The Vannoken mask, called a váruðekon, is an artistic expression of the residual self-image, the ideal self. This is a short thinkpiece on what it means to fall out of sync with it, and what it takes to keep in sync with it

“We are all of us, what we do,” was a famous line from Sir Ridley Scott’s The Kingdom of Heaven (particularly the Director’s Cut). The line was spoken by Orlando Bloom’s rendition of the character, Balian of Ibelin, during a final duel with Guy, his rival and secondary antagonist of the movie.

It’s a line that’s stuck with me throughout the years as I’ve continually calibrated myself into a more honest and forthright person. I wasn’t always this way, though; it’s taken great effort over nearly thirty years of continual introspection as I’ve traveled the world, seeking new stimuli to expand my understanding of the world and therein myself.

Being the child-victim of what most psychologists would consider narcissistic parenting, many of the same traits passed down to me. In the beginning of my life, I was taught by parental example that it was okay to completely exaggerate one’s accomplishments and inflate one’s sense of self-importance.

It was okay to do one tiny thing in the direction of some aspiration, and then consider oneself the full identity of that aspiration. For instance, taking one medical course is not enough to make one a doctor. Winning a small modeling competition of Ms. Ipanema does not make one Ms. Brazil. Planting a single seed does not make one a farmer.

There are few ways faster to inhibit the actualization of one’s true potential than to abide by the unethicality of insufficient action as a technicality of self-validation. To do so is to create a shield around oneself from the consequences of being true, to placate the vulnerable core of the self from the healthy strain of growth. It is to remain in the pod, the womb, of an idea or vision of the residual self-image, satisfied with a life never truly lived.

The dissatisfaction that comes with checking one’s own perception of self, the ego, into the reality that we are not all of what we envision ourselves to be is in itself the call to adventure to become something more. It is a good pain that deserves the catharsis of such an accomplishment, with self-respect well-earned through the process of the journey’s undertaking.

I learned this the hard way in life, which has greatly aided me in surpassing the socioeconomic status of my family of origin. Though, I’d rather have learned it the hard way and early in life, rather than never to have learned it at all.

So, I claim to be three primary things: a physicist, a cultural theoretician, and a marketing strategist. To validate this to myself as true, every morning I wake and look at myself in the mirror, I ask myself the following questions:

  1. What am I going to do to be a physicist today?
  2. What am I going to do to be a theoretician today?
  3. What am I going to do to be a marketing strategist today?

If any longer than a week goes without me having an answer to any one of those questions, then I begin to feel guilty because I am not doing. If we are, all of us, what we do, then to not do is to not be. This means that if too long of a period goes without even the smallest action performed in each of those three elements of my life, then I have no right to claim that I am these things.

I would have dissociated from my residual self-image’s actualization; I would have fallen out of sync from it, thereby forfeiting the right to claim that I am what I am. At least in my own entirety.

Even if it’s only a baby step that day, that is still a self-validating motion forward.

As a physicist, even if I only solve one simple equation this is better than solving none.

As a cultural theoretician, even if I only make one short 2-minute YouTube upload, or website article, or do anything tiny pertaining to the social experiment that is Vannoken culture, this is better than doing nothing.

As a marketing strategist, if I do even one assignment for a client, or even part of one, I will have been able to provide for my family and deliver value to the market.

Sometimes, energy seems to flow from out of nowhere and progress in any and all dimensions of my life seems effortless. Other times, however, it gets extremely hard because I can get depressed, for no direct cause at all. When my emotional downturns occur, I have to rely on stoic discipline to perform at least the smallest act in each of these things. Then, demonstrate the self-compassion necessary to forgive myself for not moving forward as fast as I know I otherwise could. To remind myself that do anything is better than doing nothing.

Waking up and even doing only 10 pushups is better for my health than none.

So, what is it that you like about yourself but haven’t done in a long time? How are you lying to yourself about how synced you are with your residual self-image? What tiny baby step can you make every morning to validate that you are what you say and think you are, who you really want to be?