The Definition of Self

definition of self

definition of self

I will be graduating in a few months’ time. My plan initially was to quickly look for a job when graduation was nearer. I was taken aback, however, by the fact that some of my peers had already started looking for a job the year before. Say what?! Yes, one whole year before graduating. Talk about kiasu – but it’s a reality in our world today. Everyone wants to snag that sweet job that promises cash and prestige. If you don’t, you lose out. You are a failure if you fail to get a great job by the time you graduate. Really?


In today’s world, we are bombarded by a massive amount of Directions that tell us what to do, how to do, when to do, and so on. Our Self becomes defined by the Directions that we follow. For example, I want to be considered as successful – how? By being a doctor – how? By being a terrific student, and scoring well enough to make it into medical school. Why does being a doctor make me successful? Because I will earn lots of money, and being a doctor is prestigious. Why is earning a lot of money and being a doctor both considered as being successful? Well… That’s what everybody says so.


Therefore, my Self that wants to be successful becomes directed by my very definition of success, which, to a large extent, is molded by conventions. End result: I am defined by how I define success – and this definition is hugely influenced by the conventions and Directions of society.

definition of self

Except… Such definitions are losing their legitimacy. Having a degree no longer guarantees you a job. Being a doctor or a lawyer guarantees cash, but does not guarantee satisfaction. The nature of prestige has been subverted – traditional definitions no longer apply. Security in jobs is progressively falling in priority among job-hunters – passion and satisfaction seem to be the new buzz words.


Yet, we still drill our youth to follow the “tried-and-tested” – except that we’ve forgotten that the “tested” have failed. So we force our youth to follow the “tried-and-failed”, crossing our fingers and hoping that it will work out somehow. But youth nowadays are smart. They no longer take things at face value. They question, they debate, they rebel. And they are wise to the fact that the old ways are failing.


Some things don’t change. Hard work is still an integral factor in one’s success (however defined). But the rules are changing. No longer is it wise to work hard at something one dislikes – that makes for discontent and dissatisfaction in the long run. It is far more prudent to find something that one truly believes in (irregardless of the prestige level) and still work hard at that. 


The bottom-line is this: It is now necessary for one to define Self in terms of what one truly believes in. Following the wrong Directions would result in a dissatisfied and disgruntled Self. The only way to find the right Directions is to look deep within oneself – throw off the old notions, renew one’s mind, and find what the heart truly desires.


At the end of the day, I decided – I will be spending a year travelling and exploring work in various places after graduation. No rush – it is far more important to find Self first.



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