“We all want to be famous, but the moment we want to be something we are no longer free,” said Krishnamurti.
The society pushes us to be “someone”, to pursue success and get the others to recognize that we are important and valuable. As a result, many people spend their entire lives looking for that recognition, which becomes their leitmotif. They do not realize that trying to be “someone” means handing over the keys to their freedom, that chasing the illusion of success they are chaining their self-esteem to the opinions of the others.
Seeking recognition is to become slaves to the opinions of the others
This deep need for recognition means that we are trying to consolidate our identity through the perception of the others, who return us an image, as if it were a mirror, to confirm our worth. In practice, we cannot be “someone” if the others do not recognize it, which means that we must adapt and stick to the social canons that imply “being someone”. At that precise moment, we become prisoners of our own free will.
The desire to be someone implies that we feed on the admiration of the others, that we need their praise to confirm and strengthen our identity, which satisfy our desire to be special. Thus we flee from the emptiness that implies being “nobody”. But then we refuse to be ourselves to start living through the eyes of the others.
This reality becomes a trap that implies a continuous dependence on the others, who must continue to recognize that we are someone. Therefore, the journey to become someone often results in an unsatisfactory and unstable reality. And the more we try to shore up our “successful identity”, the more exposed we will be to the fact that everything can disappear. As a result, we fall victim of the instability from which we pretended to escape.
Looking for the solidity that reports being someone, we become more fragile people. No matter how many possessions, achievements or admiration we reach, any identity that depends on the recognition of others always implies a state of extreme fragility because it can vanish when that social recognition disappears. At any time we can stop being the best at something or lose any of the labels we’re pride of.
Authentic growth comes from inner humility
Krishnamurti proposes a different way of living and relating to oneself: “The human mind is like a sieve that holds some things and lets the others pass. What it retains, is the measure of its own desires; and desires, however profound, vast or noble, are small and petty, because the desire is a thing of the mind. Complete attention implies not retaining anything, but possessing the freedom of life, which flows without restriction or any preference. We are always holding or choosing the things that mean something to us, and clinging perpetually to them. We call this experience, and the multiplication of experiences we call wealth of life. The richness of life is to be free from the accumulation of experiences. The experience that remains, that one retains, prevents that state in which the known does not exist. The known is not the treasure, but the mind clings to it, thereby destroying or defiling the unknown.”
Instead of staying in our comfort zone that reaffirms our identity, we can discover new ways and forms of doing things. However, to make really important discoveries that lead to a momentous change, we first need to empty ourselves of many of our stereotypes, prejudices and beliefs. A mind excessively full does not have room for change.
The curious thing is that we can only grow from humility, from the perception of our limitations, letting go of that desire to be “someone”. Only when we recognize what we do not know, can we learn new things. The certainties, in many occasions, close the way to new knowledge and experiences.
Schopenhauer, for example, thought that these sublime experiences come from the understanding of smallness, the nothing of the individual before the immensity of the universe. Then the miracle occurs: the less you are, the more you grow, the more you learn, the more you discover.
How can we free ourselves from the obsession of being someone?
Emptiness makes us panic. However, who is terrified of the emptiness is because he thinks to be solid, he does not realize that fighting to remain “someone” and keeping walled the castle of his identity is completely ineffective. Therefore, to get rid of the obsession to be someone is important to embrace change, realize that everything is moving, especially our identity.
It is also essential to prop up our self-concept from within. Be aware that you do not need to be someone to be happy, feel satisfied and live fully. The fullness as a person comes from doing what brings us happiness, not from complying with the corseted social roles that set the guidelines for “being someone”.
Martínez, A. (2017) El propósito de la vida no es ser “alguien”, es ser nadie. Pijama Surf.