If it is one thing adulthood has taught me, it is that the pathway to taking myself more seriously as a writer and intellect is nothing how I originally believed. I used to operate on the belief that maturity--whether it be emotional, intellectual, or artistic--involved being stoic, humorless, and sacrificing the little delights that flavor life. True, maturity does filter out some delights, but that is exactly what helps us transition from adolescents into adults. Thus, taking ourselves seriously is in part the product of knowing what is most advantageous for us to think and experience, and in what proportion. So how do we learn how to take ourselves seriously?
First off, let me specify the meaning of the clause "Take yourself seriously," because operating otherwise would be like building a house on an unsturdy foundation. In our busy, over-complicated, and highly technologized modern lives, it is very easy to bypass or misconstrue the raw meaning of Self (or yourself). One of my first advantageous steps to take myself more seriously was rephrasing the clause to read: "Take my Self seriously." See how differently it reads? It shines the spotlight on the Self, instead of just seriously. Sure, seriously is a significant part of this clause, however it is not the apex.
When we think of statements like "take yourself seriously," it is easy to assume we know the meaning of self because our complex modern lives package our identities and ways of viewing/defining ourselves in socially-affirmative ways. Unfortunately, I--like most people in this culture--fell for the socially-packaged paradigms in my intellectual youth in thinking that taking myself seriously meant believing maturity was being humorless, stoic, and the typical type of professional person! This limited my ability to see and be the real me.
What I really need to make clear is that I am pro-judgement, or in other words, anti-relativist. We can and ought to observe, debate, and reason with one another, because that is the way to understand, communicate and categorize our lives. (Thus, "Just because" is intellectually and emotionally detrimental to adult interactions.) That being said, we can each build a unique Self based on our experiences, natural gifts, and associations (relationships). We just need to separate our natural/raw Self from the self we are indoctrinated to be through social platitudes, obligations, and traditions. No, this is not a new issue I am raising, but when I look around to see how it has been answered, it is always--if not always, then most of the time--packaged in a way as to not offend greater society. This brings things like cliches and hot-button topics come to mind. What is a hot-button issue? Well, how about religion or politics! You "cannot" talk about these, right? But are these not pertinent moral and ethical issues? I say talk about them boldly! What can be lost? And in terms of cliches, if we eliminate their use, we make ourselves communicate meaning in our own, unique way, which helps us not simply parrot social platitudes. These are simply two mechanisms to buck the socially-affirmative paradigms of Self; there are many to be uncovered along the path to true Self.
Am I anti-society? Am I an anarchist? No. Instead, I am a proponent of individuality and independence, which lends itself to having multiple informed choices. When I was in my intellectual youth I did not think I had a choice as to who I was or wanted to be, which made me buy into certain false premises about maturity, professional life, communication, and relationships. Now that I have developed a more independent mind, I can choose as I please. This does not mean I never make a mistake, just that I recognize there are multiple alternatives to choose from. Just because one does not pander to society's paradigms and obligations does not make them an anarchist! Extremist thinking like that does not help anyone.
Bucking the socially-affirmative paradigms can and will help any person take themselves more seriously, because it clears the moral muddy water. In other words, it puts you in the actual position to take your Self seriously, because you take your raw self in mind, rather than the socially affected/fabricated you. Yes, this means being b-r-u-t-a-l-l-y honest with yourself. You cannot take yourself seriously as an individual if you do not look at the uncomfortable and ugly parts, as well as the comfortable and shiny parts.
This is one of the big delineators between a socially-affirmed paradigm of Self and a raw/authentic paradigm of Self: The former--since modern culture has an allergy to interpersonal judgment (relativistic)--requires us to highlight and stick to comfortable, feel-good traits, premises, and predictions. I am sorry, but that is just not a realistic modus. I understand the significance in staying positive, however, positivity does not demand blindness to negativity. It means positive despite negativity. BIG difference. So a mental way of starting a productive chain reaction of finding ourselves is through embracing the discomfort and judging the people we are today, and not making excuses or blaming others. Society does not endorse voluntary moral sufferance because, to quote Kristhoffer, "It does not believe that moral conflict can be objectively resolved." A raw paradigm of self thus embraces both ugly traits and pretty traits, because they both comprise who we are. And if we strive to bring as much of ourselves to the table as possible, we have a better chance at constructing the true self we all claim to want. We need to judge ourselves, though.
Thus, socially-affirmative paradigms of determining self are built upon loaded and ulterior premises because they include the condition of social lubrication and affirmation. I am actively endorsing separating these social conditions and giving yourself a fair, honest shot at looking at your ugly and beautiful facets so that no matter who you are, you can construct the Self you desire. I am not talking about actively destroying society, or to vehemently argue with others till you are blue in the face, but to aim your observations (and will) onto yourself, so that you can discover and clear up who you are. Society says you need others to help you change, should you want to change. I (and many others) say that it merely takes a few requirements: The will to be brutally honest, a positive outlook, and an orientation toward untainted alternatives. You are going to choose what you wish, and you ought to because you are an individual, however that does not mean neither you nor others cannot judge your thoughts and actions. Judgement is not a four-letter word, and one of the first--and continual--steps toward determining and maintaining an authentic Self is a willingness to judge and be judged. Otherwise we remain comfortable, unchecked, and socially lubricated.
In my intellectual youth, I was exposed to many painful (read: realistic) lessons, but the one that comes to mind right now is Take a Breath. I hated this advice though because I wanted to improve right now! To change for the better! To attack all weaknesses right now!! On top of needing patience when dealing with ourselves though, we need to maintain somewhat of an even keel so that we can operate well. It is similar to what you see in a professional tennis match when a player loses multiple consecutive points because they are "tightening up." They still have the ability to play well, but stifle themselves to a point where they cannot perform optimally, let alone effectively, due to anxiety and tension. As someone prone to tightening up in tense situations, I can tell you that in the beginning of the process of finding your true Self, viewing and judging yourself will be much easier if you approach it calmly and collectedly. Not apathetic or without passion or conviction, but relaxed and open to what you perceive. Because if you start blaming yourself or becoming disproportionately critical, or making excuses, you will mentally and emotionally tighten up and the exercise will bear no fruit.
Relaxing so that we can obtain the ability to take our true selves seriously may sound paradoxical, but the road to authentic moral progress is not linear. Nor should it be. We are complex creatures, so the paths to our goals and futures will most definitely not be linear. And if they are, well, you are being socially affirmative, because another one of modern society's basal premises is that life ought to be like electricity: Follow the path of least resistance.
Once you discover and construct the raw Self of your own choosing, then taking that Self seriously will become as second nature as breathing, because you will have pride in what you built, as well as an intimate and authentic understanding of that Self's present and future.
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