Imagine this: A celestial being approaches you, looking more like Slenderman than an Angel, he promises to make all your dreams come true, no matter how perverse, if you tell the truth. On the other hand, he threatens to torture you in the most awful and painful ways ever known to human beings, if you choose to be dishonest.
You pause for a second and you think to yourself, that’s easy, I know exactly who I am…
Slenderman hands you a mirror and asks you to look at yourself before you answer, you’re not sure if he’s mocking you, or helping you out. But the thought of looking at yourself whilst asking that question makes you uncomfortable. Because lying to the mirror is lying to yourself, and you must be a special “Piece of Shit” if you’re going to look yourself straight in the eye and be dishonest.
The first answers that come to mind are the easy ones:
“Well”, you start, “I’m David, I’m 44 years old, I’m an accountant, I am married with two children… I…”
Slenderman slaps your head from behind and glares at you:
“Who are you?”
“Know thyself” has been a dictate since the time of the ancient Greeks. And so, while the question may seem simple, the truth is it is one of the most difficult and uncomfortable questions you could ask yourself.
The awareness that we have privileged and unlimited access to ourselves – that we inevitably know who we are, how we feel, what we do, and what we think – is very compelling. But how accurate are we in our self-assessment?
You realize you have to go deeper into describing yourself to Slenderman:
“Umm, OK, I’m a hard worker, honest and pleasant man. I love my family very much and always put them first, I tip the waiter and open doors for strangers… I read a blo…”
Suddenly you feel this agonizing pain across your back, you don’t really know what it is, but it is really fucking painful, you yell your lungs out, Slenderman warns you not to lie, otherwise there’s plenty more where that came from.
As Henry David Thoreau once said: “It is as hard to see one’s self as to look backwards without turning around”
And to better understand yourself, merely looking at who you are today is like “judging a book by its cover”, it will give you a quite shallow insight of who you really are.
In fact, “to know thyself”, you ought to rewind back to where it all started. That’s right: Your childhood. How you were verbally defined, the emotional impact that your environment had on you growing up, and the defenses you formed to protect yourself from unpleasant influences and situations.
Once the pain has subsided slightly, you look back into the mirror, Slenderman creeps closer to you and quietly asks you again, in a whispery-like voice:
“Who are you, David?”
It’s hard, isn’t it? Most people cannot go past a certain “layer” of self-awareness and reflection; for one, it’s painful; if we dig deep, most probably we will not like ourselves very much; we are selfish, arrogant, dishonest. We are burdened with feelings of guilt and shame and we carry that around with us everywhere we go.
For the most part, we are unaware that our lives are heavily regulated and predisposed by negative images and attitudes toward ourselves. Our minds are like sponges that absorb all thoughts that ooze out of our own narcissistic, spiteful brains, as well as the outside influence we get bombarded with every day, everywhere we go.
But here’s the thing: Most of us are not even aware of the depth of our self-destructive thoughts and behaviors. We tend to accept them as the status quo and rarely think to challenge them. And to make things worse, we often defend this outlook to our own detriment and are resistant to changing any aspect of it.
Think about it: How often do you find yourself scrolling through the feed of some superhot chick on Social Media who appears to be living the perfect life with her chiseled boyfriend and her beautiful dog, only to be left with feelings of inadequacy?
How often do you get sucked in to some random, pointless YouTube channel that proves Earth is flat, only to realize an hour later that you have completely wasted your time on absolute shit?
How many times have you talked yourself out of telling the truth to someone?
How many times have you skipped the gym because you’re “too busy”?
But here’s the most important question: if someone is to call you out for your shit, would you defend yourself despite your less than optimal behavior? Would you give excuses to justify why you scroll through social media 1,873,634 times a day? Or why you lie? Or why you neglect your health and wellbeing?
Most likely, your answer will be yes, you would come out with all the excuses in the world to justify your actions. It’s what we call the human ego, and it is what dictates our entire lives.
But that’s okay, it’s normal. As long as you are aware of all that, and you have the intention to change.
So you look up at Slenderman, and, you realize that he’s not really interested in knowing who you are, in fact, he doesn’t give a shit about you. He was trying to deliver a point across to you. He wants to plant the “seed of intention” within you. He cannot force you to change, no one can, for that matter, but he can inspire you to want to change.
So the next time you wake up in the morning, stand in front of the mirror and look past your face and beyond your skin.
Go deep and have an honest conversation with yourself, about you, speak to your ego.
“Who are you?”
Do you speak the truth to yourself, first, and then to others? Do you love and appreciate yourself, first, and then carry that love over towards others? Do you bargain with yourself today to get what you want tomorrow (i.e: delay gratification)?
Do you claim to have an open mind, but find yourself intimately attached to all your beliefs and opinions?
Do you nourish your mind and body adequately every day?
No, you don’t.
How can you change? You ask.
Intend to change.
Say it to your deeper self. To your ego.
Look within, and stay tuned for what’s to come…