What is it that makes you “you”?
Not, what defines you? Not, what experiences made you who you are?
But what is it that you use to define what it means to be you?
I don’t like mint. I’ve never liked it. I can stand it. I tolerate it at the dentist. I tolerate using mint toothpaste and dental floss. But I do not like it. That’s a part of who I am.
If I woke up one morning and I enjoyed the taste of mint, would I still be me?
As a child, I didn’t like spicy foods. As an adult, I enjoy them quite a bit. Am I a different person now than I was when I was young?
I would say that I am different. I believe that I have changed over the years that I’ve been alive on this earth. I am not the same person that I was 15 years ago.
But I am still me.
I am not my opinions. I am not my experiences. I am not even a sum or multiple of these things.
What is it that I am at my core? Is it my brain? Is it a soul? An extension of the universe using my body as a meat puppet to experience and understand itself?
In the novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being, there is a section where one of the narrators, Teresa, stares at herself in the mirror, and wonders how long she would still recognize herself as herself if her nose grew a millimeter every day. I don’t believe the body is integral to the self, though it has influence. A person is no less themselves should they lose a limb. But they do have to adapt to such a radical change in their body. That adaptation – will it change who they are?
I think it can, but it won’t necessarily.
Whatever it is that makes you, you, it is not immutable. It is subject to influence and change. Purposeful adaptations and incidental ones. Habits and fancies.
Because if change is not possible, then there’s no point in trying. If change is not possible, then how have I changed? How have I adapted to public speaking when it used to terrify me to the point of illness? How have I figured out how to calm my overthinking brain?
Whatever makes you, you, it isn’t your bad habits. You can let them go, and still be yourself. In fact, by letting them go, you might find that you have more room to be yourself.