How To Be A Person: A Recipe

The recipe isn’t straightforward, but it works.

Mark Starmach
5 min readMar 10, 2023
Visuals: Mark Starmach

So you want to be a person. You know, just a functioning, confident, contented and driven, living-to-your-full-potential-not-wallowing-in-your-bedsheets-waiting-for-your-shit-to-stop-repeating kinda person. The simple stuff. It might feel impossible — and perhaps such a thing doesn’t quite exist. But if we take the spirit of the request, the truth is that the method toward it is unusual and counterintuitive. What might feel like regression, or failure, is actually an integral step in the whole. In fact, you’re likely following the method now, and already halfway there. Here is the full recipe below.

You will need: One heart, one head, one soul, one body. Optional, but recommended: Two or more of each ingredient. Preparation time: 30+ years. Serves: All.

Method:

1. Begin as a soft neotenous sponge, born terrifyingly reliant on a series of flawed and imperfect adults. Be subject to the best of their efforts, their love — but also the withdrawal of that love, their absence and tempers and emotional shortcomings, the projection of their own anxieties and insecurities, potentially their abandonment and abuse, and so on.

2. Hastily clobber together a somewhat-functioning identity based off these interactions, the millions of cues and subtle messages the world gives you, the themes of your early childhood. Adapt your mind to this environment. Learn that this is the way to feel. Form enduring ideas about love and relationships and how safe or unsafe the world is, intuited from your most early experiences and observations. Baste for 15 or so years.

3. Be blissfully unaware of the traumas or subtle emotional deficits this basting has slowly incorporated into your hardening sponge-like mind. Now inject ungodly amounts of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone so that you think you’re the hottest shit in the world and that every adult (including your parents, teachers, the media, religion etc.) is a fucking dumbass. Or visa versa, so that you think you’re the dumbest fuck in the world and everyone else is the shit. Either way works.

4. Gain just enough self-awareness to feel like you’re your own original person, but lack just enough to realise how much of an incomplete composite you really are.

5. High off this naivety, fall headfirst into patterns of behaviour that inadvertently replicate the environments and dynamics of your early childhood — across work, friendships, and your romantic relationships. For example, if your parents felt distant, become so anxious about the possibility of your boyfriend or girlfriend leaving you, so as to make them distance themselves from you. Or, if your parents only ever communicated their needs passive-aggressively, never communicate your own needs to your colleagues, thus making you more burnt-out and resentful and therefore, more passive-aggressive. Or if your parents never showed emotion, never show emotion but be drawn to romantic partners who do because they’re novel, then grow in disdain at how ‘crazy’ they are and double-down on your own emotionlessness as a counter to their ‘craziness’.

6. Grow gradually discontented and frustrated with these dynamics, for what feels like strange and unknown reasons. Unknowingly marinate these feelings in distractions like alcohol, workohol, sexohol, and so-on-ohol.

7. Languish.

8. Reemerge.

9. Languish.

10. Reemerge.

11. Languish.

12. Move overseas.

13. Languish.

14. Reemerge.

15. Grow tired of languishing and reemerging.

16. Realise that you are the thing you are trying to escape.

17. Realise that that’s impossible.

18. Realising that’s impossible, seek earnestly to understand yourself. Stare in the eye the fact that you are looping on a script set by your past, and that only you can alter it. Feel the heat to do the work. Fire up the stove (or some other metaphor that keeps this recipe analogy on track).

19. Grow curious, not angry or afraid, about why you are the way you are. Chronicle your perceived shortcomings, your pervasive negative beliefs, the themes of your thinking. Scour your mind for their sources in your past. Grow in knowledge of human behaviour — that fear causes people to do mean things, that most behaviours are an attempt to achieve love. Journal. Attend therapy. Journal. Talk with close friends. Journal. Learn that when you are little, everything is big — people, but also the little things they do. Begin to re-remember what happened to you as a child. Revisit it with a more mature and adult understanding. Close your eyes and imagine yourself, in the present day form, coming to comfort your child form. Know that all childhoods are a life-or-death experience and that you did the best you could with what you were given. Know that your parents did the best they could with what they were given too. Cradle your child form and be for them the parent you always needed. Write. Take concrete actions that will ease their, upon assessment, genuine qualms. Talk to yourself more kindly. Treat yourself more gently. See strangely that the secret to being grown up, is to treat yourself as though you never have.

20. Let go of your patterns. Let go of the script. Let go of your stories. Let go of your Ego — that sense of self hastily-clobbered-together in the plastic of your youth. Be warmed by Carl Jung who famously wrote, “The first half of life is devoted to forming a healthy Ego, the second half is going inward and letting go of it.”

21. Be served with new challenges and new uncertainties and new worries, but with a new sense of inner-gentleness and self-assuredness. Garnish with goals predicated on things you’ve always naturally valued. Continue to grow in self-awareness. Constantly re-understand yourself. Never demand perfection of yourself. Feel comfortable in feeling unfinished.

22. Be.

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