[PHILOSOPHICALLY SPEAKING] The fallacy of finding yourself


Catherine Hooley

Even when we think “this is me, I’ve created myself,” time will not stop passing. So, creating oneself is accurate but there isn’t a specified end to it.

Finding yourself is a topic that self-help journals love to preach and almost everyone attempts to achieve in their lifetime, but in actuality, it isn’t attainable.

The word “find” implies that something is lost and even though sometimes people can feel lost in a sense, a person cannot lose oneself. A person can act uncharacteristic, or have a change in values or morals, but they will always be themselves. A person is a constant whilst all other factors fluctuate and influence the person.

So, when people say “I need to find myself,” it could basically translate to “I want to bring back an old version of myself,” which is much easier said than done. Humans can do a lot of things, but not time travel. Although people can reintroduce themselves to their old morals, they will not be the same person. Meaning that as time passes, even if we have not changed, the things around us do and in turn, we are shaped and must react appropriately to different circumstances.

If we aren’t finding ourselves, what are we doing? George Bernard Shaw was a political figure and playwright who claimed: “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself,” in his 1887 book An Unsocial Socialist. Although brought up in the 1800s, this idea still influences a lot of people’s stance on the subject.

The idea is that there isn’t a certain person that we’re supposed to become, but that as we go through life, everything we learn contributes and sculpts us into the person we will become or want to be. To me, this is much closer to the truth, but still not quite it. It is much more plausible that all the things we undergo as humans come together to create a person with certain values and points of view, but this saying also somewhat implies that there is a mold into which we will be created.

Even when we think “this is me, I’ve created myself,” time will not stop passing. So, creating oneself is accurate but there isn’t a specified end to it. Just like fashion trends or beauty standards, we continue to change as the world outside of us does. There isn’t a final version of ourselves waiting for us at the finish line, we don’t stop evolving when we’re happy with who we are. For better or for worse, time continues to pick us apart and rearrange us into temporary versions of ourselves.

Finding yourself doesn’t exist because there isn’t a little voice inside of us begging to be found, that voice is the morals you have been exposed to. That voice is the person you want to become, or maybe the person you are forced to be. There is no mold to follow or discover and there is no end to evolving as a person. We change with time whether we like it or not.