Duty to yourself
“What destroys a man more quickly, than to work, think, and feel without inner necessity, without any deep personal desire, without pleasure—as a mere automaton of “duty”? Friedrich Nietzsche
There is so much wisdom and essence in Nietzsche’s quote that everything that I will say related to duty will only sound like a long and banal echo. Even so, if I want to address the issue of a balanced mind and soul, I have to approach this subject which causes so much emotional turmoil among so many of us. In other words, what Nietzsche is trying to say, or at least my interpretation of it, is that nothing kills our spirit more than doing things out of duty, without actually feeling an inner necessity or personal desire. Since we are born, it seems that family, religion and the structure of this society are the biggest advocators of duty. And duty, which is sometimes seen as simple obligation, can cause a lot of restrictions to the self-development in terms of desire, curiosity and independence.
If we analyze our daily thoughts, many of them begin with “I should be doing this”. We tend to forget many times the verb “I want to” or “I feel the need to”. We often put aside these personal necessities and desires, because we firstly feel obliged to fulfill the desires and expectations of the people around us.
From my point of view, the hardest duties to swallow are the ones that are forced upon us without our wish or consent. Acting like a role model because you’re the older sibling, letting go because you’re the younger sibling, forgiving someone because they are your blood family, turning the other cheek and not getting angry because your religion says so, providing for the family because you are a man, taking care of your parents because they took care of you are only some of the roles that we have to fulfill even though for some of us it doesn’t come naturally. Fulfilling these roles out of duty can be extremely burdensome.
Therefore, many times in our lives, we go against our feelings because we are expected to feel and act differently. And unfortunately, when we are being pushed to fulfill certain duties there is no option or room left for a personal choice.
So what do we do in order not to get trapped in this duty spider web where we feel obliged to act a certain way? I think the first step is to scan your actions and analyze where you are doing things out of duty to others or out of personal choice. It is very important to see who is imposing roles and actions on you. Sometimes, you might be the creator of your own experiences. Therefore, you first need to take responsibility for the choices you make and the responsibilities you impose on yourself. The second step is to see what outside pressures exist and little by little learn to let go of the need to fulfill the role which is imposed from the outside and doesn’t suit you. Let go of the guilt that comes with that decision and embrace what you can and cannot do.
What destroys our inner balance is to work, think and feel without an inner necessity and personal desire. Find out what you like, find out what role suits you and what you want to do and go pursue it. The only REAL duty we should have is to fulfill our real needs and personal desires. If we don’t do this first, we risk living in the shadow of other people’s wishes and expectations. In order to live an honest life, the first duty that you have is that towards yourself.
Photo credits: Bansky
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