As a Michigan student “undecided” on her major, I have deliberated over many different career paths: doctor, entrepreneur, social worker, teacher, physicist, and performer. However, upon considering each career, I always wonder how much I can do in the field. Are there limitations to what I can achieve? Are there set boundaries or an ultimate knowledge that we all seek? Perhaps there are; but, it is worth considering that there may not be any such boundaries—that there truly are no limitations to what we can do in the world. And if this is true, then do people, themselves, have actual limitations to their potential? Or are we simply striving to be the best we can be without the actual ability to ever reach a “best” version of ourselves?
I find it difficult to believe that anyone has the ability to become the best version of himself/herself; I don’t think any such limit can exist for a person. Perhaps it’s simply my optimism rearing its head again, but I would like to believe people never reach their “fullest potential;” rather, they just keep moving forward, always striving to reach that non-existent goal-line we call “our potential.” Perhaps, though, our idea of this “greatest potential” only exists to motivate us and make us work harder on the things, without the ability to actually ever reach our “potential.” I’m convinced everyone can pursue any dreams they have, as long as their aspirations are not impossible to achieve. I simply cannot see any limitations to a person’s intelligence, power, impact on the world, etc. It seems to be unanimous amongst all: potential is one’s perception of where his own life ends, and where eternity takes over. However, the impact of one’s life goes further than when his heart stops beating and his brain stops working; it stretches into the lives of everyone he had an impact on. And in that way, no one can ever reach their “fullest potential” in their life nor after. Their potential will always be there, growing, expanding, and ever changing.
However, there are some people who believe that not everyone should even be given the opportunity to try to reach their greatest potential; some believe that certain groups of people are inferior to others and are, therefore, undeserving of the same opportunities to prove what they are capable of. For example, in The Subjection of Women, John Mill takes the argument for woman’s inferiority to the extreme when he compares them to slaves. He writes,
“…the slavery of the male sex has…been at length abolished, and that of the female sex has been gradually changed into a milder form of dependence. But this dependence…is not an original institution, taking a fresh start from considerations of justice and social expediency—it is the primitive state of slavery lasting on…” (654)
If the world followed Mill’s argument for inequality amongst men and women, then women would not be given the same opportunity to prove to the world what they are capable of achieving. Instead, they would be forced into a life of “slavery,” where their masters are the men in their lives. To destroy the ideal Mill calls for, it is important to consider that we all—male and female, analytical and artistic, young and old—have the potential to never run out of potential, to never reach that goal of being the “best we can be,” and finally, to never stop impacting the world because, even after death, our legacy will live on, knowing no limits.