be the artist behind your character

The coming of a new year always manages to bestow a well-intentioned desire to better ourselves. We set goals, clear out cupboards, bedrooms and sheds that have been left to accumulate various unnecessary items for months. We go for runs, sort through wardrobes and join gyms. We don't just look outward either, we make internal changes. We strive to reinvent ourselves, change our habits, our thinking and our lifestyles, We strive to smooth out all the creases in our character.

Whether these goals stick however is another story. A story we all know very well. While I do love that buzz of self-improvement that hits the masses at the start of each new year, there's a part of me that can't quite fully embrace it. Self-improvement is something we should be constantly striving to do every day of the year.

After having recently completed my studies and  I'm faced with all these thoughts and feelings about my life and how best to live it. In these precarious times, I have turned to philosophy to offer some sort of guidance.

I always hear people giving the advice 'fake it till you make it', and while that idea does have its charms I think that it can be dangerous. In the process of faking it, we deceive ourselves and this self-deception can be destructive when in its pursuit, we ignore our flaws.

Having flaws in character is necessary if we are to improve and understand ourselves.

Frederich Nietzsche had an interesting idea. He thought that we should view developments in our character the same way we view flaws in works of art. He wanted everyone to become the artist who creates their own life. A friend showed me this:

Think of it this way. When we consider great works of art there are certain quirks and imperfections that we attribute to an artists' style. When viewed this way, these 'flaws' do not appear as flaws or weaknesses at all, but only add to the greatness of the work.

In acknowledging our flaws and really making an effort to understand them we can make improvements in our behaviour or even learn to see what we consider to be weaknesses as unique facets of our character.

I found it quite consoling to think that both our strengths and weaknesses can fit into an artistic plan we create for ourselves so even our weaknesses can appear as art. Personally, I think this is a much more constructive way to view ourselves and the many faults in our character, rather than to hide them away.

By acknowledging our shortcomings, we can learn to utilise our natural talents and allow ourselves to reach higher levels or self-improvement. I'll extend the artist analogy a little bit further. An artist can only create using the tools in front of them, whether these tools are of the best quality or found in a skip, you can still produce something beautiful with them. In fact, those tools can come together to create art that is unique to only you.

This year, my New Years resolutions will encompass all these thoughts. I thought of making lists and lists of the things I'd like to change, but this year I think I'll look at my weaknesses and consider how they are as much a part of myself as my strengths. While yes, there are things I want to change, I now know not to try and change the unchangeable. This year when you're thinking of your new years resolutions I encourage you to remember to be an artist and create a life that only you can live.