Of Existence and Insignificance (part 3)

I stand before a mirror and see a body that doesn’t quite feel like my own.

My limbs don’t seem to fit in crowded rooms and my head feels too heavy and my shoulders hunch in an attempt to fold themselves into obscurity.

My body is my vessel — but the vessel seems so empty.

I am what I am but it doesn’t feel… enough.

So I do what seems best — I turn my attention outwards and set about to put things in order. I chase material goals, I tick accomplishments off endless lists, I seek praise and glory as if they were subsistence.

It doesn’t seem to work, so I push harder. I read up on all the ways that promise me success. I religiously follow self-help guides. I practice each and every secret single rule to happiness I ever stumble upon.

I go to bed each night feeling emptier still.

Success, they say, is what gives one happiness — so does this mean I am failing?

I am, but not for the reason I suspect.

I am failing because I do not yet know what my definition of success is.

If I had nobody to impress, nothing left to gain, no desire to shine — would I still be doing what I do now? Would I still have the same job, keep the same company, have the same habits?

If my own self was all I had to measure myself against — would I be satisfied by what I see?

I learn — slowly, painstakingly — about myself each day. My abilities, my limits, my potential, my preferences, and a thousand other conclusions I reach by joining infinite dots across a nebulous mind.

The only secret single rule to happiness I learn is that I’ll have none unless I know myself and set my own rules. That no amount of praise and glory would matter unless I find worth in my actions without them. That no accomplishments would be significant if I didn’t fully understand the person who pursues them.

To know that all significance in this strange, purposeless existence is created by my own hand is at once terrifying and exhilarating.

I am and I matter. I am and I don’t.

I go to bed feeling a little less empty, a little less lost. Some day, I’ll wake up whole.

(Originally appeared on — What is meant by self-realization? on Quora.com)