Any active user of Facebook is likely a witness to the veritable deluge of motivational memes that make up every other item in their daily newsfeed. No longer content with desperate-looking kittens telling us to “Hang In There”, Internet users will now search far and wide for quotations from well-known public figures, such as Gandhi, Oscar Wilde, or the ever famous Anonymous telling people how to live their lives, often with poetic flair. Or those weird E-Card things that always seem to involve wine offering simple comforts to those who might read them.

What these hokey memes tell me is that most people are miserable. The lady doth life-affirm too much, me thinks. Nobody shouts out life advice into the void unless they’re trying to make themselves feel better about whatever bullshit-du-jour is troubling them.

So since everybody seems to have a perpetual case of the Mondays, I decided to let everybody in on a little secret: you are awesome. Not you as a person, obviously. You’re probably an asshole. But you as a Self.

The Self is an amazing concept. Nietzsche hypothesized that we as individuals are all value-creators. What this means is that nothing actually has any inherent or objective meaning and value. While some might find this depressing, in reality it is actually empowering because we can realize that the value of things actually comes from us. The example I like to use is of that of the jilted lover. Say you just got dumped, and you’re all sad because of emotions. If you realize that you are the one creating value, you realize that the love you felt wasn’t inherent to that jerkwad who doesn’t know what’s good for them, but was something that was created by you. That power, that passion, comes from you. You can feel it again, because you are the one that is capable of creating it in the first place. You might think this is a fairly self-centred way of looking at things, but if somebody loves you, realize that they are creating that value, and choosing you to be the recipient of it. To be loved becomes an incredible honour.

Value-creation doesn’t just apply to love, but to everything. Before I left for India, I was terrified, but I repeated to myself over and over: “The only reason I find this scary is because I believe it to be scary. The act itself isn’t imbued with any actual value.” Does this lessen the value of things if we are the ones deciding what has worth and what does not? If you have low self-esteem, maybe. If you don’t think you are worth the things that you feel, then perhaps you should keep reading because I’m hoping this post will inspire certain amounts of self-worth. Or you could just abandon ship here and go find some more motivational E-Cards. I’ll never know the difference.

Another important aspect of the Self is Sartre’s theory of Existence before Essence. If what defines you, your essence, exists before you do, then you are bound forever to that definition. However, if what defines you comes after, then your life becomes the definition of your being. Each act that you partake in adds to the collection of moments that make up who you are. With your boundless freedom, you can perpetually create and recreate who you want to be.

Lastly, when you truly know your Self, you become invulnerable. Switching from Existentialism to Buddhism now, let’s look at the words of Chagdud Tulku: ‘Sit in front of a mirror, look at your reflection, and insult it: “You’re ugly. You’re bad.” Then praise it: “You’re beautiful. You’re good.” Regardless of what you say, the image remains as it is.‘ What this means is that when you know your strengths, when you know your faults, everything else becomes superfluous, because you know the truth. When you know what you’re capable of, when you know who you are, you no longer fear rejection or criticism, nor do you require praise. This isn’t to suggest stagnation, nor an assumption that the Self should never be challenged. However, when you know the truth about your Self, you will know what challenges you need to face, and can endeavour towards overcoming them. You will know what matters.

Is this the equivalent of a drawn out meme with a picture of a smiling Leonard Cohen with a heart-warming quotation next to it? Meh, could be. But I’m not suggesting good things are going to happen to you if you understand what it means to have a Self. Nor am I suggesting that recognizing these things will make you a better person. Like I said, we’re working under the assumption that you’re an asshole, and I doubt a blog post is going to change that. This isn’t the power of positive thinking, nor is it putting out good energy results in the universe smiling down on you: believing in bullshit will get you nowhere.

Knowing about what makes up the Self, however, will at least give you the confidence to be an asshole with decent self-esteem, because having a Self, no matter who you are, is actually pretty sweet.

Post-Script: not to devolve this into a religious post, because it’s not, but believing in a creator God negates all of these things. God creates value, and God gives the purpose to your life before you are born. Not saying that one way is better than the other, but just keep in mind the discrepancy if you want to believe in both.

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