You Are Not Who You Think You Are: Buddhism, Ego and Anxiety (or How to Wear Your Identity Like a Loose Garment)
“We’re all born naked and the rest is drag.”
— RuPaul Charles
RuPaul Charles has revolutionized drag culture and has made it accessible like no one else. He has a number of catchphrases he is fond of repeating including “We’re all born naked and the rest is drag,” which is perhaps the most accurate depiction of the Buddhist notion of samsara I have ever heard.
Samsara is a Sanskrit term which denotes the cycle of suffering we perpetuate in every single moment of our lives. It is how we constantly wrap ourselves in a cocoon made up of our passion, aggression, and ignorance, chasing after pleasure, and desperately trying to avoid pain. This tension between only wanting the good things in life and desperately fearing anything going wrong is where anxiety lives.
We are indeed born naked, free from anxiety and stress, but over time we are influenced by not-so-helpful stories offered up by our parents, our friends, our school teachers, celebrities — just about everyone. The stories may be:
- People who have my skin color are good people.
- People who do not have my skin color are scary or unsafe people.
- You are this gender and that is what you are meant to be forever.
- This form of sexuality is a positive way to manifest love.
- This other form of sexuality is taboo.
And so on. . . . Before we are truly able to think for ourselves, we are infused with all sorts of narratives that inform our world view. We are all born good and open, and then through societal stories taught to us by everyone (from our caregivers to the people who design Internet ads), we get bogged down with concepts that keep us from connecting fully with others.
We accumulate stories that inform how we behave and who we think we ought to become. Then, we perform these narratives we’ve developed throughout our lives, dressing ourselves in drag with these concepts. Sharon Salzberg, cofounder of the Insight Meditation Society, once said, “We mark off the territory of our identifications, both personal and group, as though they had…