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Thursday, March 09, 2006



It’s the central theme of the century, countless bestselling books have used this topic, blogs flourish on this subject, it’s the excuse for the follies of the youth, and it’s the most popular concept around
and it's frustrating me to no end.

“Finding yourselves”, “Being yourself” I hate these idioms.

What is this obsession with being true to oneself, with finding out who we really are?
It’s not a big surprise this philosophy gained a huge following in recent years; we are living in what can probably be called the most egotistical era in the history of the world.
Don’t get me wrong I’m not suggesting it’s the worst, it’s perhaps thé era to live in; Torah, food medical aid and entertainment are relatively abundant, something unimaginable less than a few centuries ago.

But the “me” persona has never been so obsessed with itself.

I don’t want to take away credit from all the wonderful people working for charitable organizations, but even then ulterior motives ca be traced sometimes.
Yeshivas survive on donations from exceptionally generous philanthropists, but a huge golden plaque must announce that to every visitor entering through its doors.
The rare selfless souls who put all their energy into helping others are often criticized with “you have to think of yourself” remarks.

In an ideal world everyone could be completely themselves, say what they think and think what they want.

What I know is that if I were to be myself in its truest sense, I would have to call half the people listed in my cell phone memory and tell them a thing or two.

That's what I'm thinking but what actually comes out of my moth sounds more like

It is completely unthinkable to be myself.
I’d have to tell my parents that I still resent them for not supporting many of my decisions when I was still living with them.
Being myself would provide me with a wonderful outlet for the many frustrations roaming my mind, yet do I have a right to cause pain to everyone in my world just to feel some relief?

I think I can better live with my projected self, than I would if I were completely myself.
No I don’t need India or whatever is in at the moment to be myself, I just need to know I’m doing the best I can.

Picture from this site.

We look for ourself for betterment. People that search for themselves are unsatisfied with where they are at, they want to see themselves better, and be more impassioned in what they do. They search for the betterself.

Good point though! The point is not a selfish soul-search, the point is pragmatic aplication, doing mitzvos for another, etc.
Nemo- I understand what you’re saying but I think you’re describing an introspection, something typically done around Elul, whereas I am referring to unstable behavior blamed on “that’s who I am”.
Searching inside to see where we can improve is of course commendable, seeking for oneself and abandoning reason and logic in the process, especially when other people are immediately concerned, is what I hate.
Thanks for passing by.
Interesting. I want to focus on one of your points that you make. I understand why you say it has become a "take it or leave it, thats who I am" situation. It can be obnoxious BUT if you think about it theres alot of possitive that comes with that attitude. Society today excepts so much more because of it. Living openly as frum jews has become much easier. Because of the fact that people today are so open in their different opinions and beliefs is what makes everyone except one another which ever way you are.
Also what its does is bring up disscussion that normally people would never talk, they would be to embarrassed or scared, and would actually try to get help. I feel your pain in one way but in another way it is very positive. (I hope I explain my point cleary).
You bring up a great point about boundaries -- and that it often is just not worth causing great pain to others to feel some relief. This is not to say that someone needs to be beat down and not defend their self-respect. It is all about balance.
Chaverah-Thank for your input, it’s true that societies are more open to the idea of different kinds of people and that is perhaps in part due to the fact that people experiment with religions and other cultures.
It’s always good to find the positive sides on every issue.

Stacey- Absolutely, I’ve turned down invitations before even though I suspect the host may have been saddened or disappointed, it’s just that blatant honesty (i.e. being exactly what you want to be) is just not the right path.
Balancing is the magic word.
Prag; i think that if you would say what you want in the heat of the moment you wouldn't be relieved at all.
Although you might be frustrated now- in the long run you're really doing okay and I agree with Stacey that it's all about balance.
Oh, and I also hate sheva Brochos with a million speakers.
Great post:

I call it the Holy Trilogy: me, myself and I!

I think that although we see many of these issues in personal terms, most of us truly have more global interests in family and friends in mind and do respect them so that we are not always completely honest.

Sometimes, brute honesty can be harmful.
There is a huge difference between someone starting a journey of self realization and someone 'being themselves' by just doing and saying whatever they please. The former is a sensitive soul who is working hard to be the best they can be. This is a person who is in touch with their spiritual side and yearns to be closer to Hashem. The latter is a selfish soul who doesn't give a darn about anyone else but themselves. How can you not see this? The former is someone who reads books about mussar and is trying to be true to their nature... the latter is someone who is self indulgent and see's nothing but their own reflection. The two things are not one. They are very, very separate.
why is that 'I' is always the most selfish and childish versions of ourselves.

why can't the person who is so sweet to rambling old ladies be me?
This was a great post and frumgirl's comment says it so beautifully as well.
There is the real you, and there is the way you are supposed to be.

Every time that someone holds back and dose what's right, he moves the himself closer to way he should be, until he no longer feels that he has to curse the next guy out.

Its not so much loosing your individualism, as it is working on perfecting your middos, and wanting to do what's right.
Kasamba- Maybe if you don’t mean it. But if it’s something you do mean I imagine it’s like getting a physical weight off of you.

Barbara- that’s exactly what I was getting at, seeing our life as part of a community of people , not as 1 central point in the galaxy.

Frumgirl-reads books about mussar and is trying to be true to their nature
Actually the nature of a person is pure selfishness (the inclination in man's heart is evil from his youth." (Bereshis 8:21); it’s through a solid chinuch and learning that one can outgrow this.
Obviously though I was talking about the second type of being oneself.
Someone striving to be a better a person, to improve his middos and and to be a better Jew ca only be commended.

Masmida- It could be, just visit your local Alters Heim and leave your watch at home.

Esther –Thanks for visiting.

The Real Me-I that case I can only applaud it. It’s the ego searching I was complaining about.
I think it is about finding the right balance between being a bit selfish sometimes and doing what I want to do (like turning down an invite in order to enjoy an evening at home to relax)and being there for others and help as much as I can do.

I am allergic to all the "searching for my identity" part in India, Goa or wherever. I believe we all know who we are and how we are. We constantly change in life, which is just natural. But I don´t like to put myself so much in the center of my own attention. Who am I? Come on, is that so important? I am and I am trying to do the best in life and should always strive for better.

But I agree that some people should think more about themselves and also do things for themselves, buy things for themselves etc.. People that come up my mind are parents who live for their children, do everything for their children, never even buy a new piece of clothes for themselves. It´s about finding a balance.

Very interesting post and made me think a lot. Who am I ?? :)
Mia- Thank for commenting,you totally got what I was writing about.
We are who we choose to be, like the way we conduct our affairs, you put it so well.

There is a big difference between taking care of your self first, and being self centerd and selfish, If you can't say no to people, than your friendship and relationships are not authantic, I find that being honest and creating boundreis is what keeps the realtionship real, when you hold your self back from being honest with others you can end up becoming a resentful human being.

It took me a long time to be able to say No, I had the fear of hurting people by saying No, it was the fear that I will lose them as a friend, or just simply beacuse I wanted to be accepted, and by saying No they might take it as a nagative and screw you type of answer, when in deed No means no, not go f**k off, or anything like that.
People tend to make there own meanings out of your words, words that you didn't even say, it's something you can't contorl.

when your not saying NO, or creating boundries with others, your not having honest, healthy, stable relationships in your life, You can be honest about how you feel with out hurting people,
For example: when I say to my friend I would really love to have you over this weekend, but I'm exhuasted and need time alone, I'm not saying to them, I dont care about you, and I dont want you in my life, I'm saying right now I need to take care of my self, and when I'm able to, and rested, I will be more than happy to have you over.
If I would say Yes, Sure... come over, when I really feel like being alone, i'm going to become resentful towards them, I rather be honest then become a angry resentful person with the people in my life,
we have to be able to say No, and say Yes, it's creating boundries in your life, people tend to be with you, the way you are being with them, like a mirror, If I'm knowen to be that type of person that never say NO, People will eventualy lose respect of me, and start taken me for granted,
people will be with you excatly by what you allowed them to be with you, what you are not saying shapes the future of any realtionship you are going to have.

when you establish boundries with people and are honest and authantic with otheres, you walk around less resentful, having the option to say Yes when you feel like saying Yes, and having the option to say No, is to me very important today, I have learned that I don't always have to say Yes, In order to be loved or accepted.

I Have build amazing relationships, beacuse I have build boundries, it doesn't mean that every time I do something I always look what im going to get back for it, I Enjoy doing things for others and being there for my friends, but I also have to take in account when doing something, That I should not become a angry resentful human being, beacuse I need to take care of my self, in order to be able to be there for others,

if someone asks something of me, I have a right to say No, beacuse it is after all a requast, Other wise its not a request but a demand,
since I have learned to say yes, and no, I feel more comfortable making a request of my friends as well, and not feel like I'm using them, beacuse they also have that choice of saying No, if they don't feel up to granting my request, my friends know that I can say No, as well as me not having a problam with them saying no to me, so the communication with my friends is there for open and honest.

It's is important to be generous with your time and be there for others, but not on the account of your well being. beacuase if you don't take care of your self, You are no good to anyone, and you could not be a good father, son, husband,friend,etc. but, when you take care of your self, than you have the emotional space to be there for others and to be generous with your time.

some of the things that you wrote about, maybe bothering you, cuase you are straching your self to thin, and ignoring your own well being.

Have a Happy Purim, and I wish you a healthy well being ;-)
I apologize for my lack of spelling & grammer skills ;-) But Hey It does not keep me for writing
Thanks for commenting, I will read what your comment tomorrow and reply.
Don't mind spelling mistakes at all, make too many myself.
Prag, I'm sorry that I didn't quite 'chap' what you were saying. As you know from my blog, I have learned to say no, but for some people it is always, 'what have you done for me lately?'

I think what Begrateful is saying is that you don't have to hurt people when you tell them where you stand.
interesting topic... there's a fine line between self centred and trying to be yourself in the best way you can in this complicated world. striving to be a better person in the right way is to be commended.
shavua tov, happy purim!!
Right on dude-

we share a similiar sentiment-
however i am anti-indifference and apathatic living-

brain numb life is so uncool.

and i'd still like to go to India- not so much for self-enlightenment as to be mind-blow away by the non-Wester McCulture.

The nature of their neshama, Prag.

I am going to email you a question I have about the Talmud. If you have time, I would appreciate you looking at it.

Thank you,
Very good post..Prag..
The being true to yourself in the Jewish tradition is found in nthe teachings and stories of Kotzk..who took this idea of Truth..to the extreme.
Any ulterior motives for any reason was considered bad..

However being true...does not mean you have to take a procative approach and cause harm to your parents by telling them off...
Finding yourself? I think such a notion is just a modern marketing ploy to sell; well, 'various' services...
Begreatfull- Thank you for your insightful answer.
It’s true I suffer from a not being able to say no syndrome.
And that does lead to people taking advantage of me and me resenting them afterwards.
And you absolutely right when discussing close friendships and relationships you really wish to invest in.
But what if someone calls u, invites u and you do not like that person so much?
What to do when a vague acquaintance from shul invites you to a Sheva Berachos, what to do when that person you work with but know nothing about requests a favour and you don’t feel like making any efforts on his behalf?
Then a rejection will be taken seriously and feelings would be hurt.
In the examples you gave no one gets hurts, or at least shouldn’t, but then there’s no issue about “being yourself”, it’s only when you want to scream I hate you, when you want to throw your shabbes hat away and thereby cause embarrassment to your family and jeopardize the shidumchim chances of your siblings, then being yourself is not the way to go!
Kasamba-Hope you chapped it a little better after my explanation, I realize I should have been more specific but this subject sprung to mind after reading about it somewhere and I put it together too fast, but it was a wonderful let-out.

Sarah- Of course I was not criticizing someone trying to improve his middos.

H.L. kaye –Thanks for posting, I’m glad someone agrees with me
You know they have Mc Donalds in India (someone told me) so it’s not so unwestern as one might think).

Barbara- I’ll email you back ASAP

David-.If it’s to serve H’Ashem better, naturally self research can only be admired, it for egocentric reasons that I disapprove of.
Misshona –Why are you the only one who completely got what I was getting at
Thank You.

The way I see is when you allow people to take advantage of you they will,
People will do with you, and use u exactly by what type of person you are being with them.

when you carry your self with intergerity & self respect people will treat you that way too..

Let the ball stay on there court, if anyone find what you say hurtfull they can confront you about it, and you as an adult can own up to it.

when you choose to do something for someone you made a choice to do it. and there for you can't blame others for feeling used.

the main reason I see people not being honest with each other, including my own self sometimes, is because where trying to impress everyone, trying to be accepted, living to please everyone around us.

best way to do live by is: say what you mean, mean what you say !

Honestey is the best policy!!

In the long run people will love you for it..
We can't be ourselves because we have to adjust to social norms and to other people. But if we are really lucky,in our private life, we can surround ourselves with a couple of people that we can be completely ourselves with, who will accept us and our feelings no matter what they are. So let's all strive for that and whoever already has it-you are very lucky!!!
purim sameach!!
There is a difference from adjusting to social norms and saying yes when someone asks you to do something, when you really feel like saying sorry can't..
I am curious how this could relate to marriage-your life or her life, your pleasur eor her pleasure
alot of interesting thoughts here-I am also curious to know more about your relations with your parents since you left home
I am telling everyone this funny story.
A few years ago I received a mishloah manos with a Jerusalem kugel. It was in an aluminium pan. It was half eaten and had fork marks in the pan and it was a little burned on the bottom-I had been given somebody's shabes leftovers!
This ain'tno joke, this is the truth. I couldn't believe it.

I would like to add, that you can you also say when someone invites you to a shava brachas or what ever else it might be, Thank you so much for the invite, i will make an effort to come, if my schedule permits it.
This way your not hurting them, and if you don't show up they will figure something came up that you where unable to attend, But don't put your well being aside to please everyone and ignore your well being.

You can also say, Sorry but i have a prior commitment that I can't get out of, But thank you so much for iviting me.

You can always find an excuse if you don't want to hurt someone.

You come first, rememeber taking care of you is the most important thing.

You might not get it down perfect the first time around, but has you learn to take care of your self, you will have the state of mind to be there for others even when you don't care to so much, and I won't bother you, that is a true form of chesed, to be able to give to others with a smile.

v'hovto Leraycho Ko'moycha (love others as you love your self) but how can you love others as you do your self, when you don't love your self to begin with?

when you do something for others and you resent it, that is not authantic chesed, cause in your heart your not happy to do it.
Begreatfull- Thanks for taking the time to post your opinion on the subject.
You are right about people treating you the way they perceive you, and part of my need to please and to feel accepted
is being abused by unscrupulous people. I definitely should learn to recognize them and not worry so much about their feelings.
And you hit a chord with the chessed thing, sometimes when I do something on someone’s behalf and then resent it or hit myself on the head, I wonder was it really chessed?
You made some good points and I will reread and consider them seriously.

Evangelia-That is so true, social norms and etiquette forces us to behave in ways we are not.
And it’s a great goal to strive for, finding someone who loves us, for all we are.

Datingmaster- This is a typical ‘Only in Israel’ story, did you eat the kugel?
Have you read THE THEORY ON BULLSHIT? I would say what you wrote would fit into that philosophical book pretty well...
Well, you have made some good points. We do live in a "you deserve it Baby" generation. I see a lot of unhappiness with people who only concentrate on themselves.

I enjoy helping others but I have learned how to say no ocassionally. Thanks for the post.
I really don't buy the whole "being who I am" thing. You ALWAYS are who you are. Your actions are simply the you that you choose to be. And when you choose to pretend to like people, then you are choosing not to be an annoying, selfish person. The you that decides that is no less you than any other you, and once you decide to follow it, it becomes the real you. And if you say no for a good reason, than that's you as well.
I think that the silliness of the whole idea is based on some created need for authenticity, and people confuse this with the need to follow their more base impulses, as if these are any more real than their more noble ones. I think that people would do better to be a better you than to be the real one.
I think western cultures have forgotten that humans evolved successfully as social animals. I don't think we do well as individuals...as marbles in a big bag...but do better as spoons of pudding in a big bowl. (eh, maybe not such a good analogy?)

If the first thought we had was not of our needs, but of others' we'd be much happier.


catnapping (aka rebecca)
Lucy- This is what I should learn, to say no as you did.

Tobie- You so got my post, better than most other readers and you added something that made a lot of sense, thank you.

Catnapping- Thank for this insight, I don’t share my pudding but I still liked the analogy.
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