31 May 2011

Finding the Energy to be You (or, Stop Wasting Energy Trying Not to be You)

I wonder how much energy people waste trying not to be who they are? It is true that everyone has some things about themselves that it would be best for everyone if they did not. Everyone has a tendency towards something like sloth or being just a little too curt or too flirtatious or … well the myriad ways of being that we don’t like in others or ourselves.

The sad thing about this is that the energy we spend trying to rid ourselves of the bad is diverted from trying to build on the good. The charismatic or creative self gets distracted, if not repressed, by our project to squelch the undisciplined or reckless self. There is only so much energy and if we waste it on not being us we have so little energy left with which to actually be us.

Peter Drucker once wrote that most problems cannot be solved and most problems are rendered irrelevant by success. Picasso made a mess of relationships but what if he’d worked successfully at getting relationships right but didn’t leave us his incredible body of work? Would the world really have been a better place if that had happened?

I wonder how much energy we’d have to do great things if we accepted that we, ourselves, were not that great but nonetheless accepted ourselves and then tried to find our way in the world with what it was about ourselves we wanted more of?

That might be one way to end a personal energy crisis, to find the energy for life that might otherwise be missing. You're only alive once - you may as well be fully alive.

After writing the above, I read an excerpt that Thomas gave from from Franzen's "Liking is for Cowards. Go for What Hurts." Franzen seems concerned with something similar.

If you dedicate your existence to being likable, however, and if you adopt whatever cool persona is necessary to make it happen, it suggests that you’ve despaired of being loved for who you really are. And if you succeed in manipulating other people into liking you, it will be hard not to feel, at some level, contempt for those people, because they’ve fallen for your shtick. You may find yourself becoming depressed, or alcoholic, or, if you’re Donald Trump, running for president (and then quitting).


The simple fact of the matter is that trying to be perfectly likable is incompatible with loving relationships. Sooner or later, for example, you’re going to find yourself in a hideous, screaming fight, and you’ll hear coming out of your mouth things that you yourself don’t like at all, things that shatter your self-image as a fair, kind, cool, attractive, in-control, funny, likable person. Something realer than likability has come out in you, and suddenly you’re having an actual life.


I was forced to confront a self that I had to either straight-up accept or flat-out reject.
Which is what love will do to a person. Because the fundamental fact about all of us is that we’re alive for a while but will die before long. This fact is the real root cause of all our anger and pain and despair. And you can either run from this fact or, by way of love, you can embrace it.

1 comment:

Thomas said...

"There's nothing you can make that can't be made / No one you can save that can't be saved / Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time - It's easy." ~The Beatles