“Loosing an illusion makes you wiser than finding a truth” (Ludwig Börne)

Become who you are

This conjuration is not a rallying cry from a self-help guru but a quote I came across recently, penned by Friedrich Nietzsche.

What does it mean ?

To understand the aphorism, it seems useful to draw a distinction between deciding who you are and choosing to become who you are.

Deciding means to make a choice based on a reason. In the verb decide, there is the Latin root which means ‘to slay’ – just as in the words homicide and suicide. Every decision implies a renunciation. For every Yes, there is also a No.
If I decide on this course of action, it is because of this reason, which I consider to be the right reason. The other reasons I considered, but rejected , then become the wrong reasons.

On the other hand, when I choose, I do so for no particular reason. If I chose say vanilla over chocolate ice cream, I do so for no other reason than that is what I feel like at the moment. I don’t feel I need to justify my choice. I chose, I did not take a decision.

Back to Nietzsche’s admonition, “Become who you are”.

When we decide to be who we are, our decision is based on reasons we can put forward and articulate. Often historical reason – we are this today because of that which happened yesterday. We occupy an important position for example, because we received a higher education and are very good at what we do. I am an achiever. You are a born leader because …. (fill in the blank). Any reason we put forward is incontrovertible and that’s the way it is.

On the other hand, if I choose to “become who I am”, I do so for no other reason than that is how I choose to live my life. I do not feel tied down because of this or that reason, I am more concerned about what works for me. About what makes me feel I am leading a fulfilled life, about what gives my life meaning. Rather than a still portrait, it is a work in progress, never really achieved, always looking to go further and further on.

Life after all is just a story. The question is: who is writing the story ? And what is it about : a cast decision or an on-going choice to just keep trying to “become who you are”?

From a consummate story teller…

“I learned a lot from the stories my uncle, aunts, and grandparents told me: that no one is perfect but most people are good; that people can’t be judged only by their worst or weakest moments; that harsh judgments can make hypocrites of us all; that a lot of life is just showing up and hanging on; that laughter is often the best, and sometimes the only, response to pain. Perhaps most important, I learned that everyone has a story — of dreams and nightmares, hope and heartache, love and loss, courage and fear, sacrifice and selfishness. All my life I’ve been interested in other people’s stories”.

(Bill Clinton – My Life)