The Individual

The hardest thing in life is learning to be your own person. The world proclaims the glory of the self-made man, of the almighty individual. We learn that life is something you must do alone, that who you are is less important than what you make of it, and that this outcome is entirely dependent on your own merits and efforts.

No wonder self-discovery is so difficult. What a horrible place to live: beneath the pressure and the condemning whispers, beneath our own weaknesses, since our merits and efforts inevitably lead to failure. I am afraid to become this kind of person, because I know alone I am not enough. But learning to be your own person does not involve overcoming this fear of individuality; it involves turning to the source of our true identity and individuality.

The problem is that this “source” is often mistaken. Although I may not point to other people and announce that my identity comes from how I am viewed in their eyes, it is often a challenge to detach myself from their approval. If I have to make this journey on my own, I want some sort of ally, to reassure me in my “rightness.” Is this the root of the desperate seeking of affirmation and a phobia of critical words? I want people to agree with me, I want people to like me, and I don’t want to do anything wrong. I think I’m perfectly human in these desires, but I don’t think these desires are worthy or worth feeding.

It seems we really are alone on this earth. No person can ever completely understand another, and no two people will ever agree on everything. Your own life is yours to direct, and “who you are” and “what you’re given” create a perfectly unique set of circumstances. For the insecure individual, it all seems rather terrifying.

However, when you really, truly learn how to be your own person, you discover more than just your weaknesses and strengths. You learn where you belong. And thankfully for the insecure individual (aka every single one of us, including the good actors), our home is not on earth at all. As I continue to struggle with the fear of making a mistake and falling short, I find real peace when I remember that I am not alone and that God guides all my steps. Except I don’t have to do anything to earn His approval and I don’t have to forfeit my individuality to love Him and follow Him gladly. My merits and my efforts may be sadly inadequate, and yet I know He will fulfill them.

I think this is a lesson we are always learning, every day of our lives, whether we’ve heard it, spoken it, lived it or ignored it. But if we keep turning in the right direction, it will get easier. We have the choice. And I don’t want to do it on my own anymore.