You Are Not
Written by Gary Martin
We all like to think we know who we are. We believe in that which we are capable and have doubts about that which we have failed. We have understandings about what we are good at and we know what we have no business attempting. Some may call this introspective but it may be holding you back. It could be that you are limiting your potential by simply accepting what or who you think you are. As a matter of fact: you are not.
“All is in Motion” Hereclitus (c.540-480 BCE) was famous among Pre-Socratic philosophers for his belief that the universe and everything in it is in motion. He taught that “You cannot step into the same rivers twice.” Just like the river, we flow, we change and we become something different. With every breath and every thought, we change. Mostly in an indiscernible way, but just like a single grain of sand falling makes no sound, a billion grains of sand makes a roar. So to do we change.
Aristotle (384-322 BCE) argued that motion is the actuality of potential. It is in motion and action that each of us has the opportunity to become what we are capable of becoming. We learn, adapt, overcome, and succeed or fail. We use experience as a way to perceive the world and our relationship to it. It is only in the recognition of this motion and change that we can fully embrace our potential physically, emotionally, and intellectually. We are ever changing and undefinable by nature, so why do we cling so hard to what we believe defines us?
The problem is this: by seeking to define oneself, a person halts the potential for change through motion as outlined by the definition. Sorry to get so philosophical here but I don’t know any other way to put it. Each time you try to describe “what” or “who” you are, you force yourself into the perception of that description. It freezes the motion of you. It stagnates the growth of you. It, for a moment, removes you from the universe as an impossible thing without change.
Philosophers, both religious and secular, have argued this for millennia. Sciences from biology to quantum physics have demonstrated repeatedly that the universe is a mess of motion from biological processes to quantum entanglements and yet we cling to that thing we call “me”. We believe that there must be some absolute thing that defines us. We constantly look for some absolute meta-narrative of our current existence that we can claim as our own.
Stop it! You are not.
I am not saying that the quality of you does not exist. Self awareness requires it. What I am saying is that you need to stop clinging to those things that you believe define you. With every breath you change. You are different than the breath before. Each time you define yourself, irrespective of how, you are creating a limiting space and expecting yourself to stay in it. This is like trying to hold water in your fist. You are going to make yourself miserable trying to make it work.
People often cling to “who” they are by clinging to different things. They may cling to the physical: I am this body. The body changes. We age and grow. We become injured or ill. We are not our bodies. They may cling to the emotion: I am my sadness, happiness, aggression, or passivity. Moods change. Environments change. Emotions ebb and flow. We are not our emotions. They may cling to their thoughts: I am intelligent or foolish, quick or dim-witted, or funny. Intellect grows or slacks, illness or conditions affect your mentality. Are you then not you? You are not your intellect. Others still may cling to action: I am what I do. I am an athlete, a politician, a dishwasher or a volunteer. I am my career. Injury, elections, job changes, organizational failures all occur. Good people do bad things. Then what? You are not your actions.
Like the universe, we are ephemeral, but unlike the universe we can choose how we respond and how we chose to change. We can decide to learn, to foster new relationships, to build skills and to grow in a huge variety of ways. Yesterday I had a 550 deadlift. Today I might hit 525 or 560. Yesterday I couldn’t get a strict pull-up. Today I might. Yesterday I had the courage to battle through 60 second max effort on an Assault Bike. Today, not so much. None of these things define me.
We change. We move. We grow. In some areas we move in ways perceived as forward in others backward. Stop using these changes as a way to define yourself. Stop clinging to what you perceive to be you.
You are not!
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