Articles, Blog

Why We Aren’t Who We Are | The Tragedy Of Being What You Can’t Define

August 30, 2019

“Trying to define yourself is like trying
to bite your own teeth.” Alan Watts. In today’s society we are expected to define
who we are and take that self-image as a basis for making life decisions. For example: I’m an introvert, and from
that point of view I choose my career, my social life and, basically, the way I interact
with society. But aren’t we selling ourselves short if
we live that way? Are we truly who we are? Or are the attempts to become who we are the
reason that we aren’t? First of all, thank you Belgacem and Billy
for supporting me on Patreon. And thank you Tiago for PayPal donation and
kind words! I appreciate your help and I make sure that
I’ll spend your donations on either preferred indifferents or virtue. So, why aren’t we who we are? And who do we we think we are, which we actually
aren’t? It all begins when we leave the womb. From the moment parents lay eyes on their newborn children, they begin to define what they are. Many observe certain personality aspects in
their offspring very early on, and quickly draw conclusions. The child is sensitive, or sporty, shy, or
perhaps the strong and silent type. Based on these observations our parents begin
to push us into certain directions that fit the narrative that they have created about
us. An energetic child may be pushed into becoming
an athlete and the personality of the shy and sensitive kid could be enforced by overprotectiveness. And thus, the children become what the parents
designed them to be. The identification with our self-image continues
through adolescence and adulthood. Based on who we think we are and what society
tells us to be, we decide what education to follow and what career path we should take. An introverted creative type probably chooses
a job as a designer while the extroverted, social butterfly may go for a career in sales
or management. In this case, there’s nothing wrong with
introversion or extroversion. Both can be valuable traits. The problem lies in our identification with
these traits. The benefit of a strong identification with,
let’s say, introversion gives us the idea that we create order out of chaos. We create an identity for ourselves. In a same way we do this with any label, from
INTJ, to alpha male to being a ‘spontaneous’ or ‘boring’ person. It’s quite convenient to decide that a set
of characteristics is simply you. That the evasion of social gatherings and
spending every Saturday night reading books or browsing the internet, is who you are. Am I a loner because that’s who I am? Or am I a loner because I’ve developed a
pattern of behaviors that lead to me secluding myself from social interaction? By strongly identifying ourselves with a certain
label, we close the door to many possibilities. One may say: I get angry quickly. Why? Because that’s who I am. Well, not so fast. Is there actually a permanent self? Or are we nothing more than a collection of patterns and habits that have become our comfort zone? We are more malleable than we think. By applying different habits we break with
existing patterns of behavior. And by repeating these over and over again,
we’re able to transform our personality in something entirely different. Moreover, isn’t it so that certain radical
events can result in a personality switch overnight? Aren’t we going from role to role, adapting
ourselves to every situation, being a different person everywhere we go, in the presence of
every different person we meet? Am I not Einzelgänger on YouTube, but a son to my parents, a brother to my siblings, a friend to my social circle, a spectator during a
play and a passenger in an airplane? Can I possibly be one personality, always,
anywhere, or is it just that I identify with the traits that I deem favorable? Looking at how flexible the mind actually
is, and how we can change roles all the time, and how we have the ability to erode old behavioral
patterns and cultivate new ones, it seems quite clear to me that we, in essence, aren’t
our story. So the question is: who are we? Is there one central self that is unchangeable? Is there something beyond what the Germans
call hintergedanken, what Carl Jung called the Shadow, what the Stoics call the philosopher
and what the Taoists call the sage? If we look deeply inside: can we feel it? Can we smell, taste, hear, or see it? Probably, when you do, it’s not the real
you. As the Taoists say that the Tao that can be
spoken is not the real Tao. But what is it then? And why can’t we grasp it? Why, if we try to define it, we can’t get
past what our senses perceive and only come up with vague concepts and descriptions of
what we think could be the self? This is the tragedy of being something that
we cannot define. And that’s the reason why all religions
and philosophies that ponder over the question ‘who are we?’ can only describe the next
best thing. This is why we cannot see the eye that sees,
bite the tooth that bites and touch the finger that touches. This tragedy unfolds in people grasping anything
that gives them an idea of who they are, like a drowning person holding onto a wooden plank
after escaping a sinking ship. We can’t stand the idea of ‘not being’. We can’t comprehend what it’s like to
‘be’ without thinking and sense perception. And because we fear that the unpredictable
and ever-changing universe will swallow us, we create a strong sense of self: I’m an
accountant, I’m an introvert, I’m a YouTuber, I’m a loser. We choose to pursue certainty in a universe
that is inherently uncertain by creating a story that anchors us in the wild waves of
the ocean. Unfortunately, by saying yes to a strong and
fixed sense of self, we (for a great part) say no to life. We become rigid and brittle like a dead tree,
as opposed to grass that blows along with the wind without resistance and, thus, grows
tall and flexible. Or we become a rock in the river stream. And even though we stand strong and firm;
the liveliness of the water passes us by until we become eroded and diminished to nothing
more than dust. Thank you for watching.


  • Reply Sam The Slouch August 25, 2019 at 6:06 pm

    "Identity is a prison! Let yourself respond authentically to each moment as it arrives, without being bound to the narrative of who you think you are! The self is a construct! The truth of your existence is ever changing and infinite as the universe is ever changing and infinite! Abandon the stories of your past selves and be present and alive in this very moment! IDENTITY IS DEAD! THE SELF IS DEAD! YOU ARE ALIVE!"

    -Phemiec on Tumblr

    They posted it some time ago and its been screenshotted and sitting on my phone ever since.

  • Reply ShiftingGear OTP August 25, 2019 at 6:28 pm

    I am defining myself by these videos

  • Reply Bad Mudafucka August 25, 2019 at 6:28 pm

    theres simply no you. its just a matter of balls.

  • Reply Birnen Buddha August 25, 2019 at 6:52 pm

    Warum hast du deinen Namen deutsch gelassen?

  • Reply Star Destroyer August 25, 2019 at 7:15 pm

    Sad……but true……

    Thank you for your videos ❤️☯️

  • Reply Emancipated Rock August 25, 2019 at 7:21 pm

    I accidentally bit my tooth once… After I lost it when I was a kid, I put it under my pillow but I was eating a candy cane before bed. I thought it was a fragment of the candy cane I was eating so I picked it up and… Ouch. 1/10 would not recommend.

  • Reply Michel Hébert August 25, 2019 at 7:28 pm

    I think there is always two sides in all things (positive/negative). You may think that's a tragedy because we can't precisely being identified, but there's also another, brighter side about this. We, as humans, have the possibility to change and evolve into different things, personnas, individuals, discovering life in a lot of different ways to acquire a more global understanding of humankind as it is! Why not taking it on a more positive vibe? 🙂

  • Reply Andrei Raul August 25, 2019 at 7:34 pm

    U live in a cool place

  • Reply fixitladynow August 25, 2019 at 7:42 pm

    False Ego

  • Reply Jo B.W August 25, 2019 at 8:06 pm

    This is wonderful, articulate, thoughtful and true. As I am approaching the last part of my life it has also made me very sad. Has my life thus far been nothing more than a construct composed of labels (my own and other peoples) and a waste of time?I don't believe so- because if I did I would wish to step in front of a train.

  • Reply Rick Boers August 25, 2019 at 8:15 pm

    Just know that everyone is just trying in this life. Nobody knows

  • Reply Goodness Of G-d August 25, 2019 at 8:20 pm

    More Alan Watts types
    Suggesting that we are G-d
    Pretending not to be.
    Seems humans are All Knowing
    These days.

  • Reply Forthe Lulz August 25, 2019 at 8:23 pm

    The best video you've made so far!

  • Reply Lisa Gibson August 25, 2019 at 8:25 pm

  • Reply John C3333 August 25, 2019 at 8:48 pm

    states are none permanent, all the negatives are certain, the universe requires balance, ergo

  • Reply Marilyn Barker August 25, 2019 at 9:02 pm

    I was raised by a family of extroverts….I never fit in but I never knew why. I’m in my 70’s now and finally understand that I’m way down on the introvert scale. Finally!! I’m learning to be comfortable with who I was really meant to be…it takes a lifetime!

  • Reply Renee Ren-Patterson August 25, 2019 at 9:07 pm

    Thank you for sharing the deep knowledge of human nature! "Why aren't we who we are?" Human nature personality formation come from two important factors: Genetic + Epigenetics. Both factors made individual human to have different personality and behaviors. During each individual brain development, who has been involved with culture, moral and identity influence…. All of these complex factors are built into who you are – Final Result. Who you are? which is a long life journey and is presented a really your life with so many difficulties and suffered for overcoming to have a character or identity of own. No body can be judged someone if you were never known the whole picture….I wish that everyone should respected with the others-who we are…

  • Reply Rick OnMaui August 25, 2019 at 9:20 pm

    As hard as I try, I’m no quite an Extrovert. I have extroverted moments . Some longer than others, but in the end, I must retreat into the proverbial cave so that I can regenerate. Nonetheless, I still enjoy your channel and gems of insight and wisdom. Yours truly introverted.

  • Reply Andrew Wilson August 25, 2019 at 9:25 pm

    What if I can't become like grass no matter how hard I try

  • Reply Stephen Ridley August 25, 2019 at 9:35 pm

    I overthink, therefore I possibly am.

  • Reply Shadowman August 25, 2019 at 9:38 pm

    You can make the unconscious, conscious. But how to you transform yourself into something else?

  • Reply David J August 25, 2019 at 9:39 pm

    Attaching yourself to a spouse/partner can also restrict you and put you in a box of expectations based on the self you’ve sold to the other.

  • Reply Prince Bumpkin August 25, 2019 at 9:50 pm

    To avoid a locked personality: Accept any reasonable invitation and half of the invitations that seem unreasonable. (If it's really unreasonable, you can sort that out when you get there.) Try something new every day and fully expect that you will fail at some of them. If you aren't failing, you aren't pushing yourself or learning new things.

  • Reply Daniel Capella August 25, 2019 at 10:01 pm

    Beautiful video, thank you so much !

  • Reply Amor Fati August 25, 2019 at 11:06 pm

    Dit had ik echt even nodig, dankjewel!

  • Reply John Oakley August 25, 2019 at 11:18 pm

    I have been an introvert all my life so far ,(56 years). I have never enjoyed the company of people, even as a young child my Mother noticed that I was ok-ish when I was with just one other person, but in the company of more than one person I became very uncomfortable, and would move away and occupy myself with something on my own. As I grew up I set out to not have friends, I could never see the point of it. As a young adult starting work my bosses loved my attention to detail, and hard work, and the fact that I never used to "chin wag" with the other workers, but concentrate 100% on my tasks. Now in my middle age, I have a very peaceful, calm life, and avoid having to be in the company of people like the plague, I have always functioned very well on my own, and continue to do so. I don't hate people, I just don't like being around them, and will take extreme steps to make sure that I don't stumble into a situation where there are lots of people..

  • Reply suzanne adamson August 25, 2019 at 11:32 pm

    Enlightening. Wish I could tap into Watts's joie de vivre…but not his smoker's cough!

  • Reply Hi there August 26, 2019 at 12:06 am

    Oh god, more mental masturbation crap. Dislike this junk and just go live a good life.

  • Reply Mark Daniel August 26, 2019 at 12:06 am

    Oooo I want to become dust

  • Reply Prashant Biswas August 26, 2019 at 1:12 am

    Wow! Thank you for this video. Really appreciate it

  • Reply Stronk Komrade August 26, 2019 at 1:35 am

    I am an introvert but i become a loud person with my colleague because we are all introverted.. i work as a 3D artist.

  • Reply Jamie Shannon August 26, 2019 at 2:23 am

    Dig your channel Einzelgänger, your vids are speak to me

  • Reply Lit E August 26, 2019 at 2:49 am

    Why do we need a sense of identity tho, everytime we go to sleep we lose who we are anyway

  • Reply SCL75 August 26, 2019 at 3:10 am

    🤯 this channel never lets me down.

  • Reply eddohan August 26, 2019 at 4:12 am

    You made my eye's water.
    Best channel I subscribed to in this year! Keep up the good work, I enjoy the video's…or the info/insights alot!

  • Reply Qyjon _ August 26, 2019 at 4:23 am

    Loved this weeks installment

  • Reply Dean McCrorie August 26, 2019 at 4:37 am

    The tragedy? More like enlightenment

  • Reply Christopher Walker August 26, 2019 at 5:16 am

    Wonderful video. Really enjoy and appreciate what you do. Thank you for making these videos. 🙏

  • Reply gelloyangster yang August 26, 2019 at 5:28 am

    ur channel makes me feel good

  • Reply StarBoyLust August 26, 2019 at 5:45 am

    We're the phone walkers… The ones that stare at screens and walk across roads with our screens glued to our face. Amazing. Yet we question our own existence. Maybe we should just stick to tapping screens and buttons and stop asking such complex shit.

  • Reply Iron Ballz August 26, 2019 at 5:47 am

    If you think that we are merely social constructs, then you might as well just believe in Communism.

  • Reply Nidhua Ferdous August 26, 2019 at 6:20 am

    And how do I say "yes" to life? In other words how to accept the uncertainty ? Can you plz make a video on that? I wanna hear it from you. Thanks

  • Reply Aapo Isoniemi August 26, 2019 at 7:00 am

    Nice audio. Much relaxing. Very calm

  • Reply eduardo cardona August 26, 2019 at 7:31 am

    Are you un dmt?

  • Reply Anoushka Singh August 26, 2019 at 7:35 am

    identity crisis

  • Reply mac2phin August 26, 2019 at 9:16 am

    Humans are the beings who are what they are not and are not what they are.

  • Reply ohronl Pader August 26, 2019 at 9:37 am

    I'm Ambivert vro

  • Reply dewybolas August 26, 2019 at 11:23 am


  • Reply ubuntuber August 26, 2019 at 11:24 am

    im the house keeping guy who loves to sniff beautiful white women's soiled underwears.

  • Reply Witch House August 26, 2019 at 11:27 am

    To think that there are people who create entire identities around a diagnosis which they may or not have.


  • Reply Bill Diaz August 26, 2019 at 11:29 am

    I believe you are asking the wrong question. Shouldn't we be asking "what are we"? Our acute sense of self awareness allows us to one; to separate ourselves from nature and two; the more dangerous, see our selves as above nature. Our biggest challenge lies in not understanding "what we are". The "who" is subjective. The "what" is where the rubber hits the road. What are you? My two cents!

  • Reply al bundy August 26, 2019 at 11:41 am

    you are to someone what what they think you are, it doesn't matter, it's of no importance. Navel gazing is pointless, polite, interested detachment works well.

  • Reply Rik Schoonenberg August 26, 2019 at 11:51 am

    I am not introverted nor extroverted, I am perverted. 😮 Thanks for the vid. 👍

  • Reply being pras August 26, 2019 at 12:09 pm

    You cannot ever DEFINE yourself because you're someone that is constantly growing.. thru experiences and learnings. I feel like i have grown so much in the last two years just by learning from channels like these that i feel like a completely different person..If you're someone that is going thru uncertainty and doubt in life, I have a video for you. I would like to invite you to stop by my channel if you wish 🙂 🙏

  • Reply vegangsta August 26, 2019 at 12:27 pm

    You can change what you do but it doesn't change who you are. If you start to do something that doesn't fit outside your archetype you become less inclined and less happy to do it. If your an introvert and let's say you try to do something that an extrovert might do yes you will do it but you wouldn't be giving it your all. Afterwards you would retreat back into books being alone etc for a few days or what ever maybe the case

  • Reply A F August 26, 2019 at 12:46 pm

    Genes are more determining than culture.

  • Reply Broken Games August 26, 2019 at 12:58 pm

    1:00 you are wrong. It all begins before. while you are in the womb. We can go more backwards as well. It depends on your parents and their parents and their parents and… and then environmental factors. resources at your disposal at every point of time and so on.

    Life is not complex. It just seems complex because of the amount of layers.

  • Reply HorrorSeeker X August 26, 2019 at 1:13 pm

    What a wonderful video, thank you.

  • Reply JustMeGina August 26, 2019 at 1:16 pm

    Are we truly who we are or are the attempts to become who we are the reason why we arent

  • Reply Booni August 26, 2019 at 2:00 pm

    I'm a fan of yours. But this wasnt your best. You usually do a really good job of explaining what your talking about. And having a link between things. Keep going nonetheless I'm still a fan

  • Reply Ryan Q August 26, 2019 at 2:16 pm

    The experiencer is not an object

  • Reply Capitalism is key August 26, 2019 at 3:58 pm

    You know it's going to be a good video when it starts with an Alan Watts quote

  • Reply shivam rana August 26, 2019 at 4:22 pm

    Very self will destroy us

  • Reply Trevor Or August 26, 2019 at 4:34 pm

    Many years ago in an argument with an old friend he asked who are you i replied ask me the day I'm lying apone my death bed i will give you the best answer i will ever be able to give in this lifetime. I still think that was the most complete answer i could give to that question

  • Reply Jennifer Grado August 26, 2019 at 4:55 pm

    We only become our true self when we detach ourselves from the identity we are identified by the people we are surrounded with and the society we live in

  • Reply Okba Cherboub August 26, 2019 at 4:58 pm

    "Carry on doing good deeds. Every one will find it easy to do such deeds (as will lead him to his destined place) for which he has been created."

    – Muhammad messenger of God

  • Reply INCORRUPTIBLE WORD August 26, 2019 at 5:09 pm

    You are your ego but that is the self you create. The real self is simply consciousness that is the one doing the creating of a self ie an ego. Problem is that we choose to believe ego is self without even understanding who or what our real self is and so we live according to the ego ourselves and to some degree our society has agreed upon.

  • Reply ICE-T LIEK OG August 26, 2019 at 5:25 pm

    Humans default identity comes with a shadow – a demon lurking at the very, very, very beneath; subtle though, eminent – keeping one grounded by whispering the rightness and wrongness of human deeds to consciousness.

  • Reply RVNSGLCR August 26, 2019 at 5:35 pm

    People often misunderstand what a model or framework is with regard to human lives and thus, how they can be useful. Jungian cognitive preferences and the MBTI treatment of them is perfectly useful in the model/framework sense even if it is not as descriptive of a the human as a system.

    The 5 factor model and even the Enneagram track traits that reside closer to the behavioral side of psychology. Jungian Archetypes, MBTI, & Socionics traits are cognitive order preferences that reside more in the personality side of psychology. If people take the time to read source texts and actually understand the importance of these distinctions, both sides are not only absolutely useful, but complimentary.

    Side note: In many ways, the success of Susan Cain's book was an unfortunate happening in self-discovery space.

  • Reply Look Behind You August 26, 2019 at 5:53 pm

    this can be a very life changing video for the right people

  • Reply Richard Garza August 26, 2019 at 6:31 pm

    Speak for yourself.
    Honesty, firstly…was and is key to my being able to do so.
    Beyond the terrible and cowardly me, which I can define perfectly simply by using the degradation shown me for being of color, poor, and supposedly uneducated.
    The beutiful, wonderful parts of me and all of us, needs no definition by words.
    We need but act so to define a world of wonder and peace, then achieve it.
    The acts of our lives are omni present, as are those never to be.

  • Reply Michael Thorn August 26, 2019 at 7:24 pm

    Don't get attached to your labels. They're just words

  • Reply Whitecranemaster1 August 26, 2019 at 8:17 pm

    Really a great piece of work! I enjoyed it very much. Like all your videos I am left with days of contemplation until the next! For that privilege, I am most grateful.. Thank You.

  • Reply Unphasedablaze Ray August 27, 2019 at 12:02 am

    Is too know oneself is to embody oneself from perceptional influence from past temperances of premeditated simulated algorithms set mood settings from biological neuroplasticity receptors of electrolyte of analytic analysts of a composition of bio-organism made up of 60% bio and carbon ,calcium and hydrogen , oxygen , phosphorus of elemental network of primordial soup of amino acids. Evolving into a evolution chaotic chance of being a sentinel .

  • Reply Justin Raper August 27, 2019 at 1:56 am

    Excellent video! I love this subject. I particularly enjoy reading about Taoism and the teachings of Ramana Maharishi when it comes to the nature of the self. Keep up the great work.

  • Reply Jacob H August 27, 2019 at 5:16 am

    The systematization of thought kills life

  • Reply Motivation Man August 27, 2019 at 5:19 am

    Who else tried biting their own teeth after reading that Alan Watts quote? Just me? Alright…

  • Reply Shadhir Jannath August 27, 2019 at 5:21 am

    thank you so much for this wonderful video!

  • Reply Orka DRLJAČA August 27, 2019 at 7:08 am

    lol way too much overthinking….just do stuff that makes you happy….

  • Reply xXRambodianXx August 27, 2019 at 12:10 pm

    I don’t like people and consider myself an introvert. But I feel so lonely 😕
    And still do, I feel empty and not free

  • Reply El Light August 27, 2019 at 3:13 pm

    I love you and your content! it's important not to let a label define us when we are multi-dimensional beings. Beliefs can be changed

  • Reply TimMer1981 August 27, 2019 at 3:33 pm

    Great video, thanks!

  • Reply Ben DeVaul August 27, 2019 at 4:38 pm

    "Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny."

    "There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till." -Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • Reply Majkl Skofild August 27, 2019 at 8:34 pm

    Very great video, thank you "Einzelganger." 😀

  • Reply Alpha Romeo August 27, 2019 at 10:33 pm

    Another golden thought.

  • Reply Irv August 27, 2019 at 11:28 pm

    Everyone is auditioning. I feel for fellow introverts who are not wired to fit in a falsify social construct and shamed for it.

  • Reply Daniel Southerland August 27, 2019 at 11:56 pm

    In my opinion anytime one changes a decision, like, hobby, or comfort environment based on what someone or society deems “normal” is a mistake. I’d love to see what would develop without the mainstream media’s opinionated distorted interjections into malleable minds.

  • Reply Ronald Layton August 28, 2019 at 3:42 am

    I'm a youtuber, I'm a loser? Awww man!

  • Reply Spiritual Warriors August 28, 2019 at 6:02 am

    Wonderful video and a fantastic subject beautiful and poetic in its delivery 👍🏻☀️

  • Reply Matthias Fritz August 28, 2019 at 5:35 pm

    because we cannot stand/ understand/ grasp the concept of nothing/non-existence we want to define ourselves by something… Great Video as always.

  • Reply Revived Mo August 28, 2019 at 7:38 pm

    That’s right I’m not me I’m you

  • Reply Joe G August 28, 2019 at 9:02 pm

    Yes, so true

  • Reply Dax Ross August 28, 2019 at 9:20 pm

    This is really good. Thank you

  • Reply Andros Ramos August 28, 2019 at 9:45 pm

    Beautiful video!!
    I often hear people justifying their unjust actions with the claim "This is who I am".
    If only they could understand that they are harming to themselves. It is an unvalid excuse to not make any efforts to work on oneself, and it is a lie because everything changes.
    Change is inevitable AND expected. Might as well change for the best…

  • Reply choggerboom August 28, 2019 at 11:51 pm

    One of my favorites from you, great video, and many things to contemplate over.

  • Reply Richard Perez August 29, 2019 at 5:06 am

    My new affirmation
    "I am human"

  • Reply majority rules August 29, 2019 at 2:42 pm

    Stop drop and roll

  • Reply RedBeneathYou August 30, 2019 at 1:33 am

    Always eye opening videos

  • Reply sukisuzuki10 August 30, 2019 at 6:50 am

    I enjoyed that one, always had a deep quandary with who I am or supposed to be, I always viewed it that I am a formation of my Mother’s (in particular) traits and dispositions that she experienced and expressed during my early years, I have distinct memories of my Morher’s depression and hopelessness that she lived in for most of my life, if I had been born elsewhere to someone else that would be different, some of you hit the jackpot with your parents, others just at the mercy of adults, not just occasionally but their entire development until leaving the nest, really liked this vid, said some aspects I have difficulty putting into reasonable dialogue

  • Reply Patryk! August 30, 2019 at 4:29 pm

    I find comfort in what you said 5:50 most of us can't stand.

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