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Bruce Lee on Self-Actualization

bruce_lee

Recently on reddit, Bruce Lee’s daughter, Shannon, did an ask me anything.

One of the questions caught my attention:

… of all your father’s philosophies, which do you feel we can all learn from? I am a huge fan of your father’s cinema, martial art form and of course his writings.

Shannon Lee’s response was pretty amazing.

I feel we can learn from his philosophy on self-actualization. I believe we are all still talking about him because he was so good at cultivating and expressing his true essence. If we all did that, we would all be cultivating our uniqueness and we would all put something original and truly authentic into the world because it would emanate from deep within ourselves which [is] a place that no one else can inhabit but ourselves!

So I went digging to read some of Lee’s thoughts on this.

In Bruce Lee: Artist of Life, he writes:

… if you are cursed with perfectionism, then you’re absolutely sunk. This ideal is a yardstick which always gives you the opportunity to browbeat yourself, to berate yourself and others. Since this ideal is an impossibility, you can never live up to it. You are merely in love with this ideal, and there is no end to the self-torture, to the self-nagging, self-castrating. It hides under the mask of “self-improvement.” It never works.

Many people dedicate their lives to actualizing a concept of what they should be like, rather than actualizing themselves. This difference between self-actualizing and self-image actualizing is very important. Most people only live for their image.

Where some people have a self, most people have a void, because they are so busy projecting themselves as this or that. This again is the curse of the ideal. The curse is that you should not be what you are. Every external control, even internalized external control—”you should”—interferes with the healthy working of the organism. There is only one thing that should control the situation. If you understand the situation that you are in, and let the situation that you are in control your actions, then you learn how to cope with life.

The less confident we are in ourselves, the less we are in touch with ourselves and the world, the more we want to control.

In Striking Thoughts: Bruce Lee’s Wisdom for Daily Living, he expands on the difference between fulfillment and appearances using similar language.

Most people only live for their image, that is why some have a void, because they are so busy projecting themselves as this or that, dedicating their lives to actualize a concept of what they should be like rather than to actualize their ever-growing potentiality as a human being. Wasting, dissipating all their energy in projection and conjuring up of facade, rather than centering their energy on expanding and broadening their potential or expressing and relaying this unified energy for efficient communication, etc.

(image source)