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February 10, 2020 / Congau

To Be or Not to Be Yourself

Be yourself! This wonderful mantra is chanted in our ears and we love to hear it, believe in it and embrace it as our gospel. It is flattering to think that what is in demand is exactly what we more than anything have to offer: our unique and beloved self.

What a pity it’s neither wanted nor offered, but like any other commercial scheme the make-believe is what matters. If we truly desired to be ourselves, we would shun most things that are presented to us for quick consumption and only after the most careful scrutiny would we accept what we are fed and absorb it into our soul. After all it is not possible to devour all the impressions we are bombarded with and think they will not affect us profoundly. In the process we become different people than we otherwise would have been, and if there was really a genuine self somewhere inside, it can’t be there anymore.

If we were really striving to be ourselves, we would resist the marketing attacks, and if society and the trendsetters were being honest about their advice, they wouldn’t constantly try to transform us, but that would of course be detrimental to their enterprise.

But relax, there is no conspiracy. If there were, we would all be a part of it conspiring to undermine ourselves. It is just that these elementary forces are inherently working against each other. Our basic wish to be respected and to shine among our fellow humans implies a contradiction. On the one hand, we must be unique to be noticed, but on the other we must play the same game to gain recognition. The result is a rather self-destructive compromise: We strive to be better than the others at being like the others. “Be yourself” means “make yourself uniquely like them”.

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