Over the past decades of my life, I have constructed quite a sense of self identity: I am a Buddhist. I am an introvert. I like to wear jammies and visit cemeteries. I tend to get obsessive about certain people (hello there, Bruce Springsteen). I am reflective. I have a short temper when I’m stressed. I am a hard worker (except when I’m not). I like to take walks and be near the water.
The list goes on and on. We didn’t even get close to my love of water bugs or my irrational fear of Animal from the Muppets.
I am also a writer. I’ve constructed an identity around this concept, too: I write best with a pot of tea and a comfy chair. I have to have huge blocks of time in order to write well. I like to edit with purple pens. Deep down I think I’m not good enough to be a writer.
I do not pretend to grasp even a fraction of the Buddhist teachings on anatta, or non-self (but follow the link for an excellent teaching by Gil Fronsdal on the topic). I do know that a part of the teachings relate to the ways in which we cling to certain beliefs about ourselves and say, “This is who I am and it won’t change.”
Can I write without a pot of tea? Sure. I’m doing it right now, in fact. Can I write without big blocks of time? I prefer the blocks but when life gets hectic, I can write bits and pieces here and there. What happens if the world runs out of purple pens? Gah. Say it ain’t so! But I’ll cope.
How about this one – Am I really not good enough to be a writer?
No. That’s just the voice of doubt speaking. It’s a powerful, seductive voice. It’s one that I believe far too often. But it’s not a fixed, permanent feature of myself. I can explore the voice, investigate what’s behind the doubt (mainly a lot of fear), but I don’t have to listen to it or believe it.
The point of all of this is the importance of unraveling our sense of self, especially the times when we get rigid and cling to certain patterns or false beliefs about ourselves. If I didn’t unravel the voice that says, “You’re not good enough,” then I might actually believe it. And then where would I be? Probably awash in regrets. It’s hard to unravel some of those deep patterns but it is worth the work.