There are two great dangers for human beings, especially when they go from childhood to adulthood: the inability to deal with one’s failures and successes and the temptation to define oneself. The two of them are connected. It is easy to think you are on top of the world when you accomplish something, but it is as easy, if not even easier, to consider that you are worthless if you fail doing what you planned. In fact, we define ourselves especially during these moments, when we either love or hate where we are in life.
Perhaps one of the problems of our world today is that, in our despair to define ourselves, to find our places in this world from where we can affirm our individuality, we have forgotten to teach children how to deal with their failures and successes. Instead of doing so, we seem to enjoy living in a world that is deprived of freedom, deprived of the freedom of being fine with who I am because I want to either run away from the “I” that I don’t want to be (so the “I” defined by failure) or to run towards the “I” that I want to be (so the “I” defined by success).
Do not accept “the advice of those who say, ‘Human you are, think human thoughts,’ and ‘Mortals you are, think mortal ones,'” Aristotle says. Instead, you should, as far as possible, “assimilate to the immortals and do everything with the aim of living in accordance with what is highest of the things in us; for even if it is small in bulk, the degree to which it surpasses everything in power and dignity is far greater. And each of us would seem actually to be this, given that each is his authoritative and better element; it would be a strange thing, then, if one chose, not one’s own life, but that of something else.”
There’s a lot of freedom in this thought, because it tells me that I can become that which I am potentially by nature: divine. Two options for Aristotle, then: I can be human, and be governed by my successes and failures and so by the judgment I receive from my fellow humans, or I can be divine, and so free, beyond any temptations of self-defining. I don’t need to do anything to become so: I “only” need to know myself.