BE YOURSELF DO NOT IMITATE: A Response on Why People Do Not Reach Their Goals and Potentials in Life.
(A Guide Towards Creativity and Originality)
Père John Aniobi

Shakespeare in explaining the beauty and the quintessence of man and the lofty plane that man exists has this to say: “What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world. The paragon of animals…” This is a sweet and amazing piece, the beauty of man is made manifest. Man is placed in a very high position amongst all other creatures, man is a being to behold.

In the Genesis account of creation, man was created in the image and likeness of God, “Imago Dei”, (cf. Genesis 1:26). And a being with such a nature cannot but, be a being to behold.
Man is unique, and in this universal unique nature of man, there is a particular uniqueness of each person. Just as Jane Fonda, an American actress, political activist, and former fashion model
would say, “The most incredible beauty and the most satisfying way of life comes from affirming your own uniqueness.” Each person is unique, hence, Boethius famously defined a “person” as “naturae rationabilis individua substantia”, an individual substance of a rational nature. This definition gives us an insight into the unique nature of man. Each existing in his space, yet there are billions and trillions of spaces unoccupied. With all this knowledge, we can then say that the world is very large, and just as the world is large so also human opportunities and our power of creativity.

The question then becomes, why would someone love to exist within the little space of the other? Why do you imitate and limit your possibility? We should be conscious of the fact that we have a unique potential, and it is only when we discover our potential and work towards it, that we can be sure of living within the spectrum of Heidegger’s notion of authentic life.
Therefore there is no need for one to sacrifice his potentials on the altar of imitation.
Man is a potential being, a being with great opportunities. Man has the potential of becoming great, and has the potentiality of being the best as it is in the mind of the creator.
Just as our body continues to experience change from our early childhood till adulthood, so also we have opportunities for self-development and in life. And just as we grow to become ourself, so also we should try shaping our personality in a manner that it reflects our real person.

Most times, we imitate people to death to the detriment of our real self, our unique personality.

Growth and development never stop, and it cannot stop till death. With a life full of possibilities, we have the potential to keep building on our progress and laying the foundation for our best self. Even if you have achieved some of your goals, you can always do more and be better.
Why then do people make effort only to limit their possibilities by imitating others even when they know the dangers of imitating others? Imitation has the possibility of breeding envy, jealousy and backbiting. These arise possibly because some persons think that others are occupying their spaces. But I advice you no one can occupy your space of creativity, for there are lots of opportunities flying everywhere in the world.

The world is very large, and it can contain everyone. It can contain both blacks and whites, it can contain people of all race and culture. Each one can make out something positive in life, every race can survive even with the least of opportunities.
There is this song I started hearing from my childhood days by Chief Oliver De Coque: “Biri ka m biri” (Live let’s live). Listening to the lyrics of this music, one could discover a philosophical and a theological concept on the need to live together in harmony and peace; the need to live a peaceful life with patience and the need for self-development. The music teaches us that “the world is too large and is capable of containing everyone”. Just as we have many spaces, so also we have so many opportunities in life. Just live and let others live, for your brother is not a problem for you, rather a blessing. For all creature are meant to work in harmony towards perfection.

Nevertheless, when you imitate, you put yourself in the second level of existence, thereby placing limitation to your ability.
Imitation is from the Latin “Imitates”, past participle of “to” “to copy”, “portray”, “imitate”. The opposite of imitation is “create”. Therefore we do not need to imitate, we should be able to create because we are unique. We should make effort to do things in its original way. Sometimes we see an artist imitating another artist, or we see some of the upcoming actors and artistes trying to imitate others that are known already. Thus, people end up knowing them as “That actor (Person) that acts like…”. The unfortunate thing is that most times the person they imitate would still be on the stage. Such persons can do better, they can be unique. They simply choose to be like the other person. They end up bearing the identity of the one they imitate. Therefore, it is better one creates a unique style and exist in that spectrum. It may not be easy at the beginning, but the future may have a better reward.

Furthermore, just as imitation is limitation, creativity leads to originality man is unique and has unique qualities, man has no reason to imitate others.
As we imitate, we try to be the other person and not ourselves. It makes one not to have an independent mind. It blocks and limits one’s sense of originality. And once we begin to imitate, it keeps us in the second level, we will no longer be able to live out our lives in a unique way.

However, I do not mean to say that we cannot gain inspiration from other people, I am not saying that you cannot learn good behaviour and qualities of others, that you cannot learn a skill from others, that is not my assertion. My assertion here, is that, God has given each person the power to create opportunity and to do things in a unique positive way. I am explaining that even when you gain insights from other people, you can still develop that in your unique way, and it may even be better than the person you gained inspiration from.
Jiddu Krishnamurti would say: “Do not repeat after me words that you do not understand. Do not merely put on a mask of my ideas, for it will be an illusion and you will thereby deceive yourself.” When we imitate it is just like repeating a word we do not know its meaning and it would simply be an illusions, and we will always be odd in it.
Thomas A Kempis wrote about imitation of Christ. He encourages us to live an authentic Christian life. Just like Henri J.M. Nouwen a tch Catholic priest, professor, writer and theologian would explain that “when the imitation of Christ does not mean to live a life like Christ, but to live our lives as authentically as Christ lived his, then there are many ways and forms in which a man can be a Christian”.

In psychology, there is what is called observation learning. Observation learning is different from imitation in the sense that the former is a process of learning while the latter limits our capacity and capabilities. Hence, we can learn a lot through observation but not through imitation.

According to Sherrile M. Stone, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, Northwestern Oklahoma State University, in his contribution on the to SAGE Publications’ Encyclopedia of Human Development 2005 explained observational learning as a method of learning that consists of observing and modelling another individual’s behaviour, attitudes, or emotional expressions. Although it is commonly believed that the observer will copy the model.
American psychologist Albert Bandura stressed that individuals may simply learn from the behaviour rather than imitate it. Looking at the above, we can see that we learn more from behaviour rather than imitating. Hence in observation learning, there is room for improvement, ingenuity and originality. Once you imitate, you remove the possibility of growth and development.
According to John Mason in his book Imitation is Limitation he states, Discover your unique strenghts to unlimited success. If you are not you, then who are you going to be? Consider the following. ‘My mother said to me, “If you become a soldier you’ll become a general; if you become a monk you’ll end up as the pope.” Instead, I became a painter and rose up as Picasso. Trust your own instincts. Your mistakes might as well be your own, instead of someone else’s. Be yourself who else is better qualified? No one has ever become great by imitation: Imitation is Limitation.

But I wish to say that, for one to be creative, one must be ready to work hard. One must be focused and must culture the mind towards discipline and hardwork. There must be consistency and a habitual activities. Creativity requires time, energy and effort. Our energy must be channelled appropriately in a way that the mind and the body work together and not differently. The power of focus must be cultivated also, that whatever we do, we ponder that which we wish to develop. We must make use of the power of our brain, and exercise it positively. The scientists says that we do not use half of our brain power. Don’t just waste your brain before you die for the brain is so precious and wonderful organ in our body. There is no space for laziness on the mind that wants to create and be original. Laziness is not an answer, but it is out of the question. Therefore, in everything we do, we should try to do them putting every amount of ingenuity in it even as we maintain the proper decorum of such work.
I wish to warn that in our bid to be original and to creative, we should bear in mind of those things or activities that have their unique, classical and othodoxical way of doing them. Don’t create where it is not necessary. Create where and when the need arises. I pray that God who created the human race, who endowed humanity with great wisdom and understanding to continue blessing the work of our hands, and may He continue to illumine the power of our reasons. Amen!!

Like it? Share with your friends!


One Comment

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

Translate »