Is it better to strive to be the person you want to be, or to like the person you are now? For most of my life I’ve had a vision of the person I could become, the musician I could become, the writer I could become. I have faced an enormous dissatisfaction with myself as I compared the difference between what I currently was and what I believed I could be.
On the positive side, my dissatisfaction has spurred me to push myself to grow in directions I might not have dared ordinarily. It’s led me to take risks, to do the things I’m most afraid of, because that was the path towards becoming that amazing future person. If I can play the piano in front of people, if I can post a novel online, it’s because I was dissatisfied with who I was.
There’s a downside to that kind of relentless scrutiny. If you can’t turn it off, it’s exhausting. Who wants a voice in your head that’s constantly telling you you’re not good enough?
The alternative is to like who you are. On the upside, you get to like who you are! On the downside, where does the impetus for self-challenge come?
One of my favorite puzzles is why some of these fabulous pop and rock stars create such great material when they’re starting out, and then produce mediocre stuff for the next twenty years. If they can create an awesome, life changing song once, why can’t they do it again, especially with added wisdom and experience? While there are lots of reasons, I’ve come up with a new one.
When these musicians are just starting out, they have a vision of what they want to be, and they go for it, hard. Once they achieve it, they have a problem. Now their job is to stay the way they were!
That’s much worse of a prospect. Striving to become something creates momentum, drive, risk. Striving to stay something is a drag on the soul because it goes against the laws of the universe – change is inevitable.
How can a 40-year old star recreate not only the product they were at 20, but the forward momentum as well? They can’t. So they have to either live a charade or find a new person they want to be.
Or…they could like who they are. That’s the problem with wanting to like the future me: even if I actually make it, at some point it will become the past me, and I can’t stay that person without doing serious psychic damage to myself. So I’d best be spending my life learning to like who I am now, because I’m always going to be that person.
So what about momentum and risk and growth? Well, I think there’s a difference between not liking who you are versus not liking what you can do. While I thought I was trying to become another person, maybe I was just trying to be a person who could do more.
That’s a healthy way to live. Like who I am now, always, and be dissatisfied with what I can currently do. Since I’m going to be critical, that’s how I’d prefer to be, and I think I like me like that.