“I am not who you think I am; I am not who I think I am; I am who I think you think I am.”
– Charles Horton Cooley (American Sociologist of the 20th century)
Charles Cooley is famous for giving the world the ‘Looking-glass self’ in his work Human nature and social order (1902). His extensive psychological testing helped him understand how from the time of birth, humans define themselves within the context of their social interactions.
As we are shaped by others, a life of aspiration calls upon us to connect to our own selves, and allow our own souls to direct us in life.
To translate a life of aspiration to specific practises essentially means three things
It’s tough to live with a purpose but nothing good comes easy anyways.
If we can marry ourselves to a vision, then challenges wouldn’t discourage us; in fact they’d be a welcome chance to grow. A marriage in most traditions is sacred; once you’ve taken the plunge, you accept the joys and sorrows of married life, and generally there’s no looking back. Similarly an aspiration that defines you and ties you to its sacredness would prod you on to contribute and make a difference. You could be a mother who is content raising your children and bringing values to their lives and love to your family, or a talented actor who seeks to be an instrument in the hands of divinity to add to the world of art and music. Wherever you are and whatever you do, if it’s a ‘Why’ that defines you, you are unstoppable; you are growing and contributing. And the fulfilment that brings is immense.
Purpose takes a stronghold in our hearts when we nourish our pride and sense of self-worth.
An unhealthy sense of Pride –also called arrogance or false sense of pride- makes one disagreeable, inflexible, aggressive, and hard hearted. Real pride however is desirable; it gives self-confidence and the desire to serve and do better. Arrogant people don’t care about others and are obsessed with self; those with real pride feel a general sense of satisfaction, and that helps them move on happily in life. When challenges threaten to pull them away from their goals, they are proud not to abandon their vision. ‘I am worthy, and I won’t give this up just because of this obstacle’- is their reasoning. Such a pride would also make one positively ambitious. A healthy ambition- as opposed to greed- would keep us connected to our purpose. Greed unfortunately is self-serving and compels one to cross the line of ethics; ambition however is a natural manifestation of one’s values and purpose.
Men and women with a noble aspiration need to be ambitious; that helps them work hard and achieve their goals with determination.
To be continued….