Being Nobody

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Is it natural for people to seek attention? To want to be recognized for their contributions to the society? Well, I’ll let the shrinks in the crowd answer that. What I’d like to get into is the vehemence that impels the Self to be known by others.

The poet Emily Dickinson shared her thoughts in the matter through her poem:

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you - Nobody - too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d advertise - you know!

How dreary - to be - Somebody!
How public - like a Frog -
To tell one’s name - the livelong June -
To an admiring Bog!

The persona in Dickinson’s poem observes how “dreary [it is] to be somebody,” when privacy is compromised once attaining a certain social status. The limitations of being, or striving to be, Somebody have something to do with seeking external validation. Other people have to agree that you are who you claim to be. What happens when they don’t?

The truth is, being nobody is freedom. It’s independence from worries society’s different expectations of what a Person should be; you’re free because you don’t strive to be liked. It’s the status at which you’re able to wiggle without worrying of eyes judging your every decision. Your validation comes from within, a resilience that is both the cause and effect of being Nobody.

However, it’s not:

  • an excuse to harm, hurt, or oppress anybody;
  • an excuse to not contribute in any way you can to your community; nor
  • a low place to wallow in self-pity.

In this age of surveillance capitalism, being nobody is a superpower!

Still, it’s understandable if “being nobody” isn’t particularly the thing you’d advertise to your peers. For so long, we’ve been taught to dream of attaining a level where people would respect us. To unlearn this is to unpack our collective identity. For now, know that it’s okay to be simple, to be mediocre. Be content with your contribution.

In his essay “The Mediocrity Principle1” P.Z. Myers bluntly states:

[You] aren’t special.

The stars themselves form as a result of the properties of atoms, the specific features of each star set by the chance distribution of ripples of condensation through clouds of dust and gas. Our sun wasn’t required to be where it is, with the luminosity it has — it just happens to be there, and our existence follows from this opportunity. Our species itself is partly shaped by the force of our environment through selection, and partly by fluctuations of chance. If humans had gone extinct 100,000 years ago, the world would go on turning, life would go on thriving, and some other species would be prospering in our place — and most likely not by following the same intelligence-driven technological path we did.

Being nobody hopefully relieves you of pressure that society has placed on you to Do Something Big, but at the same time, grants you the space and time to explore more, share what you can, and build a healthier community in which not only you, but everyone else can thrive. TNU

  1. Myers, P. Z. (2011). The Mediocrity Principle. Edge.Org. ↩︎