This Women’s day I did not feel like writing about the obvious and have instead gone the route of reflecting upon how we define and experience ourselves/others over the course of a lifetime. Our definition of ourselves is limiting not only for us but also extends to those around us.
In my humble opinion, everyone exists on a spectrum or a continuum. With us human beings there are no absolutes . Absolutes in human beings would perhaps make us boring and too predictable. We wish with all our might to see things in black/white but if everyone’s black/white is different then there is no one right or wrong barring acts of intentional harm caused to another. The absolutist tendencies also tie you up to be a certain way forever whereas the spectrum/continuum way of thinking leaves room for exploration and growth.
What led me to write this? Two things come to mind- one is a documentary titled Gender Revolution which I watched on Netflix and an article I was reading this morning about someone being an Introvert vs Extrovert. Psychologist Carl Jung’s work was one of my first introductions almost a decade ago to this line of thinking. He developed a theory of Type Indicators where people could score on a continuum of Introversion/Extraversion, Judging/Perceiving, Intuition/Sensing, Thinking/Feeling. This MBTI type also allows room for change/growth by saying that people can have different tendencies at different points in time while having one base tendency which may be predominant but not definitive. As much as I liked this idea I found that in real life if I said to someone that I tend towards talking when I am with lesser number of people and am quieter when am in a group, I was called indecisive or unsure of myself. Of course, there were also those who were familiar with this thought and matured to understand that no one really fits into a box at all times and that the boxes we fall into are rather superfluous.
In the documentary on Gender Identity there were some interviewees who mentioned that their experience of their gender isn’t simply either male or female. I find this thought very freeing and one which would develop a lot of tolerance in our society. If you think about it, every person is a mix of masculine and feminine tendencies. Depending on our upbringing and current circumstances we exhibit more of masculine or feminine tendencies. Teenagers are perfect examples of this exploration when the hormones are surging and there’s a creative confusion happening within. The genitalia aren’t the prime indicator of our behaviors and expressions at all times. There could be a pre-dominance but that’s just that- a pre-dominance. It’s mostly the social expectations of a certain ‘normal’ which when challenged lead to extreme measures of ostracism or other such isolating punishments.
If human beings are the only evolved species who are capable of complex thoughts and feelings then why shun someone who is born with male genitalia and expresses mostly feminine tendencies. Why box yourself up by calling yourself a shy/quiet person or someone who is always detail oriented versus a big picture person? I used to think that I wasn’t oriented toward details but the fact is that I didn’t want to accept that part of me because I liked the idea of being a ‘big picture’ person. Today I know that I am both and I love recognizing this in me. I no longer say that I always think/behave a certain way and I must say that some people have trouble with it:) but what matters is that I no longer am troubled with this so-called acceptance of duality that’s present within me. If only we could accept that we all cannot always be the light and that we all have darkness within to deal with, we would judge someone else a little lesser.
The more I think about this, the more I feel like the ‘I AMs’ are nothing but ideas at a certain point in time that we are happy to live by. If we recognize those as ideas of ourselves or about ourselves at a given point in time we would struggle a little less when that idea changes to something else later in life either by internal desire or by external situational factors. Say for example if you are born into a Hindu family but over a course of time you no longer believe in pantheism, this shouldn’t be for someone else to tell you that what you are experiencing is wrong. If we allowed a healthy level of exploration and questioning, perhaps the crimes performed in the name of an overarching right/wrong would also be reduced.
These are just examples to provoke a certain line of thinking. Which ‘I am..’ of yours are you wondering about? I would say, the more I AMs you destroy within you, the more accepting you are of not only yourself but also of others around you.
I shall close with one of Osho’s thoughts here- In order to truly live, we need to keep dying within.
P.S.: The image is courtesy my brother’s travels to New Zealand in 2017.