Faulty Assumptions to Become True Self

Is There a Faulty Assumption in Your True Self Claim?

by Kalinda Rose Stevenson

Questions about the True Self Claim

It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.
e.e. cummings
new sunflowers cummings quote

Self Concept of the Real You

Become who you really are. This is the goal of many people who are seeking to live their lives differently. But what is your self concept about who you really are? One idea about your "true self" goes back to Plato and his claims about "archetypal forms" and the "ideal plane." Everything is fixed and unchangeable in the ideal plane.

This idea has permeated Western thinking for more than two thousand years. It's the foundation of the idea that your "true self" is hidden away, blocked by whatever is not "you." To find the"real you," you must clear away all vestiges of your "false self." Then you can "become who you truly are."

Finding the Hidden David

An example of this kind of thinking is the story told in the human potential movement about the sculptor Michelangelo and his statue of David. According to the story, Michelangelo said that "David" was trapped in the stone. All Michelangelo had to do was chip away anything that was "not David" to reveal the hidden David within.

Although there is no evidence that Michelangelo actually said such a thing, this idea has become popular in human potential teaching about how you can become your "true self." You must chip away everything that is not you so that you can become the real you.

What's the Problem with This Thinking?

First of all, the statue of David was not, and never will be, a living, breathing, thinking being. Rather it's a piece of stone that was sculpted to create a static image of David.

More significantly, we live in an era shaped by the insights of Albert Einstein and other scientists who have defined a different reality about the "real world" than the Platonic claims about archetypal forms.

To the ancient Greeks, the universe was made up of perfect spheres orbiting in perfect circles around the earth or the sun. Whether the planets rotated around the earth or the sun was controversial for centuries. In the years since Plato, astronomers have learned more and more about the mind-boggling expanse of our universe.

  • In this universe, even space and time are not static.
  • In this universe, science and medicine have discovered that the human brain is undergoing constant change every second of every day and night.
  • In this universe, the idea that the "real you" is a static entity hidden within you misses the life-changing potential of realizing that you are always undergoing change.

Courage to Grow Up

Growth is about change. When you grow up, you can reach your full height, but you will never outgrow the capacity to learn, to do, and to change your thoughts, your goals, your beliefs, and your desires.

Compare the idea of sculpting a statute from stone with the reality of human life. Every second that you're alive, your brain adapts to what is current reality.

The truth is that the "real you" is not hidden away in some static version of your "true self." The real you is undergoing constant change.

Consider these two sentences:

It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.
It takes courage to grow up and become who you choose to be.

Cummings's statement is built on a static vision of your "true self" as a perfect, complete, finished being. Rather than thinking about the courage to become who you are, real courage is about the human capacity to grow up and become who you choose to be.

Whoever you are right now, you are not fixed in some ideal "you." The real you is a living, breathing, thinking being who is always undergoing change.

The idea that you can reach a point where "you become who you really are" means that you have nothing left to learn. Nothing left to experience for the first time. Nothing left to try out. Nothing to grow into. Nothing left to create.

Growing up doesn't mean you will ever reach a point where you are a finished, unchanging, perfect you. If you live with the self-concept of a hidden self hindered by a false self, you miss out on the excitement of dynamic change. Growing up means that you can continue to learn and grow and try. You are also free to change your mind as you outgrow what no longer suits you. You can explore new interests and learn that you have far more capacity than you ever imagined. Real courage is about never giving up on growing up.

This is part of the Amazon introduction to the collected work of e. e. cummings. (The newly published book and the Amazon introduction use capital letters in his name. He chose to write his name without capitals. Out of respect for his practice and respect for why contemporary publishers choose to capitalize his name, both forms are here intentionally.)

"Combining Thoreau's controlled belligerence with the brash abandon of an uninhibited bohemian, E. E. Cummings, together with Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, and William Carlos Williams, helped bring about the twentieth-century revolution in literary expression. Today Cummings is recognized as the author of some of the most sensuous lyric poems in the English language, as well as one of the most inventive American poets of his time..."

Find out more about  E. E. Cummings: Complete Poems 1962.

[ Original Post August 8, 2014]

What are your thoughts about growing up and becoming who you choose to be? Please leave a comment below. I look forward to hearing from you.

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