In my experience, I have known way too many people over the years who over-identify with being ‘spiritual’ like it’s some badge of honour. The funny thing is that the new-age is quickly becoming like the old-age it is trying to replace, being full of dogma with an almost imaginary checklist of how ‘spiritual’ someone is depending on their beliefs.
Whether you believe in angels, tarot cards, channelling, where your opinion of Atlantis is; and if you are a non-believer of Atlantis altogether, well, if stoning was still legal, id have had a few lobbed my way for sure. It’s nuts, and suddenly out of the club, you go.
Ok, so that last bit was exaggerated but you get the gist.
There is nothing inherently cool with being ’spiritual’, if anything, what the fuck does it even mean anyway? To me, it is certainly not a who-believes-in-what competition.
Simply by being human, you are spiritual, it is a path you had joined the moment you were born and a path you have trod regardless of whether you are conscious of it or not. It doesn’t matter whether you believe in some kind of God, Satan, Thor, the Universe, crystals, angels, mysticism, whether you are agnostic or if you even shun everything into atheism. Being ‘spiritual’ is a simple question of morals and how you demonstrate these morals along with the high emotions; empathy, compassion and such, and that’s about it.
It doesn’t matter how vegan you are, what your tarot cards say or how many feathers you find. It comes down to how you treat others, are you expansive or contractive? Do you seek connection or to simply throw out an image of yourself?
And this is the problem with spirituality. How easy it is to become over-identified with it.
For many people, myself included, it is easy to get caught up in the excitement of sudden realisations. Learning some new pieces of information that suddenly makes your jumbled jigsaw all come together and life makes that little bit more sense.
As its such a personal thing and often profound, it becomes a part of us, and because of this, we can easily then take on its identity of it. Look how easy people of religious faith are willing to fight for their beliefs; even when those beliefs are not really even being challenged. Our identities, particularly strong ones built on personal merit, become a part of us, and we defend it so.
With new-age spirituality, because there are literally thousands of different philosophies under that same umbrella, it’s not a one size fits all. But, and you could argue that I am wrong, but in my experience, there does seem to be a staple set of beliefs that one is expected to hold if one openly identifies as spiritual. And it’s bullshit.
WHAT IS IDENTITY
We identify with many things in our lives. It’s what our personalities are based on and our identification goes hand in hand with our beliefs.
Me, I identify as a white privileged male. This is an easy one and rather obvious.
Someone may have picked up a belief when they were a kid that they were fat, and now identify themselves as overweight and unfit, even when they no longer are. These identifications can be hard to shake off as they are locked around our core beliefs.
Identity can also take the form of what we aspire to be in a future sense, or what is in line with our morals, even if our actions are yet catch up. Think of the people who identify with a cause but not with any detail inside. “I am an environmentalist” for example while also doing zero to help the issue they actually identify with. “I am a humanitarian”, yet happy to turn a blind eye when buying clothes that are well known to be manufactured by the exploitation of child labour.
Identity can be our self-image, our projections onto the world.
We can also identify with brand loyalty. I am a Mac man, an Apple fanboy. Wouldn’t drive anything other than a Ford. I am so proud of Nike that I happily display their logo as a walking billboard all over my clothes and so on.
That last bit wasn’t about me by the way before you think I should grow a Mullet. I think Fords are rather naff – and that’s another type of identity, but in reverse (and I don’t wear Nike either but felt I had to tell you that – there I go again!).
Apart from saying who you truly feel you are. If you put anything other after the words “I am …” you are shouting your identity.
I am a doctor. I am a lawyer. I am a window cleaner. I am a random blogger on the internet. I am rich, poor, whatever, are all identities. I’m sorry but you are not a lawyer. Your occupation is a lawyer or you practice law for a living. But this is also pretty normal behaviour and we do it without a second thought but it also goes to show how much we actually identify with things, wrapping our occupation or status up so that they become us.
SO, WHO ARE YOU?
The issue with identities can be found in the packages of which they reside.
I have my own beliefs that I obviously identify with, but those beliefs can be packaged inside a movement, a faith, a cult or whatever and it is this outer container that we love so much. Maybe more so than the detail itself in many cases.
Me, I have a passion for men’s emotional work and I identify with that. It is now a part of who I am. In my own limited experience, this men’s work has taken place within a large international organisation called The Mankind Project. This is the package, the container that my passion comes wrapped in and forms the much larger identity that I carry around.
Now, I could just go about my day and try to assist men the best I can with whatever they are going through emotionally and not say anything about it. But I don’t. I have created an identity by being a ‘Brother’ in the Mankind Project and am all too happy to harp on about the good work that we do blah blah blah, whether you want to hear about it or not and generally also being a pain in the arse to be around.
There are other organisations around which do the same work as MKP, but as I have no experience with them I don’t identify myself with them. The strange thing is, is that because of this non-identification, I wouldn’t necessarily advertise them, harp on about how good they are, which they obviously would be. Not because I don’t know, but simply put, I’m my eyes MKP is simply better.
Our identifications can bring out the wanker in all of us.
This is why sports supporters can identify with their teams and anything outside of that package is either a threat or simply fucking stupid. Or Mr Nouveau Rich going out and buying a Rolex and a Ferrari. Not that he particularly liked diamond-encrusted watches before, but now, he has a new identity to shout out to the world.
On a subtler note is the guy who buys his dream car. He reaches the age or wealth where we can now afford it and mistakenly feels that owning that car will complete his life. The subtitles are found in the Mercedes keychain that he places on the bar for all to see. The Porsche umbrella he whips out at a moment’s notice.
So, why do we do this? Why is advertising our identity somewhat fulfilling?
Put simply, our identities are who we are. When we identify with something we are expressing a part of us and we usually do so for three main reasons
- It is our way of distinguishing ourselves from the billions of other people on the planet – self-image, individuality.
- To belong. We all want connection and advertising our identities in such a way is a method of finding others of like mind – validation, community, belonging.
- Openly displaying our identities is also a way of telling the world how we would like to be – self-esteem.
This leads us to the en-vogue, fashionable identity groups.
An empty vessel makes the most noise
‘Entrepreneur’ is a popular one. Gone are the days where you were simply a small business owner This is quickly being overtaken by ’The Influencer’. Yawn. If you race to put Director, CEO or other bollocks on your business card or online bio when you work for yourself, ask yourself why you feel the need to do this?
I know two people. One is a try-her-hand-at-anything but doesn’t create anything substantial, or she doesn’t stick with projects for too long before moving onto the next with a list of failed businesses behind her. On her online bio, she calls herself a “Serial Entrepreneur”. There is nothing at all wrong with trying different things, but I wouldn’t call myself Romeo simply because I have a string of failed relationships behind me. “I am great at relationships – just look at how many I’ve had”.
The other guy that I know has a string of businesses. All doing well and all within completely different industries of each other. This guy not only refuses to call himself an entrepreneur, that he even goes as far as to say that he loathes it if anyone else calls him that.
This is like the title ‘Entrepreneur’ isn’t enough anymore, and there seems to be a need to add ‘Serial’ before it as a point of distinction.
If I were to get all technical about it, I could argue that being a true Entrepreneur actually encompasses the whole many-differenet-buisnesses-at-once situation anyway, so being a Serial Entrepreneur is kinda moot. Think Elon Musk or Richard Branson with all of their businesses, are they Serial Entrepreneurs, or just Entrepreneurs?
The same thing with calling yourself an ‘Influencer’. Its like being pregnant, you either are or you are not. There is no halfway here. You either have a large following who also act on your word, do as you suggest and you know, you actually, erm, have influence on them, or you don’t. Please don’t call yourself an influencer if you have a low few thousand likes on your Facebook page, and they take zero notice of you.
Those who shout the loudest usually have the most to prove.
This is the difference. When we embody something, we don’t feel the need to bang on about it. We naturally exude it and others naturally pick up on this.
You don’t hear (or heard) the likes of the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the late Nelson Mandala, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King or hell, even Princess Diana say how spiritual they are. They just are.
I have observed this in the workplace. There are the doers and the hopefuls. The actual doer, the guy who knows his shit just carries on about his day. Usually very quiet and can usually be found working in a corner somewhere.
The hopeful is the bragger. Telling anyone who will listen how qualified he is, how a particular job should be done, how his way is the best and basically how skilled he is at just about anything.
The irony here, is that to everyone else, Mr Bragger is more often than not the biggest fuck up, where Mr Quiet in the corner, who naturally owns his skillset doesn’t feel to need to say much at all, and its Mr Quiet who most people go to ask when they need advice on anything job related.
When we embody a skillset, belief or anything else, that becomes a part of us. For the same reason that you don’t go up to a random person in the supermarket and exclaim that “I am male”, when we truly embody what we are, we have no need to shout that out to others. We are simply what we are.