This sounds so much easier than it really is. So many of us would abide by this, if only, we thought, we knew what it meant to be our selves. Who are we, anyway? It’s never easily defined. I truly think that I am, and everyone is learning everyday who they are. And that’s why I can’t quite put to words what it really means. But, words are helpful in solidifying concepts; that’s (partly) why we have them.
The best I’ve been able to do for myself by way of this definition is that it is to be constantly aware of our own intuitions, to accept our own preferences, and to not let standards of how we think we should be behaving guide us instead.
“But oh, Elena, what about the people who aren’t perfect like you, who are drug addicts and abusers and inveterate litterbugs? Should they just continue to be their slimy old selves?”
Well, thank you, but firstly, I’m not perfect. And good point that you raise. Secondly, yes. I do think they should continue to do as they please. Because even if we think the world would be better without their bad habits, no real changes will be made to who they are or what it is they really want to be doing without internal motivation. This means reformed behaviors will always be at risk for occurring again; the negative thoughts and predilections will be passed down to future generations. Those entities will still exist.*
When we are instead encouraged to be our total selves, and at a high level of awareness, the nature of our thoughts and habits become more clear. Their negative consequences become more felt. These understandings, combined with love of self and others, can truly motivate us to change our lives into ones of healthier patterns.
I believe in this because it has happened to me, and it is happening to me still. When I listen to myself, I am happier. When I am happier, I want to treat myself and others better. The love of self is the love of others.
*I realize this is way trickier than I make it here. There are offenders whose actions are too grave to ignore. I don’t suggest that we just give assholes tea and yoga and then hope they get better. But, I do think that if we focused more on helping everyone (i.e., not just the highly privileged folks) achieve higher levels of self-awareness and self-love, that maybe we would be able to prevent some of these problems in the first place. And as for dealing with problems as they arise: New Zealand has an interesting model of restorative justice that I’d like to learn more about. It focuses on acknowledgment of the crime and bringing offender and survivor together (instead of pushing the offender into an isolated corner so that we can forget about them). It is thought to be more healing to the victim. It is not a lack of justice.
Am I idealist? Yes. Do I think it is important? Even more so, yes.