I was ruminating about self-image – my own in this case – and reflecting on its importance.
The idea of oneself emerges as one grows up. Does it stay with you all your life? I suppose this varies from person to person. The purpose of this is to encourage the reader to examine honestly his or her self-image and ask how it emerged.
In my particular case I think it grew out of being sent to a boy’s boarding school at the age of eight through eighteen, and afterwards being corralled with males only and through two years in the army. I was only liberated at university (with a glad cry!).
Why do I say liberated? Because in most groups of young men there is the inevitable aspiring “leader” and/or bully, out of which gangs emerge and followers follow. The bullying at school was very distressing. One contemporary of mine threw himself in front of a train; another had what I believe was a mental breakdown. Too big to be bullied myself, I was nonetheless disgusted, especially since the adults shrugged. When I became a school prefect I made it my mission to crack down on bullying, delivering an impassioned speech on the matter to the headmaster. I may have been (temporarily successful), but who knows what happened after I departed?.
The effect of this whole experience was to encourage the belief in equality, empathy, unselfishness, understanding, kindness, politeness and putting oneself in the shoes of others. Of course, only an onlooker can say whether I, as an individual was successful or simply kidding myself. I made mistakes as a young adult, of course, but would like to think that I quickly realized my mistake, cringed, and usually apologized.
Whether running a business, working alone, dealing with acquaintances or neighbors, I feel that what I later understood to be Epicureanism was firmly implanted because of the dog-eat-dog behavior I lived through at school. I don’t feel my attitude to others has changed.
What about you?