Is it helpful to realise how much we are jigsaws of various people we admire? it can be an intensely uncomfortable experience, that’s for sure… I felt so fake when one of my friends watched Eddie Izzard for the first time and commented on how much of Eddie she saw in my daily conversation. I hadn’t realised it was quite that extreme. How embarrassing! So adolescent!
It does point to a lack of self-esteem in a way, if you have to ‘sew on patches’ of other people and the way they are. When do we become ourselves, if ever? One often sees the advice in self-help articles to ‘fake it till you make it’. Or follow some mentor’s or role-model’s example (like I mentioned the other day – I ask myself ‘What would Janice do?’ and then with the resultant lighter attitude I can get through whatever it is.)
How far does one take it? And then when one wakes up to this pastiche personality of bits and pieces, where it’s hard to find out where the real self lives under all that – what then? This is not so much the result of putting on masks as a genuine attempt to have become something ‘better’ – kinder and wiser perhaps, or more efficient, but sometimes it can also stem from a feeling of not being enough as one is. So – it’s less about embellishment than about a genuine attempt at self-improvement. Probably similar to the difference between redecorating and completely rebuilding a house.
I guess there’s not much wrong with striving to become a better human being. When something you are or something you realise you do, no longer serves you, it’s silly to hang on to that aspect of yourself – better to ditch it and acquire something new. This is a noble aspiration. It’s also true that you can gather quite a lot about people you hardly know if you ask them whom they admire – chances are they already share a lot of that person’s characteristics. The dark side of that, is that their shadow is reflected in the people who most irritate them, who awaken their hatred and contempt. And that can also be extremely useful information.
Thing is though, it sometimes happens that one so much imitates the Shining Example that eventually it’s easy to lose sight of where one begins and the other ends. No wonder people go off to a great silence to find themselves again. I imagine they miss that person. Very often their true selves are well concealed. A Tibetan writer wrote that it’s absolutely fine not to know your true, deepest self and it’s useless to even try, because it’s impossible – so give up and stop worrying about that. Well that tidies up the to-do list a whole lot.
Stressful situations will soon show you aspects of who you are – there’s no time then for play-acting. And if so much of our behaviour is learned behaviour, then a stressful situation will bring out not only the innate goodness of a person, but also learned skills. And yes, these skills weren’t something the person was born with, but does that make it wrong to have acquired them? Of course not. Thomas a Kempis wrote ‘The Imitation of Christ’ and when one ponders whether Thomas was a better man as a result of his strivings and meditations on this subject – I think at the end of his life Thomas was probably a nobler being than if he’d decided simply to live his life imitating say, his dad.
Some people of course, are ‘their own people’ – they are who they’re going to be from a very young age. They don’t need validation or to borrow any fine feathers or clever little speech patterns from anyone else. They are supremely themselves, warts and all. And others love them for it. Because they are authentic. We all love authenticity and in people it’s extremely rare. Some of course are authentic bastards and that’s not so rare.
What worries me a little sometimes is the legend of St Peter at the Pearly Gates who will not say to me ‘Why weren’t you Janice?’ but rather ‘Why weren’t you Sav?’ But in writing this little blog tonight, I’ve come to realise that polishing up aspects of myself and doing some remodelling here and there, is part of a deep instinct to improve the place where I live.
And since we travel this planet in our bodies and we have to live with ourselves, body mind and soul, shouldn’t that place be as entertaining, peaceful and beautiful as possible? Perhaps we aren’t so much jigsaws as hybrids, with grafted-on bits and pieces that eventually form such a part of us that the whole is transformed into something better… still ourselves, only more so, if I may borrow from an ad for hair colourant. Works for me… so far.