I have been reading a lot of biographies lately, mostly of Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas.  They have left me wondering if “that which is the man” can ever be captured in a biography.

In life you never experience a person the way you do in a biography.  You never get an overview of a whole life– the same person in his context as a worker, a family man, a lover, a friend, a debtor, in all of his moods: when he is up, when he is down.  You have impressions of people.  You know parts of them.  A biographer tries to harmonize all of the impressions he or she can collect from people who caught these glimpses, who knew the person in part.

Who has the truth? Is the opinion of a person who dislikes you, colored by the memory of a bad experience less “true” than the memory of the person who was delighted by you? Is the truth the middle ground of these two poles or are you actually both things at the same time– a thoughtless person and a thoughtful person, depending on the context?

(Read the full article via the link)

But the Swedish study points towards something weirder: not just that we’re subconsciously influenced by our environments, but that we infer our very sense of who we are from our behaviour. Normally, we assume things work the other way: that a person who thinks of herself as compassionate will therefore act compassionately. But “self-perception theory” proposes that the opposite’s also true: we observe our behaviour, then reach conclusions about who we are. “After purchasing the latte, we assume that we are coffee connoisseurs,” as the psychologist Timothy Wilson writes on edge.org. After returning the lost wallet, we conclude that we’re honest. In reality, many pressures shape our behaviour – maybe, Wilson writes, we “returned the wallet in order to impress the people around us”. But we conclude “that our behaviour emanated from some inner disposition”.

Tags: self identity

"I have come to believe that by and large the human family all has the same secrets, which are both very telling and very important to tell. They are telling in the sense that they tell what is perhaps the central paradox of our condition—that what we hunger for perhaps more than anything else is to be known in our full humanness, and yet that is often just what we also fear more than anything else. It is important to tell at least from time to time the secret of who we truly and fully are—even if we tell it only to ourselves—because otherwise we run the risk of losing track of who we truly and fully are and little by little come to accept instead the highly edited version which we put forth in hope that the world will find it more acceptable than the real thing."

— Frederick Buechner, Telling Secrets (via psychotherapy)

I would like to propose that the reason people react strongly to gender “transgression” has less to do with gender than it appears.  Rather, the example of gender shines a light on an even greater question of identity in general.  Is the self inborn or is it a cultural construct?  How much of who I am is innate and how much is sculpted by the era and the culture in which I live?  If my sense of self is in conflict with who you think I am, which one of us is right?

We– and by “we” I mean primarily people raised in Western culture, especially the United States– We like to think of the self as stable and consistent.  “If I just do enough introspection I can uncover the real, authentic me.”  But what “me” will I uncover?   Was I my “authentic” self when I was 20?  Or have I finally become my “authentic” self now?  Does that mean the self that I will be at 60 is less “authentic” than I am today? Or am I my “authentic” self when I am in a good mood?  When I am writing in flow?  Or god forbid, am I my “authentic” self when my nerves are frayed and I’ve just told off the clerk at the store for no reason?  How much of what I think of as my deep, inner self has actually been molded by the culture around me?  Is my subjective experience my “self,” or am I more who I am in relation to others?  When you start to really examine these questions, you might begin to conclude that we are all a bit identity fluid, we are all identity queer.

What if this self that I spend all my time reinforcing isn’t what I think it is? Depending on how you like to relate to the world, you will either find this notion liberating or frightening.

"Humility is throwing oneself away in complete concentration on something or someone else."

— Madeleine L’Engle from A Circle of Quiet

Tags: flow focus self


Although the book is about homosexuality and the church on the surface, that is just the form the story takes. It is really about our identities and sense of self. The reason there is a long discussion of obituaries early on in the book is that it sets up this theme of identity as a story other people tell about us vs. identity as our subjective experience of the world. It’s not as easy as saying, “My subjective experience of myself is true and your opinion doesn’t matter.” We are who we are in relation to other people. So it is a balancing act to be authentic to your sense of self while maintaining relationships with other people.

The action takes place in a church community, but any community comes with the same types of dynamics. I may change, but there are other people who are invested in the person they believe me to be or who I have been to them.


— Interview with author Laura Lee about the novel Angel on Owl Tell You About It

"Anywhere I am is HERE. Anywhere I am not is THERE."

— Grover, Sesame Street

Tags: self presence

"What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder, because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great person is one who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude."

— Ralph Waldo Emerson (via thesearepeopleyouknow)

(via wordpainting)


I love this quote so much.


I love this quote so much.

(via soulfangs)


The more executives, entrepreneurs, and talented individuals I get to know, the more convinced I become that true happiness, a genuine sense of satisfaction, comes, as [David] Brooks suggests, not from “finding” yourself but from losing” yourself — in a company you believe in, a cause you are prepared to fight for, a commitment to solve a problem that has defied solution.

In other words, “we” is bigger than “me” — the true measure of success is not the value you create for yourself but the values that define your work and how you lead and live.


— Bill Taylor, Harvard Business Review