Notes: I am Nothing

Paul Buchheit’s post – I am nothing is one of my favorite essays on the internet. It is similar to my thinking around not wanting an identity and being judged as a human – not a character as part of some narrative.

I recommend you read his essay, here are some of my favorite excerpts.

On a scale of one to ten, how good of a cog are you? How well do you function in your assigned role? How much of a man or woman are you? How do you rate yourself as a son or daughter, father or mother, wife or husband, heterosexual or homosexual, liberal or conservative, black or white, winner or loser, shark or sheep, introvert or extrovert, Christian, Muslim, atheist? How smart are you? How rational? How emotional? Do people like you? Are you getting ahead, or falling behind?

How do you know? Are you keeping an eye on the others in your category, comparing to see how you measure up to your peers? Is it more important for a man to be tall, or to have good hair?

I am nothing. It’s simple. If I were smart, I might be afraid of looking stupid. If I were successful, I might be afraid of failure. If I were a man, I might be afraid of being weak. If I were a Christian, I might be afraid of losing faith. If I were an atheist, I might be afraid of believing. If I were rational, I might be afraid of my emotions. If I were introverted, I might be afraid of meeting new people. If I were respectable, I might be afraid of looking foolish. If I were an expert, I might be afraid of being wrong.

But I am nothing, and so I am finally free to be myself.

This isn’t license to stagnate. Change is inevitable. Change is part of who we are, but if we aren’t changing for the better, then we are just slowly decaying. 

True self improvement requires becoming a better version of our selves, not a lesser version of someone else. But without self acceptance and understanding, how can we even know what that looks like or whether we’re headed in the right direction? It would be like putting the final touches on the Mona Lisa while picturing some celebrity you saw on the cover of People magazine — the result would be a mess. Until we let go of our mental images of who we are or who we should be, our vision remains clouded by expectation. But when we let go of everything, open ourselves to any truth, and see the world without fear or judgement, then we are finally able to begin the process of peeling off the shell of false identity that prevents our true self from growing and shining in to the world. And it starts with nothing.

So so good.