If you strip away all the extraneous stuff in your life, what would be left?
In modern society, it’s hard to connect to our true identity because of all the static. The expectations, the influences, the demands: all this external pressure makes it difficult to know our true selves.
It can be helpful to take a step back and think about your essential self. By essential self, I mean the person at your very heart, the person you have left after you strip away everything not essential to your being.
To some, this statement engenders a visceral negative reaction. Many people want to be admired for what they do, and some people, such as authors, musicians, and actors, depend on it for their livelihood. But there are different levels of fandom. Some are healthy and appropriate, and some are extreme, bordering on harassment.
The word “fan” is a shortened version of “fanatic,” meaning marked by excessive enthusiasm and often intense uncritical devotion. It comes from the Latin fanaticus, the definition of which I like even more: insanely but divinely inspired. The spectrum of fandom ranges from admiring and appreciating someone’s work, to being influenced by them, to trying to emulate them, to worshiping them, all the way to trying to become part of their lives.
Do you have a creed? Is there a set of statements that sum up your values and how you live your life?
I’ve always been a little wary of creeds. The idea of someone telling me what I should think or believe has always rubbed me the wrong way. But that’s only if someone else wrote it. On the other hand, a personal creed can help clarify our thoughts and guide our actions.
Why develop a creed?
A personal creed can help us think through our values in a comprehensive way. It can help us figure out what is important to us, what we really believe, and how we act based on those beliefs. A creed can help us be the people we aspire to be. It is easy to fall into a pattern of reacting instead of acting, doing things out of convenience rather than purpose.
It is important to make some time for reflection in our lives.
If we can make the time to think deeply about what we do, how we interact with others, and what direction our lives are heading, we can make each of these aspects of our lives more meaningful and give ourselves the peace of mind that comes from living intentionally.
It is important to understand not just what is happening in our lives but why it is happening and what the consequences will be. Sometimes it may feel like we’re going through life like a pinball—being bounced around with little control over our direction. Why does it feel this way? Are we not taking charge of our direction? Are we trying to take charge but can’t for some reason? Are our lives really out of control, or does it just seem that way? If we reflect on our direction in life and gain a better understanding of the forces that influence that direction, we will be much more likely to move in the direction that we want and will feel more confident in our path.
It’s never pleasant to be criticized—even if the person criticizing you has the best of intentions. But being open to criticism, even if you disagree with it, can potentially improve your path in life.
The path of self-improvement should be continuous. Part of this journey is a healthy and honest self-assessment, but we should also be open to the opinions of others. This doesn’t mean that you have to accept, agree with, or incorporate others’ criticism, but it never hurts to consider it. Sometimes someone else’s opinion is not meant with the best of intentions, and although we should be aware of their motives, that doesn’t mean that what they’re saying is wrong. Consider the motives of those criticizing you, but even if they’re hurtful or harmful, don’t let that get in the way if their criticisms are valid.