Creating Verses Discovering One’s Self

George Bernard Shaw once said, “Life is not about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”   But I’d say that life is about both creating AND finding one’s self. While it’s true that much of who we are derives from the choices we make (creating), the influences that guide those choices (desire, destiny, talent, core values, available resources, and such) we cannot so easily control, and some of these we cannot control at all. So it’s good to find out which life pursuits we’re the best suited to accomplish because if we don’t, we could end up engaged in fruitless endeavors; which can make for a quite unhappy existence.

We’d be well-advised to choose pursuits that are for the most part, in line with our natural abilities. Otherwise we’ll live lives of frustration and sadness, and life is just not supposed to be that difficult. Aspiring to be a rocket scientist for example, when I can’t even pass simple algebra in college would likely be one of those fruitless pursuits that would lead me not to success, but to lifelong mediocrity, and in the end, to failure.

So while it’s good to strive to advance (create) who we are, we should also keep in mind what we have to work with in the first place (finding and then knowing ourselves). If we know the type of person we want to create within ourselves, then we first should know (or have found out) our natural strengths and weaknesses. Self-knowing and self-creating are not dichotomous concepts – it’s not either / or, but rather, it’s BOTH.

They do not oppose each other, but in fact,  help each other. That is, we can’t create the best person we can be until we have figured out who we really are to start with. But we can’t learn who we really are until we’ve tried many pursuits in order to see what we’re good at and what we’re not. So again, I think life is about both finding out as well as creating, and who’s to say which one is the more important?  We must create ourselves in order to explore ourselves, and we must explore ourselves in order to intelligently create (improve upon) ourselves.  This is a classic chicken-and-the-egg scenario.  The chicken’s existence depends on the egg, and the egg’s existence depends on the chicken.  So a happy life entails both creating and discovering, just as living chickens are about both the chickens themselves as well as the eggs from which they hatch.  So there’s no conflict between creating and finding one’s self.

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