Living in the past is often recognized as unfortunate or sad, or at times it is seen as pathetic or weak. More than this, I think it is a sign of ingratitude. Carrying around our burdens that have long since left us simply says that what we have available to us now is irrelevant because what we wanted then was never achieved. The logic baffles me, which is why I often find myself scathing in my response to those that consistently dwell on insecurities from a time when they may have been overwhelmed or cheated out of a good life, if their current state offers them more than they were ever cheated out of to begin with.
I look around me and I find no shortage of examples of people that are so self-loathing that they become egotistical in the process. That’s not as contradictory as it may sound. The egotist, by definition, is excessively self-absorbed. Strange though that we only associate this trait with those that seek to embellish their lives for show, but fail to see the same loathsome tendencies in those that decry their lives for pity. When we fear success, but seek it desperately, the angst it creates leaves us desperate to hide our weakness while soliciting pity from the world by presenting our inner struggles as struggles against this harsh and cruel world. The irony though, is that it is that very same insincerity that makes this world harsh and cruel. Therefore, it’s quite superficial for the contributors to that state to be the ones complaining about it.
Insincerity is called for when we want to be seen as something we inherently believe is not true about ourselves. Or worse, something we believe we’re incapable of achieving. Most often the need to be seen as successful is greater than the need to be true to ourselves, and so the result leaves us creating facades and elaborate images of a perfection that eludes us. The conflict this creates within us feeds the self-loathing until it becomes who we are, and we fail to see what we were fending off in the first place. Some believe pity is called for when faced with such feebleness, I disagree.
The harshness of reality has always been a greater teacher than any fairy tale ever was. Cajoling and condoning only reinforces the very same egotistical behavior that started the cycle. However, given the weakness in most to want to be seen as likeable and huggable and amicable and all those ridiculously juvenile aspirations, it’s no surprise to me to see that the majority of advice dished out at times like these is to embrace and support and pacify, rather than to dish out a healthy dollop of tough love.
More than tough love, there is a self love that is called for. Not the sugar coated type, but the one that insists that if I don’t take care of myself first, I won’t be of much use to others. The more I deny myself the right to move forward in life, the more likely I’ll be to hold others back. For every person that needs to be cajoled and molly coddled (I despise these terms!) there is someone that is focusing on cajoling and molly coddling instead of growing in their own lives. I can hear the clamour of the idealists chanting in the background that such compassion in itself offers growth, but they confuse compassion with excessive accommodation.
One verse from the Qur’an always prompts me back to reality, and that is that there is no burden that will visit a soul that is greater than that soul can bear. This has so much truth in it that it makes the fickleness of many that much more contemptible. Not because the verse prompts us towards intolerance for the struggles of others, but because for me, it reminds me that just as I must find the capacity and ability to deal with what comes my way, so too does everyone else. I am no more special than the next person, but the moment I slip into a self-defeating pathetic state that suggests that the world must stop and recognize my struggle before I will rise above it, in that moment I become a burden rather than a blessing to those around me.
We all have a limited capacity to deal with strife in our lives. Yes, you read correctly, I believe it is limited. However, that limitation is largely defined by two key reasons of who we are as individuals or human beings. The first reason being our ability to live in the present moment and making conscious decisions about what is worth holding on to versus what we should let go of. The second reason being the subconscious tolerance level we set for ourselves. A level that is most often dictated by our ego rather than the practical reality of what we’re faced with.
The thief of yesterday creeps in and destroys the beauty of the present moment when we convince ourselves that until we receive the desired affirmation, acceptance, inclusion, or validation that was missing yesterday, we are unworthy of embracing the beauty of today. Until we achieve that moment of perceived significance in the eyes of the insignificant, we prevent ourselves from moving on. It’s a load of hogwash that destroys more than the rejection we originally experienced. It’s a juvenile cry to the world to see my significance, and my strength because of how much I’ve endured for so long, rather than to cherish my own strength, internally, when I realise that it will take a lot more than the fickleness of others to knock me down.
I wish there were more people with such resilience, spunk, attitude, or whatever it is that you choose to call it. More people that are recognised to be a bad ass, or a difficult character (for the right reasons), because that is the seat of passion for life. Not in the loins, but in the heart. Conviction to shape your future, rather than the meekness to be shaped by your past. History has its place, but only to inform us of where we went wrong, not to define what we’re worth.
Investing in the weakness of others has its place, but only for enough time as is affordable to pull them forward, out of their abyss, and into the beauty of the present moment. Some would argue that a life sacrificed towards this achievement may yield the strength of a saved soul that could change the world, but I would argue that such a sacrifice denies the world of the beauty that you could have shared instead.