The art of finding one’s self is not so much constructing a statue, but pulling off a series of overlapping masks. Exhuming a soul from the wreckage of child hood traumas, social and cultural mandates, as well as institutionally imposed fears and expectations, is no easy task.
It is an impossible task if approached in the wrong way. Inaccurate conceptualizations regarding authenticity render any attempts at self-discovery counter intuitive. Instead of mining for precious ore, you will be adding stone to the dig site, making future attempts even more difficult and daunting.
Your truest self is that which exists independent of social and societal enforcements and selects which of those enforcements is good and proper for creating a sustainable and healthy mode of being for one’s self and the society as a whole.
This will be frightening news to many: In order to be worthy of knowing yourself, you must cultivate shrewd critical thinking skills and accurate mental models of how complex systems can function harmoniously. We are all complex systems ourselves, as well as cellular components of larger, nested systems.
No man is an island, and thus one does not discover the authentic self by merely exploring what is bounded by the shore. To actually know and island, to understand how it was formed, how it will degrade, and how it functions, the ocean and the earth must also be understood.
But what of the individual voice?
The individual voice is what speaks when you are not thinking, and not motivated to speak by institutional or social pressures.
It is not whatever chatter sounds in your mind, any more than a musician’s most authentic song would be random finger tappings on a violin.
Perhaps a few of those random taps would form the basis of a melody, which could later be refined into a song. The authentic self is what selects the good and the beautiful out of an infinite amount of possible choices.
It is what creates.
It is what edits.
And it comes to be known by a process of self-sorting; the wheat from the chaff, beautiful from ugly, noble from evil.
But it cannot be known without a correct knowledge of the world outside the self.