ben vandgrift · on living the dream


i'm tanning. i don't recall tanning before, but here i am. i distinctly remember being the same color year-round. though remembering something that happened and it actually happening are two different things.

we all have established self-myths. it may be our perfect self-image, idealized form, and flawless avatar. it could be a broken shell of suicidal angst, remorse, and melancholia. whatever the representation, and however its creation is enacted, the self-myth we subscribe to influences our actions, our presentation, and our self-image.

some definitions:

the self-image is how we see ourselves realistically. it is how we think we really are. our realistic strengths, and known limitations are all contained in the self-image. it is our real identity.

the self-myth is how we would like to be at our best, an idealized self which overcomes the limitations the world puts on us. it is what we aspire to, and what we try desparately to keep from admitting we're not, especially to ourselves.

that self-myth is part of the motivation for our own improvement. by embracing that myth is a good thing, a goal to which we can aspire, we push ourselves until we can reach those theoretical limits. if we place our myth within the realm of possibility, then want it bad enough, we can become it. the 'realm of possibility' here is, by the way, very broad. the human condition limits which most people would shiver at—fast, strong, indestructible, talented, intutive, whatever you want it's yours.

as the self-image and the self-myth unite, we start to become phenomenal people. we do this not by shrinking back our myth, but by moving forward so that our capability and thus our self-image eventually catch up. what we believe about ourself has more to do with what our capabilities are than the limitations of the flesh.

self-doubt is the acid that erodes our self-image. it's the real killer here. it is the fence. when we doubt ourselves, we cut down our true capabilities. and self-doubt can be anything—from a lack of trust in your own judgement to an expectation of failure for something physical. anything's fair game.

self-myth minus self-doubt = self-image? perhaps. too often our actual self-image is framed in doubt. if we can lose that, things can only go up.

consider the rabbit for a second. the rabbit doesn't hesitate on a jump. it's not something he thinks about. he never wonders if he can make it. there is no doubt. my bunny, dennis hopper, can get anywhere in the house. there's no thought process involved—he jumps and goes where he wants.

animals have this down, people. there is no doubt in a lion's leap. even when they don't end up where they expected, they don't look at it as success or failure, instead it's muscle memory, it's information to help them improve themselves and more accurately expect what's coming. we're the ones who get depressed when we don't perform as expected. we look at things as successes and failures—we begin life being graded by other people.

don't subscribe. grade yourself. you get to use any scale you want. pick the one that lets you grow at the speed you can.

everybody is different. we all start at different places, and come into the world with different tools. the self-myth of perfection may be attainable, but it isn't a good place to start. set realistic goals, realistic myths for yourself. then strip out that doubt, and get mythic.

written: Apr 24 2003