`Being is. Being is in-itself. Being is what it is ` Jean-Paul Sartre
I was talking to a friend of mine – sipping our usual Monday morning coffee under the Bodhi tree. He told me that he was once an excellent monies trader but was instead obliged to work in his family-run restaurant because his father ‘needed’ him to be there.
He is not alone to live such a self-restricted life.
French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre called this living in bad faith. He said that people who convince themselves that they have to do one particular kind of work or live in one particular city are living in bad faith. These people are not aware that ‘man is condemned to be free’ and are creators of their own reality. They are not aware that they can define their own essence and success.
Everyone has control over their lives and if for whatever reason people think they can’t make choices in life or be who they truly are – they are disillusioned. They are also disempowering themselves – perhaps unaware that they have a will. The will to conceive of themselves as they want to be.
By not exploring the myriad possibilities or choices that life presents each moment, people alone will be responsible for restricting their own freedom.
“We are left alone without an excuse,” Sartre retorted.
So beware of those who argue for their limitations: they are life’s cynics and are also often the unhappiest people. They are also the ones who are closed and shut to the idea of exploring unconventional life choices – often because the unknown life path can seem challenging and discomforting.
The Fundamental Desire of Life
The fundamental desire of life is more than to simply exist – in it is the desire to breathe, expand and create. For intrinsic in each life form is the desire to self-actualise itself – be it humans, plants or animals – through action and activity.
There is a profound desire of the self to experience the rapture of being alive and to express one’s true self. If under extreme conditions this desire is stripped away – the person will not wish to live any longer.
Psychology describes this as self-actualisation.
Self-actualisation, according to Maslow, is “the full realisation of one’s potential” and of one’s “true self”.
Research has shown that when people live lives that are different from their true nature and potential, they are less likely to be happy in life. When we do something that best expresses who we are – pursuing knowledge or spiritual enlightenment, expressing ourselves creatively, positively transforming society or working towards fulfilling our own highest purpose and goals – we become self-actualised beings.
Because self-actualised people are not threatened or afraid of the unknown they find their purpose and love what they do. According to Maslow, these people:
[Have] some mission in life, some task to fulfill, some problem outside themselves which enlists much of their energies. […] This is not necessarily a task that they would prefer or choose for themselves; it may be a task that they feel is their responsibility, duty, or obligation. […] In general these tasks are non-personal or unselfish, concerned rather with the good of mankind in general.”
Existential dilemma arises when you are an unrealised being or ‘living in bad faith’ – that is you have not worked towards your true potential or towards what you actually love doing.
People have the will to conceive of themselves whatever it is they want to be. Whatever it is that they want to do. At the end of all our lives, it will not matter how good we were at something but what will matter most is what we did with ourselves.
Never live in ‘bad faith’ but instead be brave and take that leap of faith and participate in existence – with all your aliveness. Reach out for what you love to do. Work towards your full potential. Express your true self.
As you self-actualise, you will expand and will feel nothing but joy and self-empowered.
Radhika Mia is a writer and contemporary illustrative artist based in South Africa. FB: www.facebook.com/radhika.perrot and Instagram: radhika_mia
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