I Wanna Be the Very Best

We live in a culture that places a social premium on adaptability, flexibility, and comfort with change. In our dynamic and quickly evolving social world, we are encouraged to “develop a flexible, adaptable identity. Contemporary life seems designed to fracture the unified self. (Elliot 126)” In this fast-paced environment, how do people deal with the constant demands to adapt and accommodate the changing world around us? How are we supposed to piece together a cohesive sense of identity when it is constantly evolving in response to ever-changing demands?

Our discussions in class have recently focused on the “authentic life” or the “authentic experience.” In class, we struggled to define what exactly this meant. What is the authentic self, for instance? As I mentioned in my previous post, some people insist that the person that they become when they are on medication is the person they truly are. Now that the Prozac helps free their minds from anxieties and concerns, they are free to access their untapped potential – the part that was held back by fear and timidity. But is your self-actualized, optimum self necessarily your “authentic” self? Isn’t a central part of who makes us who we are our defects, inadequacies, our quirks – the rough edges that don’t necessarily line up? Are we discounting a critical part of the human experience and what it means to be “authentic” by focusing on the optimal? It sounds like able-ism, to some degree.

On the other side of the debate, what are the dangers of making “normative” (what does this even mean?) existential suffering pathological? Claiming your behaviors stem from pathology or a diseased mind changes the narrative of who you are. “I am the person I am, with the problems I have, because I have this particular mental disorder. It is a story that provides me with a sympathetic listener  (my doctor or therapist), a community of like-minded sufferers (my support groups), and a coherent narrative (told on television) both for myself and for those to whom I must explain myself. (Elliot 128)” If we derive such a huge part of our identity from our thoughts, then what happens when we have a disorder and we can no longer trust those thoughts? Also, how much will we cling onto this social identity? I am just wondering how unreasonable it would be to assume that on some level, we would be reluctant to give up an aspect of our identity, even if it is negative, and if that could potentially bar us from further treatment.

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