Sartre defined not potential but finitude as the essence of freedom:
‘To be finite … is to choose oneself . . . to make known to oneself what one is by projecting oneself toward one possible to the exclusion of others. The very act of freedom is therefore the assumption and creation of finitude.’ Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness
But the chosen finitude must be fully accepted – it is always necessary to follow through. And this exercise of responsibility rules out grievance:
‘It therefore makes no sense to complain since nothing foreign has decided what we feel, what we live, or what we are.’ibid
Michael Foley, The Age of Absurdity, p.46
I sit at the foot of the stairs to put on my shoes. I lean over to tie my laces. My smell exhales from inside my shirt – the familiar, warm, intimate smell of my skin. I catch myself feeling ashamed, and I know this is a bit mad. I have internalised a message that smells are bad – a habit of criticism. But this is not a bad smell, it is simply my smell. I can accept the smell that I have.
This is emblematic of the whole process of self-acceptance. I dislike aspects of myself. I am unaccountably ashamed. The habits of criticism are subtle, reflexive, and appear so reasonable. I hardly notice them.
Jesus, You invite me to accept the person I am, in all my particularity, as the only person I can be. Indeed, it is not an invitation. I have no choice. This is who I am.
This is fundamental. I must accept that this is who I am: this person, these thoughts, these traits, this smell, this face, this place in the world.
Yes, I can tinker around the edges, or pretend. I can shave or wear perfume or try to be nice. It is important to cultivate gratitude, kindness, and compassion. But fundamentally I cannot change, and nor should I try. It simply is not possible to ‘reinvent’ myself and be different from the one I am, from the one You made. To seek to change is to take offence at myself – which is to take offence at You.
This is not a counsel of licence. The person I truly am is good. I must trust this.
I can find the kind, open-hearted place in myself and live this life, as this person.
One thought on “The feeling of being yourself, part 1”
What a wonderful piece… freedom… the decision to accept myself as i am… a most gracious choice, as it implies I have to accept all of my past in the process…radical stuff from JP Sartre.