I have been listening to a podcast called Secular Buddhism with Noah Rasheta. A couple of days ago, I listened to an episode called What is Freedom? What is Truth? Among other things, this episode talked about conceptual truths versus empirical truths, which really got me thinking.
In brief, an empirical truth can be observed, proven through data or evidence, while a conceptual truth is much blurrier. A conceptual truth might be an idea that is accepted by society or culture or a personal idea that is true to you. An example would be precious gems, certainly they are pretty and maybe they are rare, but in the end, they are just a rock that society attaches a value to.
It really is a mind boggling rabbit hole to go down- looking at the things in your life that you accept as true and examining whether they are objectively true or whether they have all sorts of conditions and learned responses and societal influences that make them into changelings.
In terms of my own life, I have been thinking quite a bit about expectations and how much importance I place on how I am perceived by others, finding that too often I am letting this weigh on my actions and decisions. It is difficult to get past what we think things should look like. I find myself assessing whether I’m doing enough with/for my kids, saving enough, moving in the right direction at work or in relationships, finding balance between responsibility and enjoyment, exercising enough, eating the right things… oh, the list could go on.
So, thinking about this unending list, I just have to stop and ask, “What am I measuring myself against?” There isn’t a single thing on this list that is based solely around an empirical truth. Instead, each item is completely convoluted by conceptual truths, skewed by societal influence and my own personal experiences and expectations.
The people that I am trying to please, who I would like to show that I am succeeding on all of the bullet points on my list, have their own conceptual truths that are influenced by their own cultural and personal experiences. So success in people-pleasing is a moving target.
The ideals that I am striving for need to be mine, because I can never achieve the futile task of pleasing everyone else. However aha this realization is, putting it into practice is still pretty daunting. It is daunting because trusting your own intuition and decision making requires self-confidence and determination. It is also daunting because even the conceptual truths that you accept as “true” may and probably will change with further life experience. So success in pleasing yourself is also a moving target.
This means that another piece to the puzzle is accepting that we don’t have all of the answers. We could believe something today and then gather information tomorrow that completely changes what we accept as true. The only real option is to be open to that growth. Accept that we are not static beings who already know all that we will ever know and be receptive to the knowledge and transformation that further life experience gives.
http://secularbuddhism.com/ Secular Buddhism with Noah Rasheta