If people had to choose between self-fulfillment and being in a committed relationship (the marriage+children and other packages), which would they choose? I wonder, if they had to choose between self-fulfillment and being less lonely, which would they choose?
Actually, I don’t think this is theoretical. I think people are (subconsciously?) making that decision every day, many of us choosing self-fulfillment over relationship. Mainly the single people among us, that is.
This isn’t to say that married people are less self-fulfilled or single people are particularly self-fulfilled but the (subconscious?) (faulty?) belief is that one comes at the expense of the other.
There is so much weight put on self-fulfillment these days and so many assumptions about what that means and how one attains it that I think we’re actually, ironically, inhibiting our self-fulfillment in many ways because we’re so busy giving it weight that it paralyzes us to move forwards in our personal lives, shying away from commitment lest it inhibit us.
The (subconscious?) thinking is that in order to be self-fulfilled, we need freedom. The more freedom, the better. Anything that detracts from our freedom theoretically detracts from our expression of ourselves.
And so the story goes. You’ve got people not wanting to make Shabbat plans in case they get a better offer, people hesitating going on a date (whether the first, second or fifth) because it’s a date with someone who doesn’t properly express who they are.
Which is the other part of all of this. It sometimes seems to be more about the impression to others than the feeling inside. Which also leads to the annoying phenomenon of people explaining themselves to death—a huge pet peeve of mine, by the way—I feel like smacking myself when I do it and believe I see it more amongst singles than marrieds.
And that brings me to the lost-cause topic of feeling special. This amazing article about why Generation Y is unhappy explains it so well.
We have this need to be especially special. But by “we” I mean almost all of us. We all feel the need to stick out from the crowd, in our minds and in a way that is apparent to others. But we can’t all be special all of the time, of course.
(No, of course you’re special. Please keep reading.)
It’s just that we can’t all be special in the way we expect all of the time. And unfortunately it’s gotten to the point that we spend so much time thinking about how we compare to others and worry about whether or not we’re really all that special that, firstly, and probably most importantly, we’re wasting a truckload of energy. And secondly, we’re inhibiting our connections to others because we’re always wondering if that other person is special enough, in the right way, to fit into our lives. We wonder if they really get us and we’re worried, yes, what others might think.
I’m no historian (tell me if I’m wrong) but I think we live in the most self-conscious society that’s ever existed. Self-conscious because, in fact, all these questions of self-fulfillment and specialness are impossible to answer and so we’re always wondering—are we special? Are we self-fulfilled? Are we… happy?
I believe this intense internal (often subconscious?) struggle often comes at the expense of connecting with people which requires flexibility, openness and sensitivity towards others without worrying about ourselves this much. And if we’re waiting for someone to come along who will be the ultimate fulfillment of ourselves, we might have to wait a long time. And meanwhile, it isn’t as if self-fulfillment is definitely winning out; in fact, maybe the opposite is true. Because it’s often in those tight spots (some call it commitment) that our true selves are given the opportunity to shine, it’s possible our true self-fulfillment is lying dormant, waiting for us to commit.