strengths and weaknesses. You have to embrace them before you can change or improve them. Own who you are. It may mean you have to walk to the beat of your own drum, but that’s okay, the world needs a bit of variety. If everything was vanilla, life would be boring.

3. Reject unrealistic expectations of society. It is way easier said than done and it’s not something that will happen overnight. It takes one baby step in the right direction to be able to build the strength to take that next step.

4. You may have to reteach yourself to evaluate the content surrounding your life. Do you watch a lot of negative things? Work on pushing that negativity out of your life. Kick the habit because it will only feed your problem, not your solution. If that means looking for alternative news sources that highlight the good, instead of mostly just the bad, then do that. If it means cutting out negative influences in your life, then pull out the scissors.

5. Wage war against the false self. Marshal yourself with people who share the perspective of your true self. Find people who are willing to fight beside you and help you overcome the obstacles in your life. Heck, pray to Ganesha if you need to. He is all about teaching you lessons and helping you to overcome obstacles.

6. Try to be a role model in society. Remember that what you put out there is going to affect someone else and that may eventually come back to affect you. It’s the rule of three.

A few final tips to you

  1. Negativity breeds negativity.
  2. Don’t throw stones from a glass house. Essentially don’t disparage others when you are struggling with the same or similar issues. This only breeds distrust.
  3. Be careful who, when and how you criticize. You want to get help and help others. Being too critical only breeds defensiveness.
  4. If you’re trying to help someone else don’t lecture any more than you have to. No one wants to be lectured like a child and it only makes you and them more resistant to change.
  5. Low expectations breed low performance.
  6. Lack of faith creates insecurity.
  7. Yoda said: “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” While not exactly 100 percent true in every case, anger can lead to fear and fear can lead you down a dark path. See this interesting blog post (add link

On the other side of the coin

  1. Positive thinking brings more positivity to our lives.
  2. Positive expectations lead to fruitful achievement.
  3. Love breeds trust.
  4. Affirmation of the true self motivates us to continue growing.
  5. Success breeds confidence.
  6. Being involved leads to learning something.
  7. Faith breeds security.

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