by Efren Paredes, Jr.
Prison corridors reverberate with embellished stories of urban exploits and manufactured images prisoners believe they should emulate behind prison walls.
Many prisoners adopt distorted lifestyles absent thought about the perils and long-term ramifications attendant to their decision. Their myopia prevents them from foreseeing the potential for self-inflicted damage that may ensue.
Too often people live their lives to impress others, curry favor with them or gain their acceptance. They do this unaware that they are essentially alienating their true identity and surrendering it in exchange for a fabricated illusion of reality.
Adopting self-destructive behaviors can lead to prisoners leaving indelible impressions on their lives long after their return to society. It can also manifest in a host of dismal outcomes that compound their vulnerabilities during their incarceration.
Another consequence of people projecting false illusions of themselves is that they attract the same energies they project. It can translate to becoming a magnet for problems or toxic people that infect their personal sphere.
People should not settle for less by wasting their time living for others, rather than investing time living for themselves. No one should ever stand on the outside of their own lives peering in through the prism of a stranger.
Being confident in ourselves and striving to maintain our individuality goes a long way. It is a reflection of our genuine beliefs and personality, not a transitory illusory persona that divorces itself from reality.
In prison -- as well as in ordinary life -- people earn respect and gain acceptance because of who they are and what they accomplish, not who they aren't or their personal failures. Success is real, it can't be fabricated.
No one decision or experience in life -- whether good or bad -- defines a person. It is a culmination of their decisions and life experiences that does. We have to endeavor to jettison counter-productive actions and harvest empowering ones.
People should never be disingenuous with themselves. Being themselves is one of the most important things they can do in life. It means working to conquer their insecurities and sacrificing acceptance for authenticity.
Real strength and courage is demonstrated when we resist changing our identity or lives to satisfy others. Identity abandonment isn't the solution to life's challenges, it's one of the problems.
Embracing these realities can help liberate people from the manacles of society's pressures that keep them trapped in a parallel universe that swims in an ocean of disguises.