The idea that ‘we’ create the self is problematic, to begin with, because if the self isn’t there from the beginning, who’s doing the creating?
Personally, I believe the self is an evolving entity, made up of the bodily aspect of the person, the interaction between the person and the environment, and the information stored in our cranial hardware as a result of such interaction. Some aspects of the self are inborn - we all inherit genetic information - but the concept of self is broader than our DNA. I do think the idea of ‘finding’ onesself is misguided, though - it implies that we are looking for something that already is there. Where could the self possibly exist other than with the physical person? What people tend to mean when they speak of taking time out to ‘find themselves’ is, I think, that they are unhappy with their life the way it is, and want to find out what will make them happy. That, or some people have been known to use it as a cop-out from responsibilities they have generated for themselves, before they understood what they were getting into, and now wish to discard.
When people make that statement they mean that the person has not developed their potential, the potential of the self that is who they actually are and the talents and abilities and attitudes that they are capable of developing.
Each of us has the self we are born with. Environment, upbringing, religion, education, personal interactions, all influence how the person develops within the framework of who they essentially are.
If I do not develop my attitudes and talents in a wholesome way, I cannot really be said to have ‘found myself’ the self I am most comfortable with, but even more and most truly, the self I actually am, this person God created me to be.
You will notice that brothers and sisters in the same family, being raised in the same environment and under the same conditions, are usually very different people, because each has a unique self given to to him/her by God.
You could be interested in reading Thomas Merton’s “Seeds of Contemplation.”
We are who we are because of our choices. There are 6 billion people on this planet, but there was only one Mother teresa. She lived in a town, probably had friends who had the same life as her, lived in the same general type of family, went to the same church, etc. but only she created such a loving order and did all that she did. Its because she chose to. There are 6 billion people. If we are products of our environment then why are there such wide spectrums of people. Why are there people like Hitler. Why was there a George Washington. Why isn’t everyone a dull unassuming person. Why do some people have a great outlook on life. Its because they went through life and they decided they would act a certain way, believe certain things, and do what they did. That is how the self is formed. While gentics lays the foundations and environment plays a small role, it truly is our choices that make us different.
More ink has been spilled in the fields of psychology, sociology, anthropology, philosophy, biology, neuroscience, physics, theology, and literature on the topic of the self than anyone can even imagine. The psychologist-turned-philosopher, William James, believed we have multiple selves, including the biological self, the personal self, the social self, etc. In the early years of social psychology, the notion of the self, as formulated by personality psychologists, was completely rejected in favor of the social influence and power of the situation. Other psychologists, as well as certain sociologists such as Erving Goffman, believed in the idea of a “looking-glass self,” fully determined by the way others perceive us. Later, social psychologists admitted to the existence of a self as an interaction between the individual and the social environment. The change vs. stability (non-change) of the self is another favorite issue, particularly among personality psychologists. And the notion of the self is also linked to such concepts as consciousness, identity, self-concept, and self-esteem. Erik Erikson would say there is a search for self (i.e. identity) and that search, while conducted by the individual, depends to a great extent on environmental influence. Thomas Szasz believed that mental illness is an illusion caused by the excessive pressures and demands placed on people who may not socially and politically conform to the rigid norms of their society. If anything, it is “society” that is ill, not its members: a notion proposed by Rousseau and Goffman. Not that the self, according to Szasz (or Rousseau), is a “noble savage” that should be left to its own devices. As the quotation states, it must be created and cultivated, but not by a repressive government.
I think it needs to be stressed that Szasz is considered by many to be a “humanist,” and is associated with the Left. As far as I know, Szasz is a non-believer. So he may be looking at this from a quasi-atheistic POV.
His statement smacks of Eastern “influences” and also just smacks of Buddhism-----Buddhists also talk about there being to true “Self.” Just needed to clarify.
In the ordinary way we use “self” today, like “self esteem”, “self image”, it seems to be made by ourselves and what others lay on us. It is what others see us as, and what we think others see us as, and what we actually think of ourselves.
As far as “finding oneself”, probably means one is dissatisfied with their image and looking for one they can live with. This happens with younger people, because life is still new to them and they are trying to find answers as they are developing thru expierences
and making mistakes. They are also developing physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and are in a constuct flux. Later as maturity enters, and life is more settled for them, they now have a self, liking part, and disliking part. Noone being perfect, the challange goes on to develope the good, and to change the undesirable into something good thru life.
No young person should be discouraged, it comes in due time. Its very important that noone compare themselves to another. Everyone is unique, and sometimes it takes a while to discover what gifts God has given to each.