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the illusory self and how I have been living a lie

14/08/2020 - Posted in private Posted by:

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reading time: 2 minutes

Currently I am in the process of reading “Can’t Hurt Me” by David Goggins and I have to say I am positively surprised—and shaken to the core. David Goggins writes about his life journey from being abused as a child, to becoming one of the toughest men on earth. What I find very refreshing is his brutal honesty and his approach to taking accountability for failures in his life. While given the current societal climate, his way of thinking is a very welcome exception, it also crushed the illusion of my own personality. The way I perceived my character turned out to be a story I told myself, and because it was a comforting story I believed it; ultimately living a lie.

David Goggins writes about how you should not care about the negative sentiment your peers will inevitably direct towards you when you try to become a better person or do something extraordinary. This made me reflect on myself because in my social environment, I am known to do eccentric things and, therefore, people always attributed this nonchalance about others’ opinion to me. On closer reflection I noticed that this is true with a small but important caveat.

An illusion of the self; when your mind grows around a problem without addressing it.
Often we grow around problems instead of solving them—taken at a cemetery in Akasaka, Tokyo.

Upon inspection of my personality and also events in the past I noticed that I generally don’t care about judgement of my ideas and the things I do as long as chances are high that the sentiment, from at least a subgroup of my peers, will be positive. The interesting thing is that this does not have to reflect reality but just mentally constructed reality in my mind. This means that if an idea or a thing I wanted to do (think new hobby) would have been criticized by all the faux inhabitants (generally these will be theoretical clones of my real peers) of my little mind world, then I would not have pursued this thing. This would hold even true for things that are objectively good but perceived as bad.

I guess that this is a natural way to go about life because we are social beings, and the mechanism I just described acts like a filter in order to keep us desirable and conforming to the norms of the group we are part of. Nonetheless, I believe this is ultimately inhibiting me to become a better version of myself. It means that I judged things not by their actual merit for health, success, etc., but by a fictional scale that ultimately cripples my potential and leads to mediocrity.

It took me nearly 30 years to understand this about myself and I am sure that my mind is not the only mind functioning that way. Identifying a limitation is the first step to improvement. I expect that if you do the things you are interested in and that are right (stoics would say virtuous), then your social environment might also change for the better—similar to the argument I made in my article about always telling the truth. While we are generally anxious about change, we should embrace change as a friend—a new chance for a better version of ourselves.

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