Yesterday Mark and I were chatting. He mentioned that there's a guy who he'd like to be and that he was thinking about what steps he might take to be more like that guy. He described this person to me and I said, "Sounds like a cool guy." Mark agreed, and mentioned he thought he should do something about it. "That guy would," said Mark.
This prompted me to tweet, "If I were me I wouldn’t take any shit from myself."
Obviously I'm not going to exhaust the topic of what it takes to be a person here. I partly want to let the tweet stand on its own. But I think it's worth unpacking what I was trying to capture in the few characters Twitter allows.
"If I were me"
To set up the joke I establish a disjunction between who I am and the various ways I think about myself. "I" in this case may be myself as I currently exist or as I may exit or have existed. "Me" also may take either sense "I" can take depending on what meaning the reader places on "I." "If" suggests an unrealized reality: the two – "I" and "me" – may collapse into each other or be brought into equality, thus terminating the temporal "if."
In other words, on one hand, there may be an ideal "me" projected into the past or the future that I am trying to regain or to work toward. On the other hand, perhaps my thinking about who I am is out of step with who I "actually" am.[^1]
Being out of step with who one is may be the product of misrepresenting the truth of who one is to oneself. For example, I may hold certain values, but do I live them out? Put more simply, do my beliefs match my actions? If not, one may either experience disjunction or live in blissful denial.
Interestingly, the former – holding a past or future ideal about oneself – may cause the latter. And here we arrive at the second part of the tweet:
"I wouldn’t take any shit from myself."
The ideal me wouldn't put up with deficiencies in the me that currently exists. Here, not only am I in disjunction with myself, I am actively at odds with myself. I make the guy I want to be exist as much as any "true self" and he kind of hates me a little bit. In the tweet this is partly because I'm going for comedy. If there isn't any tension it isn't a funny tweet. But I do feel an animosity within myself for myself and I wonder about its effects.
How much suffering am I putting myself through in this arrangement? I could write it off as meaningless because no one suffers but me. But I put other people through the same wringer, potentially causing them suffering when they invariably fail to live up to my expectations – whether they are reasonable or not – and causing myself additional suffering in the process.
The only solution I see to this is to let go of solutions. One must be led to take one's hand off the railing that offers control at the edge of the cliff that is life. Rather than ideals, one must let go and accept a life of faith, grace, and love. If anyone can figure out how to make the movement of acceptance without turning acceptance into an ideal, please let me know.