The more people I meet, the more I wholeheartedly believe in the idea that there is a certain need for a healthy amount of personal awareness within all humans. Most people will say that they’re aware of themselves all the time, but the truth is that we tend to go about our lives in a trance. Mostly worried about mundane things like our jobs and relationships and bills, never just ourselves. I would go as far as to propose that most people do not know themselves. We do not know our own power.
Each person has a belief, specific to them, that helps them successfully move around the world. Some people - due to the results of life experiences, their upbringing, culture, etc. - end up fully believing that they are at the center of the universe. They don’t have to work at believing this, they don’t have to be told this, they just know this to be true. On the other hand, some people believe they’re completely insignificant compared to everything else and everyone else in the universe. There is nothing anyone can say to make them believe otherwise. They inherently know that they do not matter, that they have no value and the world would not stop turning if they disappeared. This, of course is a direct result of outside influence; if we were to trace back all the millions of things that happened to each and every single one of us to make us believe what we know to be true, then we’d certainly all understand ourselves fully enough to progress as a society. But, as they say, don’t nobody got time for that.
So, instead, we like to put nice labels on people that either excuse their behaviors or further demonize them. People would say that the first is simply just egotistical and selfish, while the second is depressed and has low self-esteem. And if one were to really think about it, both arguments are true. Each one of us IS at the center of the universe while simultaneously being insignificant. Where all this begins to really matter though, is within each person, personally. We’re all walking along this world in our own person-specific shell that is the body. Due to circumstance beyond our control, we each ended up with our own personalized physical form, our outer shell. Similarly, our personality, mentality, & habits manifest as a result of outside forces beyond our control as well. If we focus on the fact that we just came to be without being given an option to, then sure, that could prove our insignificance. But if we focus on the fact that we only see things through our own lenses, only walk in our own shoes, and only experience our own experiences, then we can deduce that we - ourselves - are the center of the universe. Each person is given their own choice to see the world, and their life, in the manner which they want. And at the end of the day, that’s the only real thing that matters; our own choices. But what if we acknowledged that we ourselves are at the center of our own worlds while, likewise, others too are at the center of their own worlds. And we’re all just walking around on this earth in our shells occasionally bumping into others whom are also in their own shells.
Because some of us DO realize that we are not alone, and we recognize the value of these other people with their different worlds, while others refuse to acknowledge anyone other than themselves, their beliefs, and their needs. Some of us recognize that we are all on equal footing. We’ve all been thrown into this experiment we call life, but it doesn’t take away the reality that this experiment is still all we know and therefore there is value in it. There is value in us. We DO matter. And not just to ourselves but also to the world around us. Because the universe is comprised of different worlds, and likewise, THE world around us is comprise of several person-specific worlds. Some people recognize this and use others’ failure to see this, against them. Some people learn to manipulate others by the sheer advantage of their ability to pinpoint those who do not know they’re their own worlds.
Have you ever read The Making of a Slave by Willie Lynch? It’s a letter or speech with instructions from a supposedly “modest” plantation owner in the West Indies back in the 1700's. William Lynch was brought to Virginia in 1712 to teach slave owners how to “break” slaves like you break a horse. The version I read explains that in order to make a slave you need to breed fear, envy, and distrust in them. That you need to change how they think and how they perceive themselves. You need to turn how they view life on its axis. It’s basic manipulation 101. It’s evil genius - repulsive to think of - but also eye opening. You realize just how horrible a person could be, but also how astute, once they recognize that perception is everything.
Sometimes, though, we don’t need outsiders to manipulate or abuse us because we do it to ourselves automatically. We "break" ourselves without anyone else's help. Abuse is something, I believe, we do to ourselves every day. With our thoughts and with our choices, every day we decide to chip away a little bit more from ourselves. Every morning, when we stand in the mirror and try on outfit after outfit, while judging and being repulsed by how we look in them. With every interaction we accept and acknowledge from others that is just a little disrespectful to our person. Through every word we utter in disgust and annoyance about others; we bring forth all that abuse upon ourselves.
In his book The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz proposes that as children we were domesticated like pets by our parents and the world around us to agree with the terms of the outside world (society). They taught us our belief systems, what behavior is acceptable, how to be a proper person within the world’s context, and how to judge; “we judge ourselves, judge other people, judge the neighbors.” He says that we were taught punishment and reward so well that we adopted it for ourselves and became, what he calls, “auto-domesticated animals” that punish ourselves according to the belief system we learned as children. The only difference is, now, instead of the adults, we ourselves are our own punishers. Our own judge, jury and executioners. We take on the role of abuser and victim. We hurt and writhe in pain by the things we do to ourselves directly or indirectly.
I find that idea enthralling because I fear being judged by others, yet I’m the one that judges myself the hardest. It’s a real fear that comes up every day, mostly throughout the entire day, but I also realize that I am my biggest judge in the end. One of my friends told me I was confusing once, because I speak with such a loud voice and am such an extrovert, but still I try my very best to hide in the crowd and make myself small. Such an anomaly, my actions are - at least compared to my personality. It’s true. I hide myself and avoid people and run away at the slightest chance of trouble, because I’ve already judged myself the hardest in whatever situation and I refuse to let someone else see my faults like I do. I am too scared to be seen. Too prideful to be vulnerable. And too worried to own up to anything.
That is why reconciliations are my biggest hurdles and greatest moments of pride. When I argue with someone who calls me out on my shit, I immediately become indignant. My ego kicks in almost instantaneously and I take offense and I get mad. It’s my coping mechanism; the thing that preserves my rightful place as judge of me - no one else gets to sit in that space. That throne is mine, and mine alone.
I used to refuse to acknowledge my wrongdoings out loud. I used to get pissed and yell at people and act crazy when called out on something. In the words of Nicki Minaj “Damn, there I go again. I be trippin’, I be flippin’, I be so belligerent.” I used to be a mess... I’m still a mess, but now I try my hardest to understand. It is so difficult to put my ego aside, but I do it more often now because I value my relationships and I do not want negative judgement from others. I beat myself up enough internally to have others beat me up externally as well, so I’ve tried my hardest to put my pride aside and listen to understand instead of to respond. Now that I do that more often, I find real pride in my ability to reconcile with people who have argued with me. I find pride in my ability to own up to my mistakes, face them head on and try to rectify them while also maintaining friendships. I now recognize that in order to stop judging myself so harshly, I need to in turn, own up to my faults/mistakes and stop judging others with the same intensity.
It’s hard to deconstruct all the damaging agreements/laws/rules that have been ingrained in my brain since young. It’s hard to not throw my book of laws to people I meet/see/come across on the regular, because I throw it on myself every day. But I have realized that nobody owes me anything in this world and I need to stop expecting people to follow my book of “how to be a proper human” because they all have their own. Just like I’m my own judge, jury and executioner they are their own. And we all are walking along holding our own weights, the heaviest weights we can hold, without others’ placing theirs on our shoulders too. Just like I am living in my own person-specific world, so is every one else, and I cannot expect others to see things or experience things exactly like me. Although I am the center of my world, others are at the center of their own worlds and all I can do is be aware of myself and do my best to be aware of others as well. So here's to different person-specific worlds colliding and in turn, fostering more self-awareness in oneself.