Yeah, but I mean it in the most positive way possible. There’s a lot that I learned in my years studying to become a preacher- but by far the most freeing – the thing that I feel unifies us all is that every single one of us is fucked up. Everyone.
The people you look up to? Fucked up. The douche whose life just keeps craping out rainbows for him, even though he’s never done anything to deserve it? Jacked. That girl at your gym who you can never muster the courage to talk to b/c she’s just way out of your league? Total mess. The perfect family living across the street who’s always smiling & washing their cars? Well, they’re fine but you’re fucked up b/c you wish they’d get swineflu.
So how is this supposed to help me?
First, it’s just cool knowing you’re not the only one who doesn’t have their shit together. Second, seeing your faults isn’t a bad thing- they’re your faults, you own them, and being aware of them is a step in knowing yourself- the hardest and most essential thing you’ll never really accomplish.
There’s lots of reasons we’re all fucked up. You can’t be 100%- there’s always going to be something you fall short in, regardless of whether you see it. For the most part it’s just a matter of context. Take any person- anyone- and there’s plenty of environments where they’d look as fucked up as you feel.
No one is perfect. You can feel pretty perfect if you’re not tested in life and your flaws aren’t being exposed, but that’s some boring shit. We’ve got maybe 80 years to figure a couple things out- if you’re not figuring shit out about yourself on a regular basis this whole thing is going to pass you by. Most people who look like they’ve got their shit together are just content b/c they have no fucking idea who the fuck they are. You figure out who you really are and sometimes that’s enough to freak you out- b/c we’re all fucked up.
I’ve been feeling a bit fucked up lately, and reading the following passage this morning in the Upanishads reminded me just how hard getting a handle on yourself really is:
To many it is not given to hear of the Self. Many, though they hear of it, do not understand it. Wonderful is he who speaks of it. Intelligent is he who learns of it. Blessed is he who, taught by a good teacher, is able to understand it.
The truth of the Self cannot be fully understood when taught by an ignorant man, for opinions regarding it, not founded in knowledge, vary one from another. Subtler than the subtlest is this Self, and beyond all logic.
Have you met someone who really gets herself or himself? One thing you usually pick up quickly is how humble they are. You don’t get humble by constantly winning at everything and keeping on top of everything- you get humble by being a real-life, screwed up human being who fails.
The saints & seers who wrote the Upanishads knew it- they said your nature is beyond logic (that’s sanskrit for you’re fucked up, dude). And every time you think you’ve got your shit together, all that stuff’s going to creep up and give you a reacharound just to let you know the score.
How to get to know yourself
Well, if you’re overwhelmed, feeling less than perfect, or wrestling with your inner demons then you’re already picking up on some of this. The thing to do now is to take a deep breath and check to see if the world is still spinning. I’ll wait.
I’m assuming it is or this post was a total waste. Now shut the door, turn off the tv/computers screen/radio/etc and listen. I’ve got a journal I write in to figure out all the shit running around in my neurotic mess of a mind. It’s served me well for over 20 years- I’ve got bins and bins of journals that could probably have me put away or at least shamed into seclusion. I write everything that goes on- good or bad- because the journal is always there to listen. Shit, I even started listing fuckups one day just so I could see what I learned from them.
Don’t sensor yourself- dump it all out in all it’s glory- everything you’re wrestling with our proud of or wondering or obsessing over or just figured out. Do it whenever you can or you remember. Then, every once in a while, go back over it. I’ve found that I learn a lot about myself just by writing down the screwed up stuff I think, and I get another dose laughing about it later on.
Soliciting feedback is a another way to get to know the things about yourself that sit in your blind spots, but beware of that one. The folks who see you a lot can give you great insight into knowing yourself, but it’s rarely the easiest thing to hear. Just asking something simple like “what’s one thing you wish I’d change” or, “how would you describe my character,” can bring a lot of unexpected answers. I suggest starting with yourself, as does the Upanishads.
The ancient, effulgent being, the indwelling Spirit, subtle, deep-hidden in the lotus of the heart, is hard to know. But the wise man, following the path of meditation, knows him, and is freed alike from pleasure and from pain.
Meditating focuses you enough to listen to your real self. I’m no Dali Lama but I know what kind of things tend to shut out the world and allow me some peace and quiet. Jogging tends to bring up a lot of good introspection time for me. Actual meditation helps, or so I’ve heard but I’ve never gotten that down. If you’re looking to build your introspection skills, reading is an activity that is said to help with that.
One thing is for sure, it’s tough figuring yourself out- and the moment that you catch up and get your shit together the whole thing is really starting over again- because even who you are grows and changes. If this is the first time in a while you’re trying to come to grips with something I hope this helps- getting to really know yourself can be really intimidating and scary, but if you agree with the passage above, the more you do it, the less you feel pulled by anxiety and more freed you feel.