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What is 'self'?

Self is our persona. Our image, avatar, construct, identity, representative... An idea of who we are or would like to see ourselves
. It is like our public profile.


Our persona is constructed from our experiences.
It is made from our education, upbringing, society, reading, watching, eating, smelling, tasting, touching, feeling, opinions, bias, impressions, notions, ideas, insights...
Essentially it is the product of memory mixed with wishful thinking


Self-discipline, self-consciousness, self-awareness, self-control, self-reliance, self-help, self-respect, self-knowledge, self-defence, self-restraint (and so forth) are all concerned with managing your avatar/persona.
Self-consciousness is your Public Relations Consultant.

A dog or a child

Managing the self is akin to controlling an unruly child. We see the 'self' as being apart from who we really are... and are occasionally embarrassed by the behaviour of our 'self'.
The self is the cause of self-gratification, self-promotion and attention-seeking behaviour.


Promoting your own significance is a sign of insecurity. Rather than feel contained, complete, integrated, the 'self' feels untethered and unappreciated.
It seeks recognition and validation. The ego wants to be acknowledged, flattered and held in high esteem. All of this must take place at somebody else's expense...

Lack of humour

The more seriously an individual values their self-image, the less genuine humour they possess.
So much effort is invested in shoring-up their public image that somewhere along the way they forgot to laugh.
Lacking humility, sincerity and candour, the insecure egotist brags and boasts as a lifestyle habit.


Bored, listless people constantly crave new ways to feed their self. Theirs is a life of novelty, ephemeral interests, petty, shallow pursuits, holidays, shopping, chatter and entertainment.
No depth. Everything is geared towards short-term gratification. 


When we interact with other people, we want them to see us in a favourable way. Our aim is to shape their impression of us in alignment with how we choose to see ourselves
This is public relations.

You often say, "I would give, but only to the deserving."

And who are you that men should rend their bosom and unveil their pride,
that you should see their worth naked and their pride unabashed?

(Kahlil Gibran)

Other people

We see other people relative to:

  1. Our own personality construct/self-image

  2. How we see and interpret the behaviour of the other person

  3. How their behaviour fits into our model of how things should be/operate 

This of course is not seeing what is actually there. It is filtering everything through ourselves.

Self-support mechanism

Vanity, pride, conceit, egotism, defensiveness, arrogance,


At the heart of competition is the notion that one person is better than somebody else. This has led to the creation of a callous society. There is no harmony to be found in competition.


Competition requires there to be comparison. Freedom and happiness cannot exist when you are anxious about what somebody else is thinking or doing.
Comparison necessitates balancing your idea of self against your idea of someone else's self. Beating the other person confirms our sense of self; it validates our own feeling of personal significance.


Self-image can serve as an elaborate disguise designed to hide inner fears and uncertainties.

Final product

Some people regard their idea of themselves as being the 'final product' - the finished version - in no need of revision or improvement. This attitude is a fast-track to mental deterioration.

Have you noticed, in newspapers and magazines, the amount of space given to politics, to the sayings of politicians and their activities? Of course, other news is given, but political news predominates; the economic and political life has become all-important. It is so much easier to throw oneself into social and political activity than to understand life as a whole; to be associated with any organized thought, with political or religious activity, offers a respectable escape from the pettiness and drudgery of everyday life.

With a small heart you can talk of big things and of the popular leaders; you can hide your shallowness with the easy phrases of world affairs; your restless mind can happily and with popular encouragement settle down to propagate the ideology of a new or of an old religion.



Page created 21 February 1995
Last updated 23 February 2018