Mistaking our roles for who we are
Who are we really? It is hard to tell. We often tell ourselves we are who we were told we are. And who is that? Well, if we do not know that, we are considered mentally ill or slow. We seldom have a choice and often are discouraged to even investigate. Of course we are who others know us as. In many strange ways, our relationships define us. But is that who we really are?
Of course we are a partner, a girlfriend, an employee, a lover, a father, a wife, a husband, etc. And all these mean certain things – they mostly spell out how we are supposed to act and what we are supposed to do in relationship to others who relate to us in these roles. Often there is little time to question any of these roles because we are encouraged and even threatened to be the best version of these roles that we can. In other words our sanity and values are often linked to our morality which is gauged by our performance in our given roles. Are you a good husband? Are you a fair employer? Are you a faithful wife?
In such pursuits encouraged by our religion, our society, our media, etc. we leave our true identity hidden and at times we even forget and lose ourselves in others. This is what taking our life roles seriously does to us. We are rewarded for our roles and become invisible to others when we slip out of them. As William Shakespeare writes in As You Like It, “All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players, they have their exits and their entrances;” Sometimes we are so richly rewarded for our roles that we totally sacrifice ourselves for being who they say we are. Good examples are the current movie “The Black Swan” which tells the story of a ballerina who attempts to kill herself at the end of her stage dance so she can be true to form as her stage character. Or a real life example of the unfortunate case of Charlie Sheen who has become his TV character in real life. Poor Charlie is rewarded millions of dollars by the same media that is documenting his daily demise. The cost of his role is his destruction. This is a great example of what our roles are destined to do to us. Their main purpose is our eventual demise.
Ok. What are we to do?