The Journey of the Self (Lesson 5)

Adults like to ask children what they want to be when they grow up. It's a question that slips through their lips when they're trying to gage what the child has predicted for him or herself. It's almost as if they assume that they could have a powerful influence over a child's future. 

When I was in fourth grade, this question was asked to everyone in my class. One by one, each child responded with answers such as, "doctor," "engineer," and "businessman." I looked at these children and wondered whether they would actually follow these career paths. Some of the responses they were providing were mere attempts to please the adult that had questioned them. Every response made the adult smile with pride. 

My friend in front of me answered "artist," and I nodded my head in agreement. I could actually see him following a creative path in the future. When it was my turn, I responded with courage, honesty and certainty: "I will be an artist and a writer." 

The adult said, "What sort of career is that? You will end up nowhere." I felt uncomfortable that someone had just snapped at me in front of the whole class for being truthful about what I wanted to do. 

I sank into my seat, held back my tears, and felt like my self-esteem had just dropped to sub-zero. From that point on, I knew that I was going to hear many adults questioning every single decision I made. In my heart, I knew as well that I was not going to be able to follow stereotypical paths.

My low self-esteem, inability to concentrate and steady depressed state assisted me in failing every test in school. One day, my mother became frustrated and said, "I know that you are a smart child and hate being here. But, if you want to be successful in life, then you will have to study to get out of here." 

Those words changed my life, and learning eventually came easily to me because of my natural curiosity towards everything in life.  Simultaneously, the Internet revolutionized my creativity as it gave me opportunities to learn photography and the art of photo-editing. By the time I was half-way through high school, the same question was posed to me by many adults. 

A part of me wanted to go to art school, so I decided to let an adult know this. The response I received was, "If you go to art school, then you will be like everybody else. Yes, you may not have the technical training, but you can continue learning at your own pace."  

Once again, I felt frustrated as I returned to the drawing room. Then, I decided that I was going to be a psychologist. A South Asian adult responded to my decision with, "That's not what we do, pick something more serious." 

Life somehow brought me back to psychology, creative writing and art, which made me realize that maybe I had to go through a series of peaks and valleys to become certain of who I was. In the process, I met people who were unconscious and chose to follow the safer route. When I tried to do so, I became very depressed and anxious, since I wanted to be like them and less like me. 

When you move from the unconscious (looking outside of the Self) to the conscious (looking inside the Self), the journey can be painful, because you will be facing what Jung calls, the Shadow Self. This consists of fears, repressed ideas, impulses, false beliefs, and etc... Basically, your darker psyche comes forward. The more you question the outside world, the more you will see aspects of your Shadow Self. The more you work with (not against) and question your Shadow Self, the more conscious you become. Dark and light must co-exist in order to illuminate the authentic Self.

Lesson 5:

One size does not fit all.