The Art and Value of Being Nobody

Being nobody

Be somebody…

But when you aspire to “be somebody,” is that somebody you?

What’s wrong with the way you are now or the way you were before today?

What is so frightening about being nobody?

If nobody is perfect, it is perfect to be nobody…

Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.

– Chinese Proverb

The realization that the hyper-intentional pursuit of trying to be somebody other than one’s self is a misguided (and entirely too common) pursuit influenced by the ever-presence and dominance of social conventions and media noise.

From childhood, social messages implicitly and explicitly tell you how to behave, what image to portray, what products will supposedly provide the perception of such an image, what to study in college, and what career to pursue (usually based upon money and social status). This is the essence of the social message, “be somebody.”

If you aspire, however, to be nobody, you aspire to be nothing at all except the authentic self; because to be nobody you are not trying to be anything at all; and because you are not trying to be anything at all, the natural and authentic self shines through.

Would you rather be somebody, or would you rather be yourself? If you are not happy with yourself at the present moment, it is probably because you are trying to be somebody else. Think about that…

You spent the first half of your life becoming somebody. Now you can work on becoming nobody, which really somebody. For when you become nobody there is no tension, no pretense, no one trying to be anyone or anything. The natural state of the mind shines through unobstructed…

– Ram Dass

How to Be Nobody

The following are five ways to be nobody and live authentically:

1. Content:

Find ways to notice and appreciate your current existence. The present moment is where you will always be. If you are not happy with what you are and what you have now, how can you expect to be happy with more?

If you become somebody else and obtain something else, you will grow tired of the new existence or the new thing and you will continue the proverbial carrot chase that never really ends. You are in a constant state of Becoming, and you never enter the state of Being. It is not wrong to want more but it is certainly unhealthy to want to be someone else or to want more without being content with who you are and what you have now.

2. Accepting:

Most suffering is the failure to accept transience. Everything is changing, and evolving. Changes are not always in your favor but they may be seen as opportunities to grow.

3. Aware:

To be aware, among many other things, is to know the extent to which you are influenced by outside sources. You don’t have to wear a gunny sack for clothes, eat weeds and seeds, and live on Walden Pond to find your authentic self. Just be aware of your purchases, pursuits, and external desires and decide if they are helping you become somebody (someone else) or to be nobody (yourself).

4. Reflective:

Often ask yourself two questions, “Who am I?” and “Why do I live?” and do your best to answer them (or come closer every day to the answers).

5. Giving:

The dedication to a cause greater than oneself, with little or no selfish motives, is the greatest enabler of meaning and fulfillment (and hence success). In other words, not caring about success will sooner provide a higher quality of success than a hyper-intentional desire to quickly create it.

Some Final Thoughts

We get so much in the habit of wearing disguises before others that we finally appear disguised before ourselves.

– Francois de la Rochefoucauld

Who are you? Are you wearing a disguise or can you be naked before others? Can you smile without a mask?

What are your thoughts? Have you discovered the wisdom of being nobody? How so?

14 thoughts on “The Art and Value of Being Nobody”

  1. Great article. I never really thought about how exhausting it is to constantly seek self improvement. I’ve been trying so hard to become something else that I haven’t been paying attention to my authentic self. I’m going to just let myself be. Thanks for the awesome post.


  2. Sometimes being ‘somebody’ is a defense mechanism. If that person gets hurt, rejected or laughed at it isn’t the end of the world as it isn’t really you.
    Being nobody takes a very strong character…but ultimately reaps many more rewards than somebody.

    1. Kate: Yes, being ‘somebody’ is a defense mechanism, as you say. If you work in a service industry, for example, and a customer yells at you on the phone, the customer is not yelling at YOU: They are yelling at somebody other than you. In this sense, it is healthy to realize that, to others, you may not be “Kate;” you are a service representative that is part of their perceived problem.

      In another sense, however, being ‘somebody’ can also be an act of low self esteem or lack of confidence; it is the figurative fear of being naked before others.

      Thanks for the comment…

  3. Dandy:

    Thanks for the comment. As a combination of philosopher, writer and financial planner I have observed that most people are stuck in a constant state of Becoming — living a life that is for something else that exists outside of the self and in the future.

    By living for “the next great thing” — the end of the day, the weekend, the vacation, the retirement, the new car, the new job, the new life — we spoil what is happening now (life).

    From a scientific perspective, the frontal lobe of the human brain enables us to think about and plan for the future; however, it also creates anxiety and fear of change.

    While being a complete leaf in the wind is not always a good idea, one must remain mindful that life is in the present — not the past or future.

    “What is important in life is life and not the result of life.” ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

  4. I really enjoyed this. :)
    If you’re interested, I would like to link you to my site & vise versa. My site, is a non-profit website created to inspire & motivate others. Please check it out & let me know what you think. Thank you so much,
    Amy Croson

    1. Thanks, Jarrod. I like your comment, “Be nobody, but do something.” You strike at two of the three primary aspects of philosophy, Being & Acting. The other aspect is Knowing.

      Being and Acting will overlap if you are being the authentic self (or as close to it as possible).

      Thanks again and especially thanks to Peter for having me write another guest post…


  5. Never really thought about it but your article made me think about my own self.I’m too scared to tell the truth . Whether I’m putting on a mask when I smile or I am just what I am.
    People always strive to become somebody as you said .I agree with each word you’ve said above . Why can’t we all be nobodies and just be ourselves . Why can’t we be content with what we have and who we are ? The people whom we look up as ‘somebodies’ are actually ‘ nobodies’ in their own selves. But then I have a question here for you , sort of confusion in my mind, what’s so wrong in looking up at someone and trying and be like him/her, is getting influenced by someone who is better than us is like putting our own selves down ?
    Will wait for your reply :-)
    Here’s a personality test –
    This test aims at discovering how well you know yourself.

    1. Kim:

      Great question! You ask: “What’s so wrong in looking up at someone and trying and be like him/her, is getting influenced by someone who is better than us is like putting our own selves down.”

      There’s nothing absolutely wrong with looking up to someone or having a role model; however, I will follow your question with a few more questions: If you look up to someone, what makes you admire them? Do you think they imitated another person? Or do you think they are being themselves?

      What I am saying is that if you admire someone it might be because they are comfortable being themselves. If you want to imitate someone like this, you will also be yourself.

      “Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Seek what they sought.” ~ Basho

  6. Hi Kent,

    I really appreciate your take on ‘aspiring’ to be nobody. Authenticity and living our truth are what we’re here for, rather than trying to be clones of those we admire, or unconsciously living by the beliefs or ideals that others have placed upon us.

    Great food for thought!

    Thanks, Tricia.

  7. Hi, lovely post. I am seeing how freeing it could be to think about “being a nobody”. Many times i avoid social occassions and events because i believe i need to be somebody – i need to be happy, i need to have this happening in my life, i need to have exciting stuff to talk about. The reality is that my life has become rather humdrum and i’m not satisfied with that, almost ashamed in fact.

    Today, i actually thought – perhaps the moment i stop trying to have an exciting life, it will become genuinely and authentically exciting; because i feel i am getting in the way of it changing and/or letting people in etc.

    Was refreshing to read your post as it struck home! Thank you

  8. I have lived my whole life wearing a mask ,never knew who to be or how to be besides how my mother told me to be. I always felt like a black sheep in every circle I was in and tried to fit in but never really could. I constantly felt like an outsider like it was more to life then what it seemed, I’m still fighting this battle and it seems to be a very lonely place because I don’t fit in and I have decided that I don’t even want to at all, I just want to fall in love with being me but now my battle is who am I really, what is life for me so now I’m searching from within. I have spent so much time trying to meet others standards or expectations or ill better say exceptence. I’m seeking to be just nobody.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *