We're a little crazy, about science!

The invisible self

What drives you? Who would you be if the world around you stripped away all the pretenses of how you should act and who you need to be and just let you be you? If it’s a bit too philosophical or overwhelming to think about, then maybe we should all take the time to ask ourselves if we are the people we want to be. Then again, I don’t have the answers, so maybe I’m just as lost as everyone else.

Some days, and weeks, you just need to remind yourself why you’re doing the things you are doing. What are your motivations and are they really your motivations? Are you becoming a doctor because your parents expect you to do it or are you doing it because it’s what you truly want? Thankfully, that’s one instance where having no real family to speak of comes in handy. You don’t have the pressure from family to become something you don’t want to become. I think that’s partly why I feel like I take up so much space in a room.

Not physical space either, although I am a fairly big guy. I feel like I have strong opinions and a larger presence than most people have which has, in my opinion anyway, both benefited me and hurt me all at the same time. I spent a lot of time growing up living inside my head. I mean we all do it to a certain extent, but as my therapists like to point out introspection has sort of become my superpower.

That’s probably well reflected here in a lot of my writings, where I discuss my motivations for the things I’m doing or why I’ve taken certain opportunities over others. Hell, we just covered some of that yesterday (here). Which is probably why I am talking more about it today, because who you are, your invisible self has been something that I’ve found to be very important to me.

You can thank the terminology, “invisible self” in part to a happy accident when I stumbled across, of all things, a netflix show called “The OA.” Which I highly recommend, obviously, even if they only got to make two of the five planned seasons. A lot of the concepts in the show resonated with me and while we don’t get to see the full story, the first season leaves you wondering if any of the things you are told happened are real, and the second season gives you a satisfying answer to that question at least (in my opinion anyway). Oh and this isn’t even the first time I’ve integrated a concept from the show into making a philosophy of mine more coherent (like this one).

It’s such a simple concept that I think we all get caught up by what society wants and expects of us that we neglect our own wants and desires. Because, if we may, let’s be honest. We all have things we want, not even physical things, that are so deeply personal we don’t tell anyone. Hell sometimes we won’t even admit them to ourselves, but that’s the thing about the invisible self, like it or not, it’s the truest version of us.

So on days that I feel particularly down, and not necessarily my normal depressive state, I like to use my introspective super power to try and figure out what the hell is going on. More often than not, it’s simply a disconnect between my physical self and my invisible one. I mean depression is a sneaky little shit, but when there’s no reason for me to be down or I’m feeling out of sorts, it never hurts to check in with yourself to make sure that what you’re doing and what you want really align.

I don’t think the answer to true happiness lies with being in tune to with your invisible self, but I believe that being honest with yourself (physical self or otherwise) is important. Because if you’re only going into medical school to make your family happy or because you think society requires you to, you’re going to end up being a shitty doctor, or at the very least one who doesn’t enjoy what they do. I use being a doctor as an example because it’s probably the clearest example I can give where your actions will affect countless numbers of people and it’s a title society puts a high value on.

Unskilled labor is a myth, there’s no job that doesn’t require skills, but doctors, lawyers, etc. are all positions of perceived status. For that reason, I think a lot of people are driven to become doctors, lawyers, etc. because they are told to want that sort of thing. For a long time I thought that’s what I wanted, to be a medical doctor. I thought it was the best path for me to help people and it turns out that wasn’t what I really wanted, I was just listening to others tell me it’s what I should want for myself.

That disconnect between my physical self and invisible self isn’t the reason the end of my second year of undergrad, way back when, I started a very steep downward spiral (here). However, I think the feeling of aimlessness coupled with the perceived pressures of society for a young veteran returning from the war did contribute. Somewhere along the line I lost touch with myself, or rather my invisible self and felt more like a robot waiting orders from some unseen force than a person with my own thoughts, feelings, wants, and desires.

It’s a tricky tightrope though. Trying to figure out what you really want separate from the things society tells you to want. We’ve all done it, eyed that brand new sports car, or the super extravagant home. Told those are the things should want and we’re told that those are the things we DO want, but why? What good does it do aside from force you to make more, want more, and accumulate more? Sure, it would be fun to drive a supercar, or run around in a multimillion dollar home with more rooms than you could ever want or need. But, would those things REALLY make you happy? Or are you just buying into the marketing that they will?

I’m not suggesting money can’t buy happiness, because let’s be real, it buys a lot of things that makes life easier and in turn makes a person happy. If money didn’t at least contribute to happiness, then I wouldn’t have been so depressed living out of my car. So the other extreme is just as unhelpful. I think that the idea is to find a middle ground and that’s where the invisible self thrives.

I think, if I were to sum everything up, happiness doesn’t come from your invisible self alone. It comes from, in part at least, being honest with your invisible self. It took me a lot longer to realize that then I would’ve expected.

And thus I wish you, and your invisible self, good luck on your journey to happiness, whatever that looks like for you.


4 responses

  1. Ay

    Wonderful post

    Liked by 1 person

    February 16, 2022 at 3:21 pm

  2. One of the little pledges I’ve made to myself is that, barring some unexpected specific reason to do so, I will never own a “nice” car. Some of my co-workers have them. And whenever we have a nasty hailstorm and they all go to the windows and moan because their cars are getting pummeled, I laugh to myself, silently. Fang has a bunch of hail dents, and because he’s a junk car, I don’t even have to care. I joke that they make him more aerodynamic, like the dimples on a golf ball.

    I’ve lied to myself before. Not about what career I wanted or what possessions, but about whether I ought to change my behavior and give up a pleasure, and whether I really wanted that particular indulgence more than the alternative. It’s the nastiest thing, because I can only see it in hindsight, after I was pushed hard enough that I changed anyway, in spite of the lie. Only then … once I no longer needed the lie to justify what I was doing … did it become visible.

    You sometimes tell your blog readers that we don’t really know you, but … maybe, after a fashion, we do? I get the feeling I know you better from your writing than I could have known you from, say, being your co-worker, or casual socializing. Because as you note here, your “invisible self” is the part that often inspires the blog. I don’t know your physical self well at all, but if I had a choice in which half of you to know, I think I’d pick this half.

    Incidentally, something I realized just yesterday is that reading your blogs and talking to you about them has been helping fill a little hole that’s been in my life for a while: a longing for meaningful conversations, about whatever topic. The only time I get to have these with my other friends is book club, and we hold that once a month at most. More often we just play games, which can be a good bonding activity but feels increasingly shallow. We used to discuss politics and current events more when we were all on social media; now, most of them have left. And I find I can’t bring up that sort of topic in direct conversation, because it feels too invasive, like I’m forcing them to engage with it.

    So … nice post.


    February 17, 2022 at 1:17 am

    • I have to say, I really loved the aerodynamic justification! I don’t know how I would classify my car, it’s old (~15 years), but I think it’s still “nice” just not fancy. I tend to think nice =/= expensive and I do like nice things, just not excessive. To be fair my computer is probably on the excessive side, but I really need it for work when I am home and I do enjoy working from home as much as I can.

      I appreciate that you like knowing this side of me. It’s amazing what a bit of distance will allow when you can remove fear of social pressures. I’m glad to get to know you like this too!

      I’m glad I helped fill a little hole for you! That means a lot to me. I have fun with our conversations as well and I’m happy we get the chance to talk regularly. I can understand that talking politics or something with people, specifically in person, can feel challenging or even invasive. If your friends have left social media(s) then maybe you could organize some group chat or something? Just a thought if you’re feeling particularly isolated these days. With COVID it’s pretty easy to slip into hermit status without realizing it.

      In any case, as usual, I wish you nothing but the best!

      Liked by 1 person

      February 17, 2022 at 10:01 am

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