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“If you realize what the real problem is – losing yourself – you realize that this itself is the ultimate trial.” Joseph Campbell
The world is an unusual place. People talk about being unique and comfortable but fight to impress others. It’s not a bad thing. After all, to win love, one has to prove they are worth it. On the other hand, one has to constantly go above and beyond in the professional arena to prove themselves to their superiors. So, where do we lose ourselves? It starts when the battles we fight end up consuming us.
Emma R. Herdegan, in her book, The Mouse of No Name, shares a beautiful story about a mouse who couldn’t blend in. It’s a common notion that one who tries to blend in becomes one with that environment. Is that hard to believe? It’s called social anxiety, a problem that most individuals out there have to endure. In retrospect, more than 5.3 million people in the United States alone are affected by social anxiety.
Social anxiety deserves another write-up of its own. However, here, in the case of losing oneself, social anxiety plays a crucial role. When people think about embarrassing themselves in front of everyone, it is because they are anxious about possible outcomes of interacting with that everyone.
It is here when it starts to worsen for them.
A Simple Secret to Being Content with Oneself
Most people with an old-school mindset believe that “being yourself” means doing things one wants and not caring about others. This somewhat oversimplifies the term and, to some extent, demeans it. For instance, if someone likes to steal, that doesn’t mean they should. There’s a fine line between being your own person and being wrong.
For people like Emma, modern identity matters a lot. She has seen people close to her lose themselves in their quest to be assigned social labels of their liking. Often people misinterpret networking as finding people who are just like them. But Emma believes that the value of a person remains the same whether they stand alone or with a community.
Another point to note is that being ourselves means having the courage to accept ourselves. Life becomes easier if a person has the courage to understand that they have a particular set of characteristics unique to them.
“You cannot be everything, and you don’t have to be everything.”
The “Us vs. Them” Mentality Has to End
Every person compares themselves to someone else. It’s a vicious cycle that eats a person alive. Discussing on a professional forefront, these versus mindsets are repercussions of larger organizational issues. Most employers or managers use the term to enhance their performance. So, when workers understand that they are constantly racing against their peers, this mindset manifests automatically.
This mindset gives birth to bad ideas, which eventually are accepted as truths. Emma strongly condemns how people are swept up in pre-established groups when they have the liberty to be just themselves. This allows them to restrict themselves to someone else’s artificial mold. Ironically, this mindset isn’t just limited to professional settings.
Most relationships are built on fake personas. Winning someone over is a good thing, but losing oneself in the process is a huge gamble. So, reality kicks in when the thrill of winning that person is over. One realizes that this isn’t how they were before. And that’s when relationships fall apart. Emma’s book discusses just that. She uses characters that mimic real-life problems and how they force people to lose themselves.
The Us versus Them mindset is fearful and harbors dangerous negativity. The positive route to any problem is to be flexible and understand one’s limitations. Emma’s book tells readers that everyone loses in a fight between Us and Them. So, what’s the point? That’s why her book helps the readers keep themselves intact and enables them to be unapologetically human. Everyone is beautiful in their way; there’s not a single box in the world that could fit a human content to lead a life on their own terms.
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