lao tzu

The Importance of Self-Reflection

(By: Farheen, Viva Learn Content Contributor)

The Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said, “When I let go of who I am, I become what I might be.” Profound as that quotation is, what does it mean and, more importantly, how can we apply it?

What does it mean to let go of oneself? What does it mean to become something one might be? I may not necessarily be correct, but here’s what I think: people always have and always will struggle with that immortally perplexing question of “Who am I?” It’s a fairly difficult question and one that takes a lifetime and a few more years to figure out. At different points in our lives we may delude ourselves by imagining that we have the answer, only to realize a few seconds; minutes; hours; days; months; years later that identity is like a little squirrel: you know, the one you thought you had a connection with as a kid, and then realized that it had no intention of being tamed and becoming a friend?

One must accept the fact that identity is just a construct. We, as a species, love to put things in “boxes” and it’s definitely off-putting when one can’t find boxes big; small; wide; narrow enough for the multitudes of kaleidoscopic objects we collect throughout our lives. So, then, dear reader, what is the point of trying to confine yourself to a box that may seem comfortable at first, but then starts poking you in all the wrong spots and bores you with its perpetual stagnancy? What would be gleaned from even trying to answer the question, “who am I?” I believe that what Lao Tzu was trying to say is to let go of the notion of “identity” so that one may develop as infinitely as one wishes. But wait! you might say. Where would one find such a manual, that’ll help me reach this state? And all I can say is, “it’s on your head, genius.”

More specifically, inside your head. Self-reflection is the key, the manual. Take a few minutes out of every day and reflect on what you did today, how you treated the people around you, whether you are happy with where you are now, whether you need to change your thought process, whether you are friends with the right people, whether it’s time to learn something new, whether you need a change in lifestyle, etc. Don’t be afraid to criticize yourself, and don’t be wary of the fact that it may take time to apply these changes to yourself. All things take time; time is a gift, therefore it must always be treated with thanks and appreciation.

I wish you all good luck on the journey that is life. I won’t wish you a safe journey because then you may just curl up inside a warm, comfortable box and sleep away during the travel. So then, allow me to wish you a journey full of new people (nice and grumpy), new places (beautiful and ugly), and waters that are sufficiently tumultuous enough to soak any back-up boxes you may have brought with you.

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