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The nature of labels, what you describe yourself as has long interested me. There are many perspectives that people have of themselves cannot be apparent to a third person looking in. No matter how open the person, and how close the relationship, there remains a little window of the soul that remains opaque. No insight is gained here, or rather all insight is to be gained, but none shall have access to it. It is the ultimate sealed window of the soul. Behind this barricade I believe are our ultimate descriptors. They are what we label ourselves when we are most frank, most open and real about ourselves. And this is only done to ourselves, perhaps in the darkest of night, when the mind wonders on the cusp of sleep.

In a more everyday sense we all have the internal labels that we describe ourselves as. Things like introvert, extrovert, social, anti-social, friendly, grumpy and so forth. They are not necessarily real, they may not represent the actual us, but they are what we think that we are.

This brings me to a rather simple question; what precisely is the difference between these two concepts, and where does it stem from. To be precise what is the distinction between what I think I am, and what I am. Surely it should be that the second decides the first, that you are not free from your perception of yourself, and that to think you can be defies all common sense.

I think that there are two arguments to suggest that this distinction can be maintained. The first is that you can achieve what you did not believe was possible. It’s extremely rare, but its those moments where you look down the path which you have traveled, and are amazed what has bought you here, amazed that you possessed the requisite shove to get you this far. Of course others have also taken the initiative in parts, but the majority seems to be somehow your own achievement. Here in a very real sense, you have defied the limits of your description

The other is your ability to do new things, things that you are consciously aware that they are difficult or trying, events that you know will push against the natural inclination of your character, that will impose an additional burden on yourself, that you know you could refuse and deny if you so desired. But in spite of that, you persevere and push through the pain barrier. Things are different and uncomfortable, this is after all strange if not enemy territory, but you adapt, you grow to understand it and then your previous hesitation does not look so surprising to you then. The exaltation of achievement makes all the effort worthwhile.

They are perhaps twin aspects of the same argument, but I feel they are materially different in time and effect to suffice as two distinct arguments that prove that we can defy our self described labels.

Where it comes is a harder question. There is a fundamental divergence between what we expect of ourselves and what we can do. We kn0w that everyday, we aim low because you know you can succeed, you don’t try as hard as you can, only as hard as you need to. This I think also happens at this major level. We become comfortable with what we are now, today is all that matters and today we’re comfortable. We stop pushing ourselves, to explore new boundaries and try new things. And we fall into a rut, into a comfortable path, but with time it becomes harder and harder to diverge from.

We can become what we need to be when we allow ourselves to feel at risk. In vulnerability we can improve. Strength and comfort, routine and banality are the road to stagnation; exposure and challenge are the ways to growth and change, to a more able and better person.


One Comment

    • Dom
    • Posted September 20, 2005 at 3:30 pm
    • Permalink

    You said “In vulnerability we can improve”. I want to add that vulnerability can reveal the upper limits of our true potential or ability. For example, I felt very insecure during my first year in uni, because I didn’t know the general ability of the students and I didn’t know the expected standard of my uni. Having gone through that first year with quite good results gives me an idea of where I stand in relation to my fellow classmates (rather close to the top I would hope).

    You also suggested we should keep pushing ourselves to our limits. I tend to do that, but whenever I slack off I feel guilty and blame myself for not living up to my standards. Eventually the pressure is so great I want to just give up. Therefore, should I “push” or “not push”? It is a question I face almost every day and to this date I do not have an answer.

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