You weren't born to be a second-hander

. 2 min read

Ah, Howard Roark. My all time favorite literary hero. The man of virtue, the architect with integrity. The ideal value-driven human. Don't get me started.

Yesterday, in my new quest of reinvigorating the self-help mindset in me, I was listening to Brian Johnson talk about The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. Brian had many big ideas to share from the book, but the one that stood out above the others was a quote from a conversation between Roark and Ellsworth Toohey, one of the antagonists of the story:

Toohey: Mr. Roark, we're alone here. Why don't you tell me what you think of me? In any words you wish. No one will hear us.

Roark: But I don't think of you.

This ties in with what Roark tells Gail Wynand:

So after centuries of being pounded with the doctrine that altruism is the ultimate ideal, men have accepted it in the only way it could be accepted. By seeking self-esteem through others. By living second-hand. [...] Gail, I think the only cardinal evil on earth is that of placing your prime concern within other men.

You weren't born a second-hander. Trusting the opinion of other's over your own is not an innate attribute - it's something you learn, something that, when drilled into your mind from every direction for years and years, alters the way you perceive the world.

You'll "know" validation from others matters; that you "need" someone external to you to give you money or a diploma or a shout-out to feel like you're doing the right thing; but deep in your unconscious, it's still there - the innate instinct that knows that all that matters is your opinion, and your opinion alone.

Being yourself, your true authentic self, the one who does whatever he wants without caring about other people, is the hardest thing in the world. Trusting yourself, trusting that you know better than anyone else what you should do, is the hardest thing in the world. Looking at others for guidance and advice, making decisions based on how that will make them think of you, is the easy path, the one where you don't have to carry the load of responsibility of yourself - society will carry it for you.

What you do, whatever your life's work is, is an end in itself. You weren't born to seek self-esteem through others. Your self-esteem is something you're born with. You're born with a drive to do things you want to do, without caring about the rewards or the reaction of others. You give it away as you grow up by the pressure of influences - or rather, you bury it deep within, because being the only one to trust one's own instincts makes you an outcast.

But it's still there.

What would happen if you found a way to bring it back up?