The Myth of the Self-Made.
Self-made man. Self-made millionaire. We so often romanticize this term. But is there any truth to it? Can anybody truly be self-made?
There is a strong argument in support of the self-made. There is also a strong counterpoint to the common view of what being self-made means. To understand and evaluate where the truth lies, let us explore both arguments.
Truly self-made people go beyond the misconception that they did everything themselves. Individuals who can rightly claim this title do it for a different reason. Not because they were solo the whole way and do not owe anything to anybody. That is a myth. Any logical examination of a person's life can show plenty of places where their advancement depended on the labor, goodwill, or trust of another person. Period.
The real self-made people amongst us made their lives how they wanted them. They are self-chose. Choosing the dreams and goals to set for themselves and then manifesting them. Finding out who they are, and who they want to become. They are indeed self-made because they created an image and vision and made it happen. In this sense, we are all self-made.
We all make these choices. Yet, most people do not consciously make them. Or if they do, they have a tendency to give up when faced with challenges. But, even in that instance — giving up is a choice. It creates a different outcome. Perhaps we are all self-made? Even the less than stellar life stories of the average person.
Yet how seldom do we hear the self-made proclamation when we fail to reach the stratospheres of success and achievement? We are self-made when it suits us, but when we are struggling or failing the last thing we want to admit is that our circumstances are self-made. In times like those we abandon any responsibility for our role in where we find ourselves — it is always something external that shaped our agony.
If there is truth to the self-made narrative it applies both in good times and bad times. In a sense, the homeless person you pass and the slick corporate CEO are both self-made. They are both the results of their habits, behaviors, choices, mindsets, and abilities. You can bet that only one will blurt out how they are self-made as an initial descriptor of themselves. But the truth is, we are all self-made. We made our lives this way. The question is, can we admit it?
How many times do we hear the rags to riches tale of a recently minted millionaire? Someone who struggled against all odds and made it happen. Someone who is so often portrayed as “self-made”. Rather than the illusion of the self-made millionaire who rose to the top like an ice climber, by himself on a mountain face, I presume to explain how many fallacies there are in the cultural myth of the self-made super achiever.
Anybody who does peak above the atmosphere of average into the heights of stardom, press, and recognition for their achievements and still thinks they got there by themselves is delusional. Nobody achieves anything without the help of others. Whoever claims otherwise is simply thankless, and unaware of how many times they unknowingly or ungratefully were helped on their journey. These kind of people are those who stain and distort what being self-made really is. The sum of our choices. Not trumpeting our victories as we crushed everybody on our way to the top, and ignoring or exploiting those who facilitated our climb. Such a bad look. Surface level stupidity exemplified.
If I were to enter a debate with such an individual, I am confident I can prove with simple logic the shallowness of their mindset and abolish the bastardization of the term self-made once and for all. Curious? This is how I would retool their views: a direct line of questioning exposing the aspects of their self-made narrative that they are ignoring, and tying it right into the present moment. Let us examine.
Starting with your birth, you birthed yourself? You are the product of two other people, literally not self-made.
Were you able to survive all alone in infancy? You were spoon fed.
You taught, and educated yourself entirely? Even if you did, the books you read were not authored by you.
You built your business strictly on your own labor? Come on. Who mops your floors, answers the phones, and performs all the other tasks that make your business run?
You got yourself in peak physical condition? Not without tools, systems, and tactics created by others. You did not invent the push-up.
You made a lot of money? Millions? Even on a transactional level, your money entering your bank, there were several people involved. Or are you so “self-made” you own the bank, and process all your own transactions?
You are standing here right now debating your merits with me? Did you grow your own food, sew your own clothes, and cut your own hair? Your image is not even exclusively self-made, neither is the sustenance keeping you alive.
There is a chance that someone would still be recalcitrant in the face of all this logic. But we all owe so much to others. We owe our own personal ancestors, the inventors and innovators throughout history, our parents, our teachers, the farmers that grow our food, the chefs and cooks who cook it, and everybody that we often overlook once our ego swells with pride at our “own” achievements. The person that holds onto the misconception that they “did it by themselves” lives a lonely life, impoverished by a lack of gratitude and appreciation for those around them.
We are all self-made in whatever we make our lives to be. We control the direction and trajectory. We are, however, never the only people involved in our story. Being self-made is something that everyone can say. “I did it by myself” is something nobody can say.
This is the 54th installment of Writing Wednesday. A weekly commitment to myself to actually pursue my dreams of becoming a writer. I am a writer.
Let me know what you think, and follow my journey on Instagram/Twitter (@multitude27) you can also check out my blog www.27threnaissance.com