Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Better Person

So I was walking along, thinking about how to make myself into a better person. I guess probably a lot of people do this. I'll walk to the supermarket or the bus stop, or where ever, and give myself an internal pep talk about how I'm going to turn it all around. I'm going to let that light shine through that I'm sure is deep in there somewhere, just waiting for a chance to rival the sun... well, at least, rival the streetlights.
Sometimes I'll be making myself fairly banal little commitments, like getting to bed at a reasonable hour, or doing more exercise or finding more friends to hang with.
But that inevitably leads to my thinking that I really need to just be a better person on an emotional, and spiritual level in order to attract all these new friends. I really need to seem kinder and happier and to project all the good things about me that people are sure to like and admire. I need to let go and really be myself.

I started thinking about this today and it suddenly occurred to me that... well, the term “let go” isn't doing me any favours. It's a little bit like the way I used to see artistic ability. It seemed like the kind of ability that is assigned to you at birth and either pours out of you with ease, or doesn't happen at all. There is no other way.
Of course, this is bullshit and thank goodness for that, or most of us creative types would be screwed. There are a few people in the world, I'm sure, who can make art (I'm using the word art in an all-encompassing sense here) without effort. But, for the most part, art is a craft. It takes time to learn it, effort to refine it, dedication to bring it into the world. There's something beautiful in the story of how any skill is created.

I think all the emphasis we put on building self esteem can backfire in some ways, because my instinct is to believe that I'm a naturally good person, an interesting person, a person who happens to have some issues that get in the way of her true nature. If only I could get past those issues, my life would automatically be filled with rainbows and unicorns and the best jelly-bean flavours and everyone in my life would love me just the right amount that I want them to.
Yeah, that's also bullshit. Being a good person and, in particular, being an interesting person, takes effort. It's not something that the average human being can just relax and pour out of their soul once they've burned away whatever little issues they think are holding them back. It's not going to happen tomorrow. It's not going to happen all at once. 
If I want to be a better person, I need to work for it, learn it, refine it, dedicate myself to it. And there's something beautiful in that story as well.

Or at least, that's what I'll tell myself tonight when I try to get to bed at a reasonable hour.