Image Optics

The truth about self-image

Perhaps the most valuable side effect of pursuing self-mastery is that you quite literally begin to see that which others do not.

Having been where another is, and having transcended it by way of understanding, one is able to understand the other with brilliance.

You begin to see where others falter, because you faltered in the very same way.

There’s something about image that I’ve only just recently begun to acquire a respectable understanding of.

I will relate it to you with a story.

It was the first time I can recall catching myself in an egregious lie.

What made it egregious wasn’t that I was lying to another. Certainly I’d done so before.

What made it egregious, was that I was lying to myself. I was trying to protect “myself” by fooling it.

The person on the outside, whom it appeared I was lying to, was my younger cousin.

He knew what I said wasn’t true. And this mirror allowed me to recognize this myself.

At the time, I never understood that I was lying to myself; why I would do such a thing, and what it meant.

At least not intellectually.

But something within me recognized that I was trying to sell myself a falsehood. That I was trying to convince myself.

Even at such a young age this disturbed me. It brought me shame. It opened my eyes to an unpalatable truth.

I wish I could tell you this was a turning point for me, but it wasn’t. Thing’s continued on like this for several years.

Not necessarily lying to myself and others: but an outright avoidance of truth; a constant running away.

But I never really fooled myself, for much of my life was spent looking over my shoulder.

I’ve said before that people remain zombies because it protects them.

People don’t want to face the truth because it’s painful. It makes them feel foolish, and having seen it, one can never go back.

But who is this protecting, really?

The human? Or the image the human desperately wants to believe in?

This is where things start to get muddied.

There is so much ego in wanting to become “ego-less”. I know this firsthand.

One may learn the truth about self-improvement, and attempt to abandon it.

But the reason he attempts to abandon it is because he will have essentially created a new rule for himself.

And in attempting to satisfy this rule, he will form a new, or “better” self-image — one of a person that’s doing what’s “right” (following the rule) — all the while believing he’s truly abandoned such ideas.

He will have subverted himself without even realizing it.

This is where things become even more muddied.

Because forming a new self-image isn’t necessarily a “bad” thing. It may, in fact, be a necessary step in the journey towards dismantling any notion of self altogether.

Jim Carrey once said that having played so many roles, he started to see through the role or persona of “Jim Carrey” himself.

It’s something like that.

And perhaps this new identity, in truth, is more inline with who you actually believe, or know yourself to be — deep down, underneath all of the conditioning.

This is not the full truth either, nor is it good or bad. It just has a certain outcome. A certain effect.

Do you see why this makes rules so dangerous?

If you begin to follow rules in blind faith, you are guaranteed to sabotage yourself.

One cannot afford to create and follow rules if he truly intends to understand.

People form new self-images for many different reasons. The most frequent being superficial attempts to signal virtue, status, value — and to conceal what society tells them is the opposite.

But oftentimes people fantasize about a different life. A life that contrasts the deep monotony and dissatisfaction experienced in their own.

While the vast majority of these can be chalked up as unserious fantasy: if it’s sincere, if it’s deep — perhaps it’s a vision.

And the beginnings of this vision will almost certainly sow the seeds of a new self-image. Until one begins to truly understand the nuances of such, I’d venture to say it’s virtually guaranteed.

A human being can be one hundred percent true to himself — totally natural — and people will still ascribe an image to him.

This can be a powerful tool, or the bane of his existence.

It becomes the latter when one becomes attached to the thing.

When one buys into the idea that they are indeed this image, one will prioritize it over everything else.

The roles have now reversed: the human has become the tool.

And this, is where virtually all people live.

The truth is in seeing through the image: whether that’s one society has ascribed to you, or the one you’ve concocted as some sort of “vessel”.

For this concoction is a dangerously intoxicating potion of escapism, egotism and untruth, unfit for human consumption.

It is the forbidden fruit that has become the staple of our diet.