“Self discovery is the opposite of self creation.”
I’m sure you have heard that if you can just find your true self, you will finally be happy. But is it possible that this trend of self-discovery is actually stopping you from living well?
Let’s look at some of the reasons why trying to discover your true self could be blocking your happiness.
YOU ARE CONSTANTLY CHANGING
First, the self-discovery movement assumes that there is a static and unchanging self. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like the idea that I can’t change something if I don’t like it. What if you discover you are a cowardly person deep down inside and you can’t change it! That sounds pretty limiting to me.
In this way, self-discovery is the opposite of self-creation. The idea of self-discovery also flies in the face of most eastern religions that claim there is no self or that self is always in flux.
A fixed self creates what Carol Dweck calls a “fixed” mindset.
SELF DISCOVERY LIMITS FREEDOM
Trying to find your true self is a way of giving up responsibly for you life and choices. If you keep telling yourself that you are not the type of person who can just go up and talk to strangers at parties because you are shy or that’s just not the type of person you are, then you are skirting responsibility. Come on, who doesn’t want to be able to just walk up and talk to anyone!
Trying to discover your true self also limits your freedom because you are always deferring choices and action until you can find your true self who will make the perfect decision.
Are you waiting to discover yourself before choosing a career? Or are you travelling the world trying to find yourself?
French Philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre would consider trying to discover your true self “bad faith” because you are dedicating so much time to the cultural belief that such a thing exists.
It also directly contradicts his belief that “existence precedes essence” which means we are born a blank slate onto which culture, society, and hopefully we ourselves write.
YOU WERE CREATED BUT YOU CAN ALSO CREATE
Michel Foucault, the great French philosopher, thinks that people are created by culture and cultural institutions entirely. If you are trying to discover your true self, all you will find is that you are a slight variation of a cultural product formed by schools, family, media, and other societal institutions and forces.
Even if you think you have found discovered your true self, how can you ever be sure that it is really the true you? As far as I know there are no universal criteria for making sure that the true self you think you have found is actually you. What you think is your true self might actually be a cultural construction that you are buying into.
SELF DISCOVERY LIMITS LIVING FULLY
Self-discovery is also very inward focused and can distract you from being truly present in the world. Too much focus on self-discovery can also become narcissistic and hyper-individualistic. It is an endless journey distracting you from living fully in the world and enjoying what it has to offer.
If you are always distracted by trying to figure out who you are then you will never fully engage in life or try to become who you want. I have known people who have spent so much time travelling trying to figure themselves out that the never really engage in life.
So give up on trying to discover a true self and create the self you want to be.