The desire to be accepted is a strange thing. But even more than that it is a human thing. Something that we all go through as being part of a social species.
Yet how often do we admit the selfish thoughts that bounce around in our minds? Have you ever done that? I know why we don’t - that wasn’t my question. My reasons are the same as your’s though…
Because we are scared of losing our place in the world. We are afraid of what people would think if they knew the full spectrum of our personality and character. What if they abandon us, what if they fire us, what if they hurt us, what if they distance themselves or cease their support of us?
These are valid concerns. But they are only valid concerns for a person living in the world who is also of the world. The trouble stems first and foremost from a misunderstanding of ourselves. There is no one quote on quote person here, what there is, is a collection of both complementary and conflicting impulses. There is an amalgamation of different desires, attitudes, emotions, feelings, and faculties that all come together to form this feeling of a solidified, focal sense of self.
Different parts reign in others. Some boast and others hide. Some, through habituation and instinct, are at the mercy of others.
The nuance of it all though is very subtle, and to really understand it, one must also have an appreciation for the truth of partial truths.
From the position of sincere spirituality or even just intense inquiry, one finds that they are not, and have never been any sense or self. Through real introspection, one can come to find that by the fact that we can’t be defined by any one quality of our character, we too then cannot be defined by any collection of them. Think of it as an ever-changing mosaic of the senses; a flux of feeling and especially thought.
This, however, is not the stage that most of us are at and thus any intellectual homage does us no good. Where we are lacking is in the full, boundless expression of ourselves across every facet.
Could you admit that you want to be valued; that you want to be admired, respected, and maybe even adored for some quality of character? Maybe you are intelligent and want others to see how smart you are. Perhaps you are attractive and want others to see how beautiful you are.
We come up with these personal and collective ideals and hide anything of ourselves that could jeopardize our resemblance to that.
We are all selfish on some level. We are all greedy, self-centered, and maniacal at times. That is just part of being a full human. The real boundary between our hiding and our honesty, however, is defined by our fear.
Sure it would be hard to tell people that you want to be known as the person who is adored, recognized, and revered for your various traits. It would be hard to admit that the idea of being on top and known as the best is satisfying on a very real level to you.
But, you don’t say that because you don’t want to be seen as a greedy bastard, the idea of that is too frightening. You want to be known as a humble, skillful person who is above all that. And yet, you aren’t. Who is the good person then? The one who is honest about all their internal conflicts or the person who is too afraid to expose them.
The answer, again, is more nuanced than either or. The whole situation and world is too nuanced to be divided into good or bad. The best that could be said is that we are all doing our best, and the worst is that we are all doomed to a destruction let on by our best efforts to be better than the narrow apes that we are.
For me, if I am completely honest with myself and with you, I want to be admired, respected, and revered in a fashion akin to a public intellectual. I want to make a living and difference in the world by writing, speaking, conversing, and creating while being seen as ‘wise beyond my years’. I want people to look up to me and ask me for guidance. I want to them to say that my work and ‘my’ words helped them change their lives for the better. Part of me wants to be seen as better than you and everyone else because I am a more conscious, clear, open, and forward-thinking person. I want to be better than you, more intelligent than you, and more compassionate than you and I want other people to see it; all the while acting like I am above all of that.
Part of me gets off on that. We could call it my ego, we could call it whatever we want. But if I acted like that wasn’t there, like I was actually above all that vanity, I would be selling a facade that is less than myself solely so I could achieve the same acceptance and value in the first place.
Just as there is a part of me who gets off on that though, there is a part of me who sees all that with contempt and disgust. But that’s exactly the point. Through the generation of that inner-conflict, one part of me gets to be seen as just and wise in the face of the other part who is an asshole. That self-righteous part though needs the other one to be an asshole so there is enough contrast to expose the difference // and employ a distinguishable hierarchy of value.
In either case, there is a denial of the full reality behind me as the person, and frankly, I would be shocked if you were so perfect as not to undergo the same level complexity within your own character. Are there not times where you are greedy; where you never malevolent, cynical, or self-centered? Maybe you show them to people and maybe you don’t.
But, if they are there, can you not be honest enough with yourself to accept and own them as the fallible being that you are? It’s okay. It’s really okay to admit that because we all are that. We are all kind and we are all crude. We are all unique and we are all common. We are all decent and we are all disgraceful.
We are all of that - everything and more - and yet still we are beyond all that. Because when you can own every part of yourself; when you can let go of partial personas and expose every inch to the elements of humanity and its judgment, you get to be one of the few people who not only knew it as the farce it was, but felt it for the farce that it was. You get to be one out of the many who actually saw what was worth a damn and what wasn’t.
And when I think about becoming a fuller human being and making a positive difference in the world without anyone knowing who was behind it, I know I would be happier. When I genuinely dig down honestly into myself, I know that is the case. I know that by producing the results without the recognition, I could thoughtfully give back the blessings I have been given and still maintain my relationship to life and humility on the existential level that I most value.
I know all that in more of a profound way than I could ever express and still, stand here and tell you that those selfish desires aren’t there; they are there. They are a substantial part of my psyche and if there is a way to transcend that, it is only done by first engaging and integrating them for what they are. Living in that fear from any angle only imprisons us, and our time is too short to carry that at the cost of greater deeds.
That is one hell of a regret to have on on a deathbed; that is a pure waste of time. I know it’s enticing, but it is a waste.
We are better off admitting it. Just as I, you too are self-centered in a plethora of ways. You want recognition, respect, admiration, and due diligence for how great you are compared to others. That’s there. That isn’t something we can sweep under the rug without pain to ourselves and damage to our truth.
On some level, you have to say fuck it, and on another, you still must understand the fact that it’s a douchey thing. Maybe all of us are bit douchey though. And for those who are total douche bags, well when they can own up to it they will be a little bit less of one, and that’s all we can hope for. That’s all each of us can hope for.
Provided I make it that far, I often think about myself in my later years. I think about what he would want to listen back and hear from me know as I speak. I know he would want the real me; the full, imperfect me instead of the fake front I can put on.
Here’s to you man, I hope you found what you wanted and went through what you needed to get there. Part of me feels like you didn’t though; like perhaps that was the wrong way to think about this all along.
I don’t need to tell you that I’m trying because you and I know that I could’ve done better. Yes, I and everyone else deserves compassion for how hard of all this is, but we could do better. We could be more honest, more understanding and more forgiving.
Shame is a bitch, and I hope you let her be.