“Who are you?” is perhaps the most philosophical question there is and I’m not talking about the id, ego, or super-ego. Who defines you, you, friends, family, or society? No matter who you are no one sees you exactly as you see yourself. The truth is everyone is everything, only to what degree I think is what gives you your unique signature. All the ists, sexist, racist, ageist, etc. exist in everyone to one degree or another.
But, what is it really that makes you you? Can it be quantified, can it be confirmed? It seems mostly based on the perspective of others, perhaps one of the most skewed factors available based usually on irrational snap judgments and personal associations and ignorance which has nothing to do with you.
One person will think you’re good. Another will think you’re evil.
One person will think you’re strong. Another will think you’re weak.
One person will think you’re smart. Another will think you’re stupid.
One person will think you’re attractive. Another will think you’re ugly.
One person will think you’re selfless. Another will think you’re selfish.
One person will think you’re rich. Another will think you’re poor.
And on and on, all of these words of course defined separately by each judging individual.
Let’s look at the judgment of ones’ wealth, as this is the closest to being an objective example (though non-existent) we have. Let’s say that you have a million dollars hidden away in a secret bank account that none of your friends or family know about. Let’s say that while you live comfortably, you have no taste for nice things: designer clothing, sports cars, and the like. Let’s say you also dress plainly in thrift store clothing. And finally for the sake of this thought experiment, let’s say that 100% of the people you know think you’re poor.
So, what’s the truth; is there a truth? Is it a competition for reality? If everyone you know thinks that you’re poor, but you know that you’re not, does it matter? They think you are, they’ll treat you like you are, they’ll tell others you are. Whether subtle or traumatic, it will have some impact on your life. Perhaps you don’t care, perhaps you do. Let’s say it eventually does become enough of a problem that you do care, could you change the established reality? Maybe you decide enough is enough, show them your bank statement. People are irrationally confident in their own opinion and rarely ever change their views on things. Honestly, it’s easier not to and we’re always looking for the easy and obvious solutions.
Let’s take another example: good versus evil. Say an innocent man is put to death by the prison system for murder, one that he was never proven innocent for nor has had his good name cleared of by the legal system nor ever will, but that we know is innocent through our magic window. The police and detectives think they got their man, the prosecutors think they did a good job, the judge thinks it was a fair punishment for the crimes, the families feel some level of relief and closure for the justice, and the media has recorded their disgust for this person thoroughly, all based on a false shared reality.
So again, I ask: what’s the truth; is there a truth? Does it matter? I think the answer is always:
I think the real truth is that there is no truth, we’re all delusional about other people’s identities as well as our own. However, you know yourself better than anyone. Even if everyone you know thinks you’re bad, that shouldn’t stop you from knowing that you’re good and doing good if that’s how you feel. After all, the things that we believe are good and right, the things we do for our own well-being and for the well-being of others cannot rely on others understanding us, agreeing with us, rewarding us. If that’s your only validation of what it means to do good, perhaps you are bad. What we’re really talking about I think is integrity. And the only reward to expect for that is respecting yourself even if no one else will.
We could debate objective and subjective truths all day long, but the bottom line is that it doesn’t ultimately matter what anyone thinks except you. You have to decide who you are, what moral codes to live by. While it’s always good to be considerate of others’ feelings, more often than not, when someone has a problem with you, it’s just that, their problem, and does not require you to absorb that negativity or try to correct or control their thinking.
Letting go is the best friend of a healthy identity, even if it only exists as an abstract delusion.