When a friend posted on Instagram stories a few weeks ago something about “being true to one’s self”, I couldn’t help but send a reply to that Pinterest platitude: “What is the authentic self, anyway?”
I wasn’t being rude: I’ve been guilty of criminally allying myself with the #staytruestayyou community at least one point in my life (specifically: in a post-breakup Facebook moment, sometime 2015: lock me up, officer.) But the more I think about pinning down who the “authentic self” is, the more I question that it even exists.
Everyone who has been following my blog these past few entries (by that I mean the five people who bother to check what’s happening in my life, two of which I hope are my parents–hi mom, hi dad) would know that I have been engrossed with the idea of panpsychism.
I think that everything is imbued with a spark of consciousness–and by everything, I mean not just living objects, like plants or animals (both human and non-human), but even non-living ones, such as rocks and water.
Before I get dismissed of heading in a downward spiral of woo-woo specious supernatural rambling, I’m humble enough to acknowledge that a lot of these ideas are purely speculative, as of now. But the resurgence of universal consciousness as a potentially legitimate idea comes at a time when scientists struggle with solving the hard problem of consciousness (the problem being the existence of so-called qualia, or why we’re oddly and subjectively aware of how we interact with our world–why is water wet?, or, why do I think of beauty?)
The more I consider that everything is conscious, and that all of us within this universe are just different identities of the universe (basically: the universe just has a multiple personality disorder, and we’re all its different identities absurdly interacting with one another), the more I feel convinced that you can’t pin down the “authentic self”, because everything, essentially, is an authentic self.
Okay, that’s one huge mindfuck, admittedly. I mean, this is one of those ideas which may only be good in theory, but bad in practice. Because the Pandora’s box this opens up is: does it mean we’re all hypocrites?
If there is no essential “I”– a self that is immutable and unchanging– then that means that: one, we will all contradict ourselves at one point or another; and that two, any moral argument that is legitimized by a so-called objective moral truth is up for debate.
Who I am two seconds ago is my authentic self; who I am two years ago is also my authentic self. My capacity for character change does not cancel out the truth of my past selves.
So when someone tells me, “be true to yourself”, which self are they referring to, exactly?
When you think about it, this is an interesting question to ponder on. We constantly try to “perform” authenticity on our social media, trying to create an atmosphere that makes it appear we are not aware that we are being watched. We spruce up the artificial to make it seem real.
Being human is really, really weird.
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