Ah, the holidays – the times of year when your family gets together and tells embarrassing stories about you.
Uncle Jim remembers when you wrecked the family car. Aunt Yulia remembers when you wet your pants in public. Uncle Timmy remembers when you were a conspiracy theorist. Your grandmother recalls how you used to want to be a televangelist. Etc. etc.
You grit your teeth and bear these embarrassing stories from your youth of long ago (or not so long ago), but even if you have a strong ego, they can still be a little awkward. None of these kinds of stories make you look cool, though they may make your younger self seem cute.
But there’s an important role these stories – and their keepers – play. There may be a reason to be grateful to Uncle Jim and Aunt Yulia for ROFL about your younger self.
In your teens and twenties, you spend a lot of time crafting an image for the outside world. You project yourself as cool, confident, collected, together. You portray yourself as faultless and doubtless. And you can pull it off. As long as you don’t bring anyone too close for too long, you can get away with convincing people that you are on top of it.
Image projection works, and this is a terrifying thing for your own self-knowledge and soul development. Because if you can convince people that you have it fully together, you may never stop to question whether you need to change to get more out of life.
Blessedly, image protection doesn’t work well when you have relatives who know your embarrassing bits.
In some ways, these old people know you better than you know yourself – or, at least, they know your shadow and your ugly sides better than you might. This is why you need them. Without their reminders, you might forget that you are not the image you are busy trying to project. You are a complex collection of foibles and faults and virtues and strengths and influences and independence.
So be grateful for family that knew you – and loved you – when you were stupid (not to imply that you’re *finished* being stupid). Don’t hide them or deny their stories. They are just one type of guide that will keep you on the path to greater authenticity and integrity in all your complexity.
Intellectual Influence: Listening to much about shadow and descent currently in Iron John, by poet Robert Bly