Not Who You Are, But Who You Can Be

The goal is not to find someone with whom you can be yourself, but with whom you are better than you were alone.

Too much time and energy is spent trying to establish and fortify our identity, the self that we present to the world and that we want the world to embrace, respect, and admire. We advertise it, protect it, and defend it. Eventually, even we begin to believe that the posture we take with the world around us is actually who we are.

The problem with posing and posturing in this way is that it allows for no flexibility, no fluidity, and no room for evolution. We choose some version of who we imagine ourselves to be or who we want the outward world to believe that we are and we encase that self in amber to carry around with us everywhere we go.

When we meet new people, we hold up this perfectly formed and preserved artifact of self to show them and, if they embrace it, if they admire it and respect it, we feel for a moment as if they are accepting and loving us. We know and we fear, however, that they will eventually see past the illusion we project and that they will see the person who projects it, naked and afraid, terrified that we are unworthy of love and acceptance.

When the illusion falls, when we allow ourselves to be seen, with all of our flaws and fears and failures, we imagine that the person or people who love us, if they truly do, will accept these shortcomings and will embrace us in spite of them, allowing us to remain who we are or were. If they truly love us, however, they want us to be better, they want us to evolve, to grow, and to become who we truly can be not who we once thought we were.

“As in life, so too it is in budo. As in budo, so too it is in life.”

-Robert Van Valkenburgh is co-founder of Taikyoku Mind & Body and Kogen Dojo where he teaches Taikyoku Budo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

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