Being at the mercy of others and wanting to free myself

When I got my degree, I said to myself (and I bet I’m not the only one who has done so): “Why, now I’ll never have to do any more exams! Nice!”

Ah, the bittersweet irony of freedom returns!

How naive I can be. If the educational system taught me anything it is that life is an educational system in itself; with a string of ‘exams’ you have to get through in order to achieve what you want. In the more romantic sense, life is an education but the harsh reality of modern life is not without its systems. It cannot be without its systems, its hierarchy and bureaucracy.

It’s pathetic, really, to suddenly realize that you’ll probably spend your whole life being valued and validated in some form or another. Like it’s so much of a surprise. Being at the mercy of others’ judgement and scale. It’s cynic too, but hey, I’m an INTP. I can’t help it. I cannot not include such thinking.

I instinctively resist and rebel against the notion of forever being weighed and judged. I know, I know: Most people would tell me that I’ve got hold of the wrong end of the stick here; that I sound totally distrusting of my fellow man. And maybe it’s true. Because maybe it isn’t so much about being at the mercy of other people, but more about people just wanting to help, using their skills and experience to help and guide you. Just like I want to do so myself.

I’ve talked about an inner struggle before and part of it also consists of wanting to free myself from being at the mercy of others and then again, accept that I might never be free. I suspect it is an universal, existential struggle when it comes to grasping freedom, independence and the concept of it.

The thing is: I don’t want to prove myself to anyone! I don’t want to ask for help! I know my worth. I don’t want to spell it out or document it, have several others’ approval for my worth just so others can truly believe it. I’m stubborn and utterly childish that way; I’ve never learned to put it aside – or deliberately chosen not to do so – but staunchly held on to this characteristic and used it as an excuse or deluded myself into thinking it gave me spine.

Or maybe it’s simply the force of nature of being an INTP? We are the stubborn few?

I’m not sure what to do with this stubborn independence. Has it become my excuse to not deal with certain elements of adult life? Or is it something in my nature that I cannot curb but must learn to accept and wait for those around me to accept as well?

Regarding the matter of judgement, being at the mercy of others’ and one’s own judgement and disregarding any current overthinking, I have examined myself (surprise!) and asked why I can still be surprised, even shaken to my core, when other people remember things I’ve said or done; something characteristic about me that caught their attention or struck a thought in them.

Is it because I have so low expectations of myself or how others see me – and tend to tell myself that I expect nothing from nobody else – that I expect no one will remember anything about me? (Which is hypocritical and self-contradictory, really). Or am I surprised because I realize that people have actually come to know me, that I – unconsciously – ‘let’ them close; and that frightens me as well as excites me?

And then it occured to me that I react differently when it comes to personal matters. I can easily delve into non-personal matters; talk big about big, abstract concepts and philosophize the hell out of life and the world. But when the question comes to myself, I react very contradictory: As I mentioned in my previous post, I like to distract from my daily doings and current, practical situation in life. It may sound strange, but it is simply not something that I prefer to talk about nor does it interests me that much. On the other hand, I highly value my own position and existence in the world, and I hate to have my inherent value immediately and consistently judged, questioned, patronized, misunderstood or ridiculed. (Well, who doesn’t?). I balk against such treatment. That said, I am always open-minded to having my ideas constructively questioned and broaden my mind, mainly because I constantly question and expand my views myself.

However, I sometimes react so differently to comments about something I’ve created compared to comments on my character. I have always wondered why I rarely feel anything of significance when people praise or criticize something of my creation. Yet, when people remember the smallest little thing or gesture about me, I am shaken to my core.

And it’s strange because my explanation for the former would be because I know my own inherent value and that of my creations and thus no level of critique will ever really get to me. I am that confident, maybe arrogantly so. Yet, when it comes to the latter – the comments about my character – this notion should apply as well, shouldn’t it? But if my expectations truly are that low that I get so surprised when I get positive comments my way – then I don’t really hold my character of that high value, do I? Or it may just be that those comments don’t happen that often, so I’ve taught myself not to expect them (even though I secretly hope for them)?

I’ve realized that what I may lack and have always lacked in my life is more of the latter. That is, positive comments about my character alone. It’s a selfish, attention-seeking need, indeed. And it so happens that my idiotic brain chooses to remember all the bad, hurtful comments about my character – even if there were good ones in-between. I can practically count them on one hand. (… I can’t believe I hold account of them! Damn my Fe! It’s like having a watchdog in the basement of my brain that also happens to be my brain’s nit-picking accountant. Ugh! And when it all gets too much, I just want to yell at people to throw the dog a goddamn bone so it’ll shut up!).

From that, my impossibly logical brain must conclude that, in my case or in any case, one is judged on different levels – by others and oneself – and that one judges oneself through others. That is: what I am, what I do and what I create. Though they seem like the same thing and do correlate, I’ll argue that one can differentiate between what makes a person – a person. The notion of ‘what I do’ is sort of split between ‘what I am’ and ‘what I create’. So you see why I (and perhaps others as well) feel so split when the question falls on ‘what I do’?

But I digress. Back to beginning of this post:

Maybe because I was on my path of learning when I was a student, I didn’t need to worry about any other path. I more or less just had to sit back and learn about the world, knowing my next step would be another level of the same form of learning. I wish I still was on that particularly path. But I need to grow up and accept that the path of learning doesn’t end when your school days are over. It just changes. I instinctively fear this path because it is much more non-linear and unpredictable. More pro-active than passive. Frankly, it is not a fact that surprises me; I mentally prepared myself for this. Just the feeling of it does. The feeling of truly standing on this precipice. It should be the exciting thing about life, but it is so in a frightening way, first and foremost.

Maybe that’s what I’m trying to overcome at the moment? The immediate fear. Maybe it has something to do with my being an INTP and needing more time to deal with my feelings and understand them in order to get anything productive done?

I’ll probably first have an answer in a retrospective light.