Building the inner-world
IN BETWEEN MY WRITING assignments, this Curious George likes to refresh his mind by checking people’s Instagram accounts.
Occasionally I find lots of inspiring stuff: I saw my idol, a writer, put up a picture of her pile of books, dictionaries plus a laptop and a cup of black coffee. “Back to writing!” she posted. Boy, that sure motivated me to “whistle while working”: so my idol and I were doing exactly the same thing that morning.
Sometimes, I also see things that make me sad, like when one acquaintance put up his newly taken photo on Instagram: He was in an extra-tight polo shirt showcasing his beautiful and well-sculpted body. The problem was with his photo’s description: “Poor me. Now, I already have what it takes to get a girl. Taut muscles, tan-sprayed skin, no fat. So why on Earth am I still single?”
The posting might be an “invitation” — a common modus operandi to get partners online, but still, the superficiality of the thought made me sad. After trying hard to meet society’s rigid and narrow standards of beauty, he still didn’t get what he wanted.
If you think having a partner or a spouse will make you happy, think again. Despite our moral pretensions, it has been tacit knowledge many adults are involved in adultery or have more than just one partner. I have at least one female friend who frequently calls during the nighttime, crying. Why? She is romantically involved with a married man who seems to take advantage of her vulnerability and loneliness. The man promises to divorce his wife and marry my friend, but blah. He just needs an extra fix.
If marriage or romantic relationships do not make you happy, the world brings with it many temptations: professional success, wealth and fame. All of which, when combined, equal power.
I know one person who seems to have all of these yet still feels insecure because she hasn’t attained some goals in her life. I happened to be “collateral damage” for her discontent: she often puts me down during meetings.
The most perplexing question is: Why do some people have everything a person could ask for, yet are still unhappy? A children’s song called “There is a hole in my bucket” suddenly comes to mind.
Someone once said “trauma is a great equalizer”. Most people have endured some painful or traumatic experiences in their lifetime. This trauma then creates “holes” inside their soul, prompting them to desperately find ways to mend these wounds.
Unfortunately, people often go to external things, thinking these will heal their wounds. My friends and I, for instance, are survivors of abuse. We both try to compensate for our sense of inferiority through many things: crafting achievements in our university years and becoming people-pleasers, thinking that popularity will boost our self-confidence.
Still, we often feel empty inside and end up being exploited by others. It wasn’t until recently when we both became aware that our “holes” were internal and spiritual, and thereby could not be fixed by stuffing ourselves with external, material stuff.
Around this time, I listened to an interview with my idol American musician Tori Amos, a rape survivor, on the importance of building your inner-world in order not only to heal your wounds but also to survive and thrive in this tough world.
Inner-world construction centers around spiritual growth, which, based on my understanding, can be achieved through many soul-enriching activities, from reading, watching art performances and opening one’s mind up to different ways of spirituality to engaging in discussion with wise and smart people.
I’ve been immersing myself in these activities intensely since 2012. A key determinant, I have found, will then tell whether this inner-world construction will come to fruition or not. That determinant is what writer Joan Didion called “selfrespect”. I translate self-respect as the courage to look at one’s own dark side and weaknesses while still honoring one’s strengths — to have a realistic view of the self. Tough one, but after four years, some things have started to shift for me. Good luck on our journey toward healing.