Somewhere inside yourself, there is a Real You. It’s likely covered by layers of cultural conditions, repressed emotions, and identity confusions. As we go through life in a hyper-cultural era, constantly influenced by films, TV, music, and social interactions with diverse groups of people, we try on different identities. This testing of the waters can be a path to self-discovery, but often it just leads to a convoluted view of the self.
It also leads to egotism, which only perpetuates the cycle of false identity. Egoists project their fantasy selves onto the world, causing unnecessary confusion and sometimes even violence. Mass egoism is always on the rise as cultural outlets find more efficient means of delivering information to individuals. As a result of collective egoism, we become part of a marketing strategy or political game rather than behaving as we should— as human beings naturally navigating the world.
There is a way to be a unique and interesting individual without being an egoist. If you reflect and look within, you’ll be able to strip away that which makes you not you. Over time, your true self will emerge. It’ll emerge slowly and naturally, since it’s not what we might think of as a “self” or an “ego”. It’s your core, you at your most organic and comfortable.
It’s easy to grow old without a sense of self. You can jump from group to group, passion to passion, job to job, with a definite feeling of belonging but without the ability to recognize who you really are. If you never look within, you’ll never even know that you’re missing out on anything. Discovering who you really are isn’t something you do by going on adventures, having romantic trysts, and living a hedonistic lifestyle. It’s an internal process.
The irony is that people seem to think they can find themselves by looking elsewhere. That’s just silly. You find yourself by looking within yourself. Remove all external influences for a bit and see what happens. Or, at the very least, work on acknowledging the influence that external influences have on your sense of personality. Then you can start turning inward and becoming who you actually are.