Finding Yourself

by Dennis Bradford

in intellectual well-being

Is finding yourself important?

It seems to be for almost everyone. If so, it’s a topic that warrants at least a little more examination. Why?

It’s foolish to expend a lot of time and energy working on an important task without really thinking about what you are doing.

It’s simple to understand why it is important to work on this Project (important task): You won’t master life (be successful, be a winner) without a successful search!

Therefore, if you haven’t yet succeeded and are still looking, I congratulate you. Keep going. Don’t quit. You’re engaged in exactly the right activity.

Let’s think through what you are doing in hopes of making your search more effective. Consider three areas where you may have been looking.

If you have been working at finding yourself in your possessions, how successful has that been?

After all, what you have is important. Unless you have pure air to breathe, clean water to drink, food to eat, a secure and sanitary place to live, a little money, and perhaps a few other similar economic goods, you’ll spend your days scrambling to obtain them.

You may realize that owning a bigger home or a newer automobile or a more profitable business or a larger pension fund won’t make you happy, but lacking them may!

There is, however, a huge problem finding yourself in ownership, namely, it cannot work. No matter how many or what kinds of goods you possess, they cannot satisfy your yearning to find and actualize yourself. Why?

They are entities. They exist in the domain of Becoming [Click here for the important Becoming / Being distinction]. Incessant flux is the hallmark of Becoming.

It may (and probably will) make you feel better to buy a fine car or house or significantly increase your amount of money, but the feeling won’t last. You’ll quickly adapt to having gained more. Soon, you’ll be looking to gain something else that might end the Project of finding yourself.

So, although possessions can be important, you will fail if you try to find yourself in them.

If you have been working at finding yourself in your relationships, how successful has that been?

It’s certainly important to have a good friend or two. It’s really good to be engaged in a mutually satisfactory love affair. Many parents justly beam with pride when it comes to their children. Being in the extended web of family relationships can make you feel at home.

You may feel that you have been really successful in such social roles. Well, I hope that you are enjoying multiple good relationships. They are important.

Do you, though, find yourself being, for example, a mother? Is that who you are? If so, if your children were all killed in a terrible accident, that would mean that you would stop being yourself. Really?

I think not. Being a mother may be your most valuable role, but it is a role you are playing. You have the option of playing different roles. Becoming blindly attached to one role is not the same as finding yourself. It’s nothing but a fanatical refusal to keep looking.

Put it this way: people, like possessions, are (other) “forms.” In other words, they are entities. Entities come and go. Even the sun will die.

All relationships have a beginning, middle, and end. Even if they last for decades, none abide.

No identification with forms, with entities, can be the real answer to finding yourself because they are impermanent. In fact, most are not just impermanent but fleeting!

Relationships with other people can be important, but you will fail if you try to find yourself in them.

If you have been working at finding yourself in your own achievements, how successful has that been?

Instead of trying vainly to become successful by finding yourself in other things or people, perhaps you have relied on your own achievements.

For example, perhaps you have made yourself into, say, a good physician or athlete or author or teacher. Perhaps you have really worked on yourself and created a genuinely moral and virtuous character.

Your achievements may be important. Considering them either singly or collectively, do achievements work in terms of finding yourself?

Achievements can be important, but you will fail if you try to find yourself in them.

If you are unsure about this, just wait a while after you have achieved an important goal (e.g., making your first million dollars or winning an Olympic gold medal or marrying your dream lover) and ask yourself whether or not you have finally found yourself.

What you do is no more important than what you have.

This is why nothing at all like possessions, relationships, or achievements can successfully fulfill the task of finding yourself. What you do and what you have may be important, but they are not ultimately important; you will fail if you try to find yourself in them.

Since you already are yourself, it is impossible to find yourself in anything else such as what you do or what you have.

Notice a critical fact: doings and havings that you have been considering important always take time. They are temporal. For example, it takes time to be a good parent or to make a lot of money or to write a book worth reading.

Being what you are takes no time! Why not? Because you already are what you are.

Thought for you to take away and consider seriously:

The successful task of finding yourself cannot be completed if you restrict yourself to looking in the domain of Becoming.

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