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Is the “You Do You” Experiment Actually Working?

By Koa Sinag

Is the “You Do You” Experiment Actually Working?

Origin of Identity

In our day, personal identity has never been more important than ever before. There’s unprecedented interest in identity formation, being yourself, and thinking about yourself. You hear the expression “You do you.” The basic advice is to look inward to find yourself. That’s attached to a bigger package of things like once you find yourself by looking inward, everyone’s meant to celebrate your identity. You’re meant to reject all external authority, and you’re meant to be authentic by living in accordance with that identity that you’ve found.

Now, basically, that’s not a bad thing to do. Looking inward, self-reflection—who can argue with that? But the question comes up, Is it really the only place to look, and is it true to human nature? And the other question of course is, Is it actually working? There’s some evidence that many people point to which says that the societal trends that all of us know about—that we are not happy with—increase in anxiety and depression and an actual lowering in the happiness index, as it’s measured. This may really, in my view, come back to this limitation of finding yourself by looking only inward—the self-made self.

It’s worth stepping back from the movement, which is called expressive individualism, to ask, Is it working? and Is it true to human nature?

At the end of the First World War, there was something called self-determination, and it was meant to be for the new nations with the new borders having been drawn. These days, self-determination is the responsibility of every individual. Kevin Vanhoozer says we’re suffering from a collective identity crisis. And in my experience, I’ve talked to lots of people about these issues, people who’ve lost their parents, people who’ve lost their jobs, people who’ve had relationship breakdown, people who’ve retired, people even in their twenties and thirties. These days, many people are finding that the question they’re asking is, Who am I, really?

There’s a lot of pressure put on people to find themselves by themselves just by looking within themselves. And it’s worth stepping back from the movement, which is called expressive individualism, to ask, Is it working? and Is it true to human nature?

Brian S. Rosner is the author of How to Find Yourself: Why Looking Inward Is Not the Answer.

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Author: Brian S. Rosner

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