What’s wrong? Why so uneasy?
There are moments when you suspect deep down you’re not whole, when you feel you have somehow misplaced a portion of your soul. Nothing is clicking, joy seems a stretch or you’re just going through the motions in a haze of detachment.
And you’re not sure what to do about it or that it is worth the effort to figure out. For that matter, there is doubt that what you’re experiencing is even abnormal. I’ve experienced that uncertainty. I’ve also found success in challenging subtle feelings of personal inadequacy and experiencing fresh inspiration, fulfillment and presence. Wholeness comes when I take the time to look honestly at myself, all of me. Hear me out.
The number of Vine loops, Instagram selfies and Facebook missives don’t replace authentic introspection. Our primal ID is far different than the face at the end of a selfie stick and posts of today’s conquests on a timeline. Each of us is an intensely complex and uniquely elegant creation.
When it comes to healthy introspection, sometimes we don’t get any further than status updating. We spend more time on what David Brooks has coined “resume virtues” than on “eulogy virtues”. Resume virtues, Brooks explains, are those qualities we use to promote ourselves to others. Eulogy qualities define inner character.
How well do you know you? One would think you would be fairly familiar with your inner self. After all, you live and sleep with you 24/7. But an authentic accounting of individuality is far from a sure thing. Impediments to self-realization can stand in the way. Here are a few:
Fear – Self-examination is hard. Taking a deep dive into our inner workings can be scary. It might seem easier to avoid the whole thing and live life on the surface, never experiencing the depth of character that brings ultimate fulfillment. “What happens to a man is less significant than what happens within him.” (Louis Mann)
Futility – The weight of hopelessness paralyzes many a meaningful examination of character. “What’s the point?” is often the response to the influences in life that are assumed to be beyond one’s control. I’m thinking about the unrelenting rules of genetics, heredity and maturity that straightjacket a person’s desire to uncover the potential of his own individuality. For me, considering my heritage from a spiritual vantage point rather than a mere physical one helps to reveal a larger view of me. This Bible reference has always helped, “O Lord you are the portion of my inheritance and my cup: you maintain my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Yes, I have a good inheritance.”
Lifestyle – The constant motion of our lives, filled with the minutia of daily experiences tends to detract from a healthy look-see into our identity. As life speeds up our inner vision becomes a blur. If we stop spinning our wheels long enough, we can see ourselves the way God does. We’ll get a clearer view of our uniqueness as the manifestation of His completeness; each expressing God’s enduring individuality in our own distinct and satisfying way. “All that is beautiful and good in your individual consciousness is permanent,” wrote Mary Baker Eddy. I like that. “That which is not so,” she continued, “is illusive and fading.”
Techno-blindness – In the drive to measure ourselves against others, apps record biological markers to suggest wellness trajectory. When it comes to understanding ourselves, I think this grossly misses the mark. Self-monitoring is not the same as self-awareness. Observing and quantifying the operation of body parts is a long way from knowing what makes us tick. We are so much more than the sum of our parts. “Seeing there be many things that increase vanity, what is man the better?” asks an Old Testament writer.
Egotism – Self-absorption gets some hefty attention these days. Yes, there are numerous self-help books out there that attempt to set us on the path of inner awareness. But character building and self-examination are just as much about embracing the other guy as they are about the self. It’s finding purpose in living the Golden Rule. To the question many ask, “What am I?” Eddy offered this, “I am able to impart truth, health, and happiness, and this is my rock of salvation and my reason for existing.” We get a sharper inside view of ourselves as we look outside ourselves.
When feeling less than whole, maybe the only thing missing is the attention we should give to those core virtues that have always been there. We should recognize and nurture the permanent indicators that reveal the inner beauty of our originality.
Originally published in Cleveland Plain Dealer, @clevelanddotcom