I y’am what I y’am and that’s what I y’am. Popeye, created by Elzie Segar
I celebrate myself, and sing myself.
Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
This is my life. It is my one time to be me. I want to experience every good thing.
Wisdom tells me I am nothing. Love tells me I am everything. Between the two, my life flows.
My agent he just called me
and told me what I should be
If I would make my music for money
Instead of making music for me
I said I know that this may sound funny
But money don’t mean nothin’ to me
I won’t make my music for money, no
I’m going to make my music for me
Jimmy Buffet, Makin’ Music For Money, A1A
A child will affirm his individuality with a No, as in “No I won’t,” by which he means “Yes! I am!”
David Kherdian, On a Spaceship with Beelzebub
What am I in the eyes of most people? A nonentity, an eccentric, or an unpleasant person, somebody who has no position in society and will never have; In short, the lowest of the low. All right then, even if that were true, then I would one day like to show by my work what such an eccentric, such a nobody, has in his heart.
Vincent Van Gogh, written to his brother Theo, July 21, 1882
John Patrick Shanley: Who am I?
“Who am I?” This is a courageous question. As a writer and as a man I am involved in one central struggle–to discover and accept who I am. I believe all fear has its roots in denial. I have, at one time or another, denied everything. Every fact of my specific self. My parents, my Bronx origin, my Americanness, my Irishness, my appetites, my morality, my need for love, and acceptance, my jealousy, my violence, my anger.
I am not a courageous person by nature. I have simply discovered that, at certain key moments in this life, you must find courage in yourself, in order to move forward and live. It is like a muscle and it must be exercised, first a little, and then more and more. All the really exciting things possible during the course of a lifetime require a little more courage than we currently have. A deep breath and a leap.
John Patrick Shanley, Introduction to Collected Plays, Volume One
Interesting, to me, that Jane Austen wrote such empowered female characters 200 years ago, more empowered than some authors writing today—even and sometimes especially woman authors. In Pride & Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet stands up to the wealthy and powerful Lady Catherine so bravely, speaking her truth, insisting on her right to independent judgement and happiness, without a minced word spoken. From Pride and Prejudice, 1813:
“Unfeeling, selfish girl! Do you not consider that a connection with you, must disgrace him in the eyes of everybody?”
“Lady Catherine, I have nothing farther to say. You know my sentiments.”
“You are then resolved to have him?”
” I have said no such thing. I am only resolved to act in that manner, which will, in my opinion, constitute my happiness, without reference to you, or to any person so wholly unconnected with me.”
“It is well. You refuse, then, to oblige me. You refuse to obey the claims of duty, honour, and gratitude. You are determined to ruin him in the opinion of all his friends, and make him the contempt of the world.”
“Neither duty, nor honour, nor gratitude,” replied Elizabeth, “have any possible claim on me, in the present instance. No principle of either, would be violated by my marriage with Mr. Darcy. And with regard to the resentment of his family, or the indignation of the world, if the former were excited by his marrying me, it would not give me one moment’s concern – and the world in general would have too much sense to join in the scorn.”
The self-confidence of the warrior is not the self-confidence of the average man. The average man seeks certainty in the eyes of the onlooker and calls that self-confidence. The warrior seeks impeccability in his own eyes and calls that humbleness. The average man is hooked to his fellow men, while the warrior is hooked only to infinity.
Carlos Castaneda, Tales of Power
The following statements constitute a non sequitur: “I am richer than you are, therefore I am superior to you”; or, “I am more eloquent than you are, therefore I am superior to you.” But the following conclusions are better: “I am richer than you are, therefore my property is superior to yours”; or “I am more eloquent than you are, therefore my elocution is superior to yours.” But you are neither property nor elocution.
Epictetus, Encheiridion, or Manual, translated by W.A. Oldfather
Individuality (card #31)
: When the shield carrier reaches the top of the mountain, she never seeks approval, because approval is based on doubt. Your strength and wisdom are celebrated in your unique ability to view the experience of life with new vision. Power lies in individuality and the ability to see yourself through your own eyes and not through the eyes of another. To be in power, you must take your power and exist within your own individuality.
From The Power Deck Cards, Lynn Andrews
I will not serve that in which I no longer believe whether it call itself my home, my fatherland, or my church… And I am not afraid to make a mistake, even a great mistake, a lifelong mistake, and perhaps as long as eternity too.
James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist
A ‘no’ uttered from deepest conviction is better and greater than a ‘yes’ merely uttered to please, or what is worse, to avoid trouble.
I desire that there may be as many different persons in the world as possible; but I would have each one be very careful to find out and pursue his own way and not his father’s or his mother’s or his neighbor’s instead.
Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Be yourself and think for yourself and, while your conclusions may not be infallible, they will be nearer right than the conclusions forced upon you by those who have a personal interest in keeping you in ignorance.
But don’t be satisfied with stories, how things
Have gone with others. Unfold your own myth…
Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks
If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with the conscious design of doing me good, I should run for my life, as from that dry and parching wind of the African deserts called the simoom, which fills the mouth and nose and ears and eyes with dust till you are suffocated, for fear that I should get some of his good done to me—some of its virus mingled with my blood. No—in this case I would rather suffer evil the natural way.
Henry David Thoreau
Thoughts on I Yams
As children or adults going through what I call Child Level phases, we seek comfort in support structures, belief systems and a sense of belonging. But at some point we pull away from these structures to confirm our self in society, to make our mark as individuals, to come up with our own ideas, our own way of doing things. We release to some degree what were the affects of childhood obedience, mimicry, conformity and the need for approval.
When balanced, it is about courage, initiative, self-expression, self-acceptance, integrity and unwavering resolve. It is about honoring our own intuition and vision, and having the courage to follow it, to act on it, without using it as a divining rod for material success.
When unbalanced, it may merely represent a lateral move into another childlike phase. For example, teens may substitute imitation, obedience and conformity to their parent’s belief structures for the belief structures of their peers or idols. Or it may devolve into self-absorption, domination and ego power-building. The “No, I won’t!” intention quoted above may be imitated by those who want to jump into the freedoms of adulthood without integrating the responsibilities inherent in them. It may be seen in a corporation or country who cares only about its own profits or power, with no regard for how their actions affect Others (other people, species or habitats) in their own community or on the other side of the globe.
Expanding into a true sense of self necessitates coming to terms with who we are and where we want to be. We will honor our courage, our confusion, our fear, our sadness. We will honor everything that makes us unique—this might include our race, our culture, our religious beliefs, our sexuality, our foibles and imperfections—and accept and embrace it all, while conscious of our expanded potentials and goals, the expanded path ahead. And as we honor these things in ourselves, we will also honor them in Others.
Self-esteem will include self-compassion and forgiveness—which releases the shame and guilt of Child Levels. It will include a sense of “I am what I am”—an inherently expanded sense of self, a sense of acceptance, accomplishment and validation, independent of the thoughts and opinions of others or of society. Because of this independence, there is no need to compare for validation, so there is neither a sense of superiority or inferiority. While ever staying open to new thoughts and ideas, the growth and expansion we seek must necessarily be of our own perception, our own intuition—not merely following the opinions, judgements or expectations of others.