john-locke-philosopher-we-are-like-chameleons-we-take-our-hue-and-theHow much of what you do is for yourself and how much for the others? I know, you probably consider that most of the things you do, and most of what you are, are driven by you, your wants, your desires and have nothing to do with the others and the image you project on them. Well, you’re wrong! It’s actually the other way around, want it or not, we are who we are mostly for the others and ourselves … well we’re pleased if we are liked, loved, admired or envied even.

Many years ago I started to date a guy. A very intelligent, savvy person, so of course I had to measure up to him. I remember one time he called me and wanted to discuss some hot political topic and he asked me if he could discuss that with me – basically if I’m interested. “But of course, I’m up for any topic”, the smartass old me answered, being ready for anything. “Great, he replies, then what do you think about the view on the Holocaust of dr. [insert name here]?”. I was blocked for a second, had no clue what he was talking about but of course, I had to know something. Ditched him for 20 minutes, read whatever I could find on the topic, made an opinion and discussed it like it was something I dealt with every day. Thank all gods for Google!

The good thing is that I learned many things trying to impress him (or others) and I enjoyed doing it. I enjoy learning, it’s natural to me so it all fits, there is no effort. But that makes it  harder for me to distinguish in the end: what of what I do or learn is for me and what is for the others? The line between the two is very thin and somehow indecipherable. Where I end and the others start, is there such limit anyhow? Do we see it, do we acknowledge it? Do we know when something we do is not authentic, is not for ourselves but it’s only meant to add to the image we project to the others?

It’s very difficult to distinguish between those two dimensions. I started to figure out that I sometimes plan things I “have” to do (not necessarily work related) and things I “want” to do. I figured out the “want” refers mostly to things I do for me and the “have to” refers to things I do for what I think people see of me. For the projected me, so to speak. Unconsciously, I built the projected me in line with the real me. The problem is that working on the “have to” takes my attention from the “want to” and the further it takes me, the unhappier I am. I usually reassess myself and go back to what I actually want. Then I drift away, back and so on.

I am pleased I found what’s real in all the mess and I can see what I do for you and what I do for me. And do more for me, which is the actual only real productive investment for me.

But yeah, the first step is to accept that most of the things you do are not for yourself. Maybe you want to be better for your loved one (how many of you decided to lose weight to become more attractive for your partner or to-be partner?), for someone you admire or appreciate, for your boss, for your parents, for society in general, for people to admire and look up to you, I don’t know, why do you it? Can you distinguish your wants and needs versus musts? Try it. What of what you do  – be it how you dress, act, talk, train, walk, smile, work –  is for you really? Leave aside the self-confidence bullshit when you have to admit that everything you do is for you, as you’re a self-made person. Blah, you know better. Try it.