Penumbra

Adulthood without a sense of self

Living without a sense of self is almost like believing you're invisible ... to be absent of every moment, decision, reflection of your brain about the life, the future, and all else ...
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Finally, I got my first client.

Okay, to tell the whole story, my first client is my father and the product is supposed to be a contribution to ideas I'm working on, and even though my student life is financed by him, I ran out of money for things I work on and I needed his input.

I don't know how much the term looser would apply to me, as I stopped looking at life as a competition since I was in middle school and there were subjects that interested me, and the school had no place for them, and even though following those interests meant I would be on my own and alone, never in my life I competed for the sake of competition, I competed in subjects that interested me. Nowadays, the only individual I feel motivated to compete with, if ever, is Jennette McCurdy, or maybe if he wasn't so way out of my league, Elon Musk.

But this is true, I live the life of an underachiever. Whomever I contact and whatever I offer or ask people often receives rejection and for a good while, I wasn't much clear how to package my works and deliver it to individuals who need or would benefit from them, may the Lord helps me forward in these regards ...

There are truly endless reasons and contributors to me being an underachiever, not least, because I often put myself in environments that weren't much beneficial to me, and I often brought the pains of moving away upon myself when the wounds caused by staying would cut to the bones.

That the school and later on all other higher education or adult education environment I entered never provided the base I really needed for nurturing my interests and abilities, doesn't mean I think they're responsible for having failed me. I don't think the school system is the only place that you could rely upon for such foundations, yet out of school system, I was left with parents who believed their responsibilities end with choosing and paying for the best possible school I could receive admission to it. The real damning point perhaps was their behavior pattern that whenever there was no active effort on the side of the education system to inform them I need something, or that I've made a progress or things like this, all those needs, achievements, interests and etc would be at best non-existing or at worse illegitimate in their perception about me.

Priorly, I never saw the link between these experiences and my own behavior pattern in adulthood that whenever I faced the slightest rejection, mistakes, failure, the whole world, the whole project or the whole ambition was over. Of course, my parents were the happiest whenever I believed myself to be invalid and tried to live the life of someone else, the life of the child they imagine or wish to have. But the other side of the reality that you would never hear from individuals who believe in the social system and who believe all the issues of all the mankind is solved by the good education system and money, is that giving up on your ambitions, interests, likes and dislikes, would sooner or later suck out the pleasure of being alive out of your existence1.

Growing up in the absence of an environment interested in getting to know me, or supporting me for who I was, I became more distant from myself. To an outsider the way I deal with failures, or better said, the fact that I can't really handle such things, may sound or look like a lack of self-confidence, the truth is I don't feel like I lack self-confidence, I've done lots of unusual things and made lots of unusual decisions. Behind the closed doors that nobody can see, the reality is, I have no concept of the self. No sense for why should I value my existence, and little clarity about my identity. If one day a football club doesn't win the league cup, they don't stop to exist as a football club, but I used to live on temporary temptations, and true, it's part of the creative life to be inspired without order and organization, but especially in the past, it was so easy for me to consider an ambition and interest as no more existing with the slightest sights of failure, or shortcoming, or not receiving the position or quality that I had envisioned.

The problem that I'm trying to describe here, isn't that you don't know yourself, your limits, your strength and weakness and so you dream too big or too irrelevant to your abilities, those difficulties may exist as well, but the real cause of the problem is not having any concept of your self. To a person who lives with a sense of self, the ups and downs of life are just different chapters of their life story, but to an individual who doesn't have any self, the ups and downs themselves are each a separate unique story of their own and there is little or nothing that links them to one another.

Just to give you an example of how is it to live a life without a self: when you grow up being too distance of your self, the idea of investing in yourself and the ability to use what you have learned down the way in your life is totally unimaginable to you. You can imagine investing in learning something as long as it means making progress for following an interest or ambition but if life circumstances force you to put your focus on another matter, you would think of all you have learned as waste. or another bold example is that you can't make plans for your life because you don't see the life you live as yours, instead, you consider it as isolated ambitions that are done by different people. Being able to think of yourself as the thread that links all your activities, achievements, interests and ambitions in life together doesn't exist inside of the mind of someone with no sense of self. To a normal person, learning something means they will be capable of using it all the way in their life, to a person who has no concept of self, the concept of "your life" isn't really a thing, rather it is a collection of totally separate things, because as children you've grown up each year trying to live the expectations of a new teacher, and teachers usually aren't interested to get to know every single student, so they just express their expectations to all of the class, while as a human being growing up, you need to be questioned about yourself and get to know yourself, but when this never happens you end up unable to have a sense of self, you have no idea that your interests are valuable, and that they are worth to be pursued, because the message communicated to you throughout childhood has been that "this is what people expect from you". While this may sound ridiculous if you had a grown in healthy emotional care, in adulthood such individual would have no clue what to do with their interests, not to mention to prioritize them.

And of course such individual can never figure out a way to link their interests to what is needed in the society. So, you will see these individuals who have studied in a field, and take a job that has nothing to do with the field that they have a degree in it and their hobbies which has nothing to do with either of them, and the whole time during all these three circumstances they feel they are missing out on life because other people around them drive fulfillment from their activities while they only do them because they have to fill their life with something.

and some of these individuals try to partner with others who can dictate the routines of their days, a wife or husband that will do the job of the education system. Outsiders believe these individuals are more successful and would even comment how lucky they have been to find such partner that had saved their lives, and I don't deny the truth of this statement respecting the professional aspect of life, but it is also true that such romantic relationships are empty of love and attachment. The job of a school teacher is not to love a student and if you find yourself in a relationship that you would have no idea how to live your life if your spouse wasn't in your life, my suggestion is that if you would take on the burden of self-discovery, perhaps the absence of such spouse is much more beneficial to your life.

Don't mistake my words for rare occasions when two people who have similar ambitions in life meet each other and their partnership extends professional and personal life, while these are very rare, there are historically famous couples who got to know each other because of their shared professional interests and they lived a successful professional and romance together2, as much as one can read from their biography. Maybe some of those individuals too didn't really know themselves all too well, but having shared interests is different than expecting or allowing your relationship to fill the gap of your sense of self.

While developing a sense of self in childhood is a natural event that you don't need to consciously work on, it is not the same in adulthood. You can think of it as learning a language, children learn their mother tongue all too automatic, yet adults need really hard work to learn a new language. But that doesn't mean you're terribly worse off, as an adult you have access to tools that children aren't even capable of using them.

As the last word, let me say: if you decide to do good in the world with your ambitions and sense of self, wish you all the best ...


  1. I've elaborated on this issue in the article "I would fall short and feel disappointed in myself↩︎

  2. to such individuals life without their spouse would seem rather impossible as well, that’s not because their spouse fills the gap of sense of self for them, but because losing that person means losing the best professional and intimate partner from their life, especially if they both are extremely exceptional in their fields which would mean, simply, there are not many extremely exceptional individual in their fields … that’s why the life without their current partners seems rather unimaginable and their professional success would suffer, simply because one of the exceptional talents of the world in that field is no more alive ↩︎

Dates

  • Published:
  • Published: Wednesday, February 14, 2018

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from Penumbra

Series of Random Works