Every day we're bombarded with messages from the world about who we are and what we're supposed to do with ourselves. The reactions we receive from other people have a way of shaping how we in turn view ourselves. We coast along, conforming ourselves to what's socially expected of us without ever questioning if society's ideals coincide with our own.
A potential problem arises when one fails to acknowledge and develop one's own identity in the process of relating to the reactions we receive from the world. We grow so accustomed to responding to the world that in the process we fail to respond to the most important thing that can help us make sense of the world: ourselves. In the process of growing up, who we are gets buried and who society wants us to be becomes awakened. This is made evident by observing our parental upbringing, educational influences, and cultural conditioning.
Society wouldn't mind us turning a deaf ear to the groans of our inner voice. Such irresponsibility is thought to be unacceptable since it would humanize our firmly-repressed social façade. What we tell ourselves we desire is nothing more than a reflection of what society has conditioned us to think we desire. These desires, e.g., fame, money, power, acceptance, are harmless in and of themselves. Yet, once they overly occupy our minds they can stifle spiritual expression. The Bible says that, "It is the Spirit that gives life." Yet, today the economy of the Spirit is at its most depressive level. Society often disregards anything spiritual as meaningless drivel. It only understands the language of material progress and the false honor it yields.
This fascination with the tangible has devoured the vitality of our souls. Thinking about substantive issues that can lead to a more heightened self-awareness have become anathematized. To be considered valuable, thought now is mainly directed outward. Its main function is to serve as an instrument of utility for the marketplace. Our thinking now supplies the demands of the world more than the demands or our own soul. If we were to use our minds introspectively to obtain some kind of moral and spiritual enlightenment the perception is that we must be inadequate or somehow have a deficient character.
As a result of our spiritual negligence, our needs and values have become an offshoot of a social structure whose sole aim is to impersonalize our character and render dormant our spiritual sensibilities. Society by its very nature is an affair with appearances. Most tasks done in public are image-saving. Soon as we realize our behavior is being observed, our pride usually rides the helm and takes control of the moment. The substance of our spirit is steadily being diluted by the various superficial motives that compel us to act in public, and this pattern is constantly being reinforced by society.
There comes a moment when man must come to terms with who he is without always having to rely on society for intellectual and ideological support. This process occurs when one attempts to excavate the depths of one's own soul by discovering those thoughts, ideas, belief, and sentiments that are most true to one's nature. What's true of our nature in the truest sense can never be socially constructed. If it did it wouldn't be truly ours. Our nature to be authentic has to be sanctioned from within. However, which way we are pulled to express ourselves (so long as we don't harm others in the process) is the surest way to determine if we are being true to ourselves. Since being true to ourselves is a task that is uniquely ours, it takes courage to stand alone in a world dominated by complacency.
I will never be who I am if I allow others to do that for me. Who I truly am is a composite of self-generated thinking unencumbered by social-historic influence. To truly exercise our most sacred ideals of "life and liberty" we must first be responsible to internally lay hold of who we are and not constantly live to appease other people's expectations or reactions of us. The most valuable asset a person can own is oneself. It's not what others see one possessing on the outside that determines one's value, but what you alone see within. Take away all the money, fame, and luxurious assets one possesses and what you're left with is more valuable than everything else. None of those things can evaluate who you are or what you have done. Only you can do that. The most silent voice is the one that yells the loudest.
You can travel the world, meet many famous, powerful, and wealthy people, but at the end of the day you have to come back to yourself. Who are you within? Is there a conflict between your social self and your private self? Youth grants us comfort in our skin because of our naiveté. However, once maturity arrives that comfort slowly slips away and we begin to realize the starkness of reality. With maturity significance takes form. Our senses lose their hold and we begin to relate more to our spirit than to the world that has beguiled us for its own purpose. How we typically define ourselves mistakenly derives from the reign we give to our senses. But our identities needn't be developed from our senses. We shouldn't esteem our value based on the skills and aptitudes that furnish our life with rewards. Within our being lies a much greater standard from which we can make an accurate measure of our significance.
We are much more than a collection of beliefs, desires, and goals. Who we are to ourselves and how we react purely with our own self will ultimately decide if we either flourish spiritually or remain at the mercy of external constraints. For most of us the recognition of who we are frightens us at the subconscious level. As a result, we busy ourselves with life so much that we avoid any inner excursion that can reveal to us who really are and what's rightfully ours. Until we exercise this reflection we will always be a collection of beliefs, desires, and goals that have been externally sanctioned by society. Our impulse for work and ambition is so much governed by the recognition of the world's appraisal that we forfeit the times to unearth our own hidden voice. The less we're willing to explore the instincts that shape our culture and subsequently our minds, the more we allow ourselves to be entrenched with fabricated images of who we are.
Who we are should never be a social affair. Sure, we can take as a guide how the world reacts to us as a glimpse of who we are, but we should never fully assess or construct our self image based on the feedback we receive from society. Doing so can keep us at the mercy of society's volatile impulses, which in turn can render our own self image just as volatile. The value of self is fundamentally a personal matter. The beauty of life is in its expanded meaningfulness, which is uniquely applied with different individuals. Together, what matters is not how much acceptance you receive from society, but how much acceptance you give yourself for being who you are. Ultimately, you are a product of your own design and your value is self-determined by the meaning you give it.
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