Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Power of Myths

The first time I encountered the word myth was in the context of my English class, discussed as a traditional sacred story, a form of literature, which usually expounds on the acts of gods and goddesses, and which attempts to explain social practices or other natural phenomenon. The literary form expands the natural world into something else which is remarkable and extraordinary; a supernatural thing that goes beyond the mundane.

A few years ago, my friend Chris, a public relations specialist, introduced me to the concept of “myth-making”, or the power of an individual to create his own reality. He underscores the power of perception (rather, what is perceived) as something that will ultimately define a person. He says that every person has two aspects: the “real” one, and what is perceived. The two realities blur sometimes, so much so that one cannot delineate what is real with what is illusory, but he emphasizes that the need to delineate is unimportant: both define the type of person one is going to be.

This idea reminds me of an aspect of astrology which not a lot of people are familiar with. There is the zodiac, or the sun sign, which supposedly defines who a person is. Most of us are familiar with this concept. Then there is the moon sign, which supposedly defines how a person is perceived. The two are not usually the same, so a person can be an Aries, but is perceived as a Sagittarius. According to my reading (which I got online), I am a Cancer (adaptable, moody, loyal) but is perceived as an Aries (courageous, impulsive, confident). Those two signs are usually as different as they get.

I don’t know how true those readings are, but I just wanted to underscore the difference between one’s “real” personality, and what is perceived. It is rare that the two are the same.

This idea has many real-world applications. In high school specifically, you are usually defined by how your peers perceive you. If your peers see you as a “loser”, then you begin to think of your reality as that of a “loser”, notwithstanding your many wonderful qualities. When you think about it, it sounds silly, but I personally believe it’s the truth. We are defined in two ways: by our own choices, and by the context (read: perception) society imposes on us.

This is probably why we try so hard to gain some control over how we are perceived. As much as we wish that only we could create the terms for our own life, we know that that is impossible. We are as much a prisoner of our current social context as everyone else. We try to make sure that how we are perceived is the same as how we feel about ourselves, and we try to limit the incongruence, but we can only do so much. We really do not have that much of a choice on the matter, except to that part which we can change about ourselves.

Which is where my friend Chris’ advice comes in, which I think is one of the best advice I have ever gotten in my life. This isn’t his words, but I hope to distill through a metaphor what we have discussed and debated and lived as a life philosophy for years. I hope you find as much wisdom in it as I did.

We are pebbles, but we must aim to feel and look like mountains. Create your reality by controlling (as much as you can) how you are perceived. At the worst, we will be mistaken for boulders or hills, but those are still significantly larger than the tiny stones people will easily discard or throw away. At some point, you will find that you have become a boulder, or a hill, or a mountain, for real.


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