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Head shot of Patanjali Sokaris

Patanjali Sokaris

Pondering the universe

Personality growth is not spiritual growth

There are a plethora of self-help gurus trying to push us to buy into the idea that improving the personality is paramount, and achievable by following some regime religiously. But is that really what our lives are about?

We see around us lots of examples of people who have driven themselves to do extraordinary things. They often have had people around them that have pushed them to those limits, while others have sacrificed their own ambitions to support them.

When people achieve those extraordinary things, we see that others are impressed, and so we can get into the idea that we can also receive such adoration if we also do something that will similarly impress others.

Quest to impress ^

People are gregarious, needing some measure of interaction with others to feel more complete, and so depend upon others. That means that we need others to want us around, and that starts with being noticed.

Seeing that when people get attention by being 'better' than others, we take on the idea that we are not worthy unless we have people venerating us for our extreme achievements. We then only feel validated if we achieve that idea of success.

The first people that we take this idea from are our parents, who are often caught up in the same need to achieve, and so expect that of us. Eager to please, we may take on some of their expectations as our own.

Later on, as we get friends, we come across different ideas of success, and so may take them on as well, or replace some of those we previously took on from our parents. This process continues into adulthood, gathering more abitious achievements as new goals for our lives.

While many may want us to be a success in life, that does not mean that we are necessarilly best served by others' ideas of success. As we grow older, we begin to see that many of the things we have seen for our lives are not achievable.

That can lead us to feel inadequate, especially when so many others are flaunting their supposed success. We may feel despondent or depressed, or we may feel desperate and take on much more than we are really capable of.

For those who do have success, many will ride it as long as they can, perhaps selfishly persuing more success at the expense of others. Others may feel what is called 'imposter syndrome', where they feel that they don't really deserve the success, perhaps because they only achieved it by being pushed along on others' ambitions for their own lives.

This leaves a lot of people ending up being dissatisfied with their so-called success, just because it hasn't really been a success for them, in that they don't feel they have actually gained the rewards they were supposed to get from their efforts.

Everybody's an expert ^

In that quest to impress, we see that we can reach some goals that are seemingly beyond us if we get help to push us along. So when we want to be something more than what we see ourselves as, we assume that we can get it by enlisting external help.

So we seek wise counsel and advice from those who seem to know what they are doing, and many will be able to help in some measure on our path to personal 'perfection'.

That is the opening for us to be exploited by those who seek their own glorification by riding on the backs of those they have driven to excel.

We are surrounded by lots of people who think that we can do better than we are, and proceed to inform us of ways that we can be or do what they think we can achieve, be they parents, peers, teachers, coaches, bosses, advertisers, politicians or whomever else touts themselves as an expert in our wellbeing.

The so-called self-help industry is filled with people who have found some things that have supposedly helped them, and then embark on a crusade to propagate those ideas as a solution for the problems in other peoples' lives. Like with relatives who interfere, we have to see where the boundary is between what would actually be useful to us and what is their need to justify their existence by gathering followers, such as on social media.

The problem is that they often make it seem so simple and easy to achieve, so if we don't get the promised results quickly enough, or they don't seem to last, we move on to something else that again promises quick results. It can become a cycle of ups and downs as we see-saw between short-term achievement and long-term disappointment.

Sports emphasise extremes of achievement, but if those are only enabled by hyping ourselves up, then we haven't actually reached those heights as a sustainable part of our being. Relying on them for our validation will not bring us long-term happiness or contentment because we haven't really reached them in a way that we can hold onto, except in our memories, which eventually fade.

That means that we have to start becoming aware of what it takes us to actually achieve lasting results. That implies that we need to take time to observe our part in the process, and how we enable successful outcomes or the opposite. That is the process of becoming self-aware, of becoming mindful of what part our thoughts, feelings and action are having in the outcomes in our lives.

We have to become our own experts in ourselves, and not just rely upon others for feedback about where we are. We have to go within for answers to what is best for us.

That does not mean that we cannot accept help from others, or that they may not have some valid insights about us, but we don't need to take on more than what will actually help us. Acknowledge their valid input, but leave the rest. That may upset them, but it is your life, not theirs.

Purpose in life ^

Taking responsibility for one's own life means not just being aware of what affects us and how we respond to those, but also establishing a context for our lives, which is about discovering our real purpose in life.

For much of our lives, our purpose is seemingly defined by what other people and society expect of us. However, at some point, many of us will feel a disconnect with those external expectations, and instead sense that we are more than just living out someone else's paint-by-numbers life.

We have a sense that there is some other part of us pushing us along, and not necessarilly where others want us to go. We may get glimpses of things that we could be doing that are more fitting with what we feel we can be, or what we have to give.

We get a sense of a higher self that is wiser than us, and making changes in our lives that bring about benefits to us, but only when we cooperate with it, rather than assert our personality wants and desires.

That is the start of the spiritual journey, as it involves the path back to the spirit, our soul, our true selves, of which our personality is only a reflection, a mirror that shows the soul where it is in its creative journey.

Our lives are not for the glorification of our personalities, though we are often driven to stretch the personalities in many ways, but that is so that our higher selves can understand the capabilities of what they have created.

However, while our personalities are often obsessed with that 10% of our time that we either excel or crash, the higher self is concerned with where we are the majority of our time, as that shows the truer capabilities reached.

When we look within, we find that it is our higher selves providing the scope and value in our lives. When we trust that, we then have enough justification for our existence, and so don't need strokes from other people, or followers fawning over us to feel needed.

It is the trust in our higher selves guiding the process that enables us to avoid being distracted by the noise of others who are seeking justification for themselves.

The higher self is wanting our personalities to be better expressions of it, so as we cooperate with it more, the more inspiration we get from it, and that inspiration can lead to us being better guides for others.

However, our personalities still have a lot of wants and desires, so they may get caught up in the new insights and abilities as if they are its own, and thus self-aggrandise to itself and others.

We thus need to continue to acknowledge the real source of that light, and the resulting proper perspective on our personalities' relationship to our higher selves is what can be termed humility.


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