Mid Term – The Authentic Self

Expositional Essay – Authentic Self

In my twenty-first year of existence, I still have no idea who I am. The concept of my identity is muddled between my uprising,  my childish ego, and my current facticity. It is a struggle to figure out what my ‘self’ is and what ‘my self’ even means. And it seems as if I’ve been riding a perpetual cycle of trial and error as I stroll the aisles of my facticity, meticulously incorporating the attractive and healthy qualities of the other people in my life for my own survival. It has been an interesting ride. Upon my journey in this existentialism course, I’ve been provided detailed and insightful philosophical accounts of the meaning of self and authenticity, all of which express living a life which is honest to your individual intuitions and desires.

The self is a complicated subject. It is a common agreement among existentialists that the self is a construct in we create and cultivate in each of our own lives. It is the argument that existence precedes essence. Taken from a quote by Kevin Aho, from his book, Existentialism: An Introduction, it is “…the fact that we make ourselves who we are on the basis of meaning-giving choices and actions, and this activity of self-making underlies any account of our physical or psychical makeup” (Aho, 2014, pg. 48). All of our choices and actions have meaning, and the different approaches we have in maintaining physical or psychical makeup are a part of our self-making process.

Martin Heidegger refers to the self “as a ‘thrown-project’ , that is, we have been thrown into a past, into a factical situation that limits and constrains us, yet we simultaneously interpret and give meaning to this situation by projecting forward into possibilities that are always shaping and reshaping our identities” (Aho, 2014, p. 55). In Heidegger’s Being and Time, he makes the argues that in life, each person has their own set of equipment, or tools, that we each utilize for our individualistic intentions. In order to achieve authenticity in life, one must be able to approach their equipment with care and concern. The premise of this excerpt is of a much larger scope. It is that being-towards death is a reliable way to exist authentically.

Heidegger had felt in order to be authentic, or to exist in da-sein, one had to be living life with the knowledge and acceptance that death is one of the only probabilities we can truly count on in our lives. Heidegger mentions on multiple occasions the backlashes of avoiding death: “[it] dominates everydayness so stubbornly that…the neighbors often try to convince the dying person that he will escape death and soon return again to the tranquilized everydayness of his world taken care of” (Marino, 2014, p. 320), “they at the same time justifies itself and makes itself respectable by silently ordering the way in which one is supposed to behave toward death” (Marino, 2014, p. 321), etc. Heidegger makes the point that “authentic being-toward-death signifies an existentiell possibility of da-sein” (Marino, 2014, p. 327)

Friedrich Nietzsche has his own thoughts on how one should live to achieve authenticity in their lives. Amongst many of his theories of the self, Nietzsche has the will to power and the Übermensch. The will to power is the idea which says the encompassing drives and forces behind all forms of life, is that “every living thing is striving to grow, flourish, and dominate” (Aho, 2014, p. 91-92), in whichever way that organism sees fit.

Nietzsche also conceptualized the ubermensch, a “yes-sayer”… [who loves and affirms] his life as a whole. He is true to himself because he accepts the world as it is without the support of moral absolutes and owns up to all of the unique and idiosyncratic qualities that make him the person he is, all of his strengths and weaknesses, everything that has been and will be in his life” (Aho, 2014, p. 94). In the quest for authenticity, we find the ubermensch, the symbol of the authentic being. Nietzsche conducted a thought experiment he calls the ‘doctrine of eternal recurrence’. Essentially, it states that in your loneliest hour, a demon visits you and says, “This is life, as you live it now and as you have lived it, you will have to live it once more and countless times more. There is nothing new about it… the eternal hourglass of existence is turned over and over again” (Aho, 2014, p. 95). At the sight of this, the average person would surely be ‘shattered’ by this doctrine, says Nietzsche. But the Ubermensch does not recoil from the demon; he responds, “You are a god and I have never heard anything more godlike” (Aho, 2014, p. 95). The idea of the ubermensch, the yes-sayer, is one of good faith. It is one of being true to yourself. If one were to violate their truth to themselves, Sartre would say that they exhibit bad faith.

French Philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre’s theory of bad faith is one which undertones the process of understanding ourselves, and existing in our authentic natures. I found this concept particularly striking, as the essential meaning I found in it is to follow your heart, and to not allow external pressures deter you from your intuitive feelings. Sartre introduces his reader to the ‘No’, which is said to be “the man of resentment“ (Marino, 2004, p. 370).  The No is a person “…whose reality is entirely that of the No, who will live and die, having forever been only a No upon the earth” (Marino, 2004, p. 370). I take it to mean that those who not only have restricted the choices of other people through arbitrary means, but have also limited their own freedom as well by negation, are considered a No. Through the No, Sartre raises the question of self-negation, which is “[taking] negative attitudes towards [one]self” (Marino, 2004, p. 369). Then, Sartre claims, “This attitude, it seems to me, is bad faith…” (Marino, 2004, p.370).

Sartre provides multiple analogies to explain the process of bad faith. He first speaks of the unconscious properties of thought, and the conscious symbols these instinctual thoughts represent. He describes the concrete products of this type of thought. “Fear, lapses of memory, dreams really exist as concrete facts of consciousness in the same way as the words and the attitudes of the liar are concrete, really existing patterns of behavior” (Marino, 2004, p. 374). Sartre is comparing the concrete nature to our internal dialogue – which is full of fears, dreams, and lapses of memories – to the concrete nature of the liar’s attitude, saying that they both represent existing patterns of behavior. Our internal dialogue represents our instincts and personal desires and the lies we commit represent bad faith.

Sartre then introduces another analogy. This time, he speaks of a young woman who has agreed to go out with a man for the first time. She is aware of that he has romantic intentions, but does not reciprocate the advances made by the gentlemen. Towards the end of their outing, when the man took the woman’s hand, she just leaves her hand there as if she had not noticed the physical sensation  to her body in the first place. This introduces another face to bad faith. She had two options: one, to release her hand from his grip, or; two, affectionately react to signal the man had made an appropriate act. “Her aim is to postpone the moment of decision as long as possible” (Marino, 2014, p. 381), says Sartre. That moment, when she decided to act as though she had not noticed the touch of the man, was one of bad faith. She sacrificed her internal intuition at the expense of the dignity of her hand, resting in the comfort that the other party would have no guarantee of her reflection upon his touch. The moment she chose to keep her hand in place and carries on as if he had not made a move in the first place was a perversion of her good faith; Sartre says “she realizes herself as not being her own body, and contemplates it as though from above as a passive object to which events can happen but which can neither prove them nor avoid them because all its possibilities are outside of it” (Marino, 2014, p. 382).

In Existentialism: An Introduction, we learn that both bad faith and good faith are eternal in the human experience. Aho says, “In good faith, the young man acknowledges his factical situation[…]but he simultaneously acknowledges his transcendence, seeing that this pattern of conduct does not determine who he will be in the future, because he can freely choose to act from a range of possibilities that are open to him and that he alone is responsible for these choices” (Aho, 20). This implies that, as we are freely able to choose from a ‘range of possibilities’ and that ‘[we]’ alone are responsible for our choices, that we are as susceptible to behave anywhere within the spectrum of our transcended selves or ourselves as a No. As Sartre stated himself, “it is best to choose and to examine one specific attitude which is essential to human reality and which is such that consciousness instead of directing its negation outward turns it toward itself” (Marino, 2014, p. 370).

I have had strong feelings of solidarity with the sentiments listed above in particular. As I try to understand who I am, I need to remember to stay true to my intuition and to remember to resist the influences of societal pressures and expectations. I need to remember that I am still finding myself and am still struggling on this road to authenticity. Though I was just ‘thrown into’ this world to figure out who I was, I can count on Heidegger to comfort me in my journey towards death. I can count on Nietzsche to believe in my will to power in my quest to becoming an ubermensch, without any feelings of judgement from his nihilistic behalf. And I can count on Sartre for reminding me to stay good and faithful to my true intuition and desires.

Reference list:

Aho, K. (2014). Existentialism: an introduction. Cambridge: Polity.

Marino, G. D., Kierkegaard, S., Nietzsche, F., Dostoïevski, F. M., Heidegger, M., Sartre, J., . . . Ellison, R. (2004). Basic writings of existentialism. New York: The  Modern Library.


Random Anxious Ramblings: Let’s be real. Let’s be friends.

Most days, I wake up in my faintly-lit studio apartment in my lonesome, only to question my purpose and place in this dauntingly intimidating planet I’ve found myself on. Thoughts like these bear a heavy weight, especially in the morning-time, so you could imagine the challenge of shifting my anxious and hesitant mindset to one with more uplifting qualities. It’s the fact that I’m always doubting myself and my abilities which overtones my general behavior. I’ve noticed that it only takes a little bit of validation to snowball my mindset to one of more hopeful qualities, and I feel lucky to receive such validation at any moment in a day. I’m sure you understand what I mean by this. With positivity, more positivity can follow. Sometimes it won’t, but that isn’t the result of an absence of positivity. Not that I think.

I feel like positivity is something which can spread like a virus, but it is those with the open-minded immune system who are able to feel its expression. There are those who are callused and have built up for themselves a wall of resistance. This could be for a lot of reasons: receiving feelings of ingenuous intent, disbelief of the compliment/claim as a whole, self-doubt, insecurity, or the combination of it all.

I’ve suffered from the combination of these all throughout my lifetime and am working very hard to overcome these obstacles that impede the flow of my heart and soul.

But my suffering is the exact reason why I try what I try – to be positive and to open up to those around me, establishing an environment where neither you or I should feel afraid to express ourselves.

Sometimes I have a lot of trouble with social interactions, especially those of fresh familiarity. Sometimes I feel as though I am able to gear the conversation so the vibes are lighthearted and compassionate, and other times I personally feel rejected and uninteresting.  But, I’m sure you all have felt a similar way when speaking to me at some point. Conversations are hard, and sometimes they don’t go exactly the way we would like them to be.

Honestly, I’m not too sure what my premise is or where I’m exactly going. But I would like to make this point now:

If I know you or don’t know you, I don’t ever want you to be afraid of speaking your heart to me. I want you to feel comfortable with expressing your thoughts to me. I don’t want you to think that I will judge you (which I may do, but I do my best to stay observant without making conclusions as I realize there’s more to everyone than meets the eye, and in the end, most people in the world are great people and have a lot of awesome things in their lives and minds they can share). Honestly, anything you say, especially if you give it care and concern, is valuable to me to the upmost degree.

Moving to Portland has been a very new experience to me, and honestly, speaking to a lot of you trips me out. I think it’s the combination of both of our insecurities that allows the bumpy flow of conversation we can have. I think it has to do with the fact that I don’t know you very well and you don’t know me very well. How can we expect ourselves to feel comfortable to someone who could potentially harm us?

Here is an example of some thoughts that I’ve stumbled upon the past couple years:

it’s only awkward if you make it awkward.

you make it awkward if you feel awkward

but why do you feel awkward?

why does that sudden pinch  in your psyche reveal itself the second you say something in a sloppy manner?

why does it matter that you aren’t a great story teller?

why does it matter that you need to take 5 seconds to feel comfortable speaking?

why does it matter that you rushed into that verbalization without proper consideration and now you’re not sure if you’ve made your point across at all?

I could go on and forever, but my overall lesson is that you shouldn’t feel awkward about anything. Everyone makes mistakes, and no one expects anyone to be perfect. As long as you are being genuine and speaking from the heart, I’m sure the majority of people will see you as an equal human being just as they see everyone else. I mean sure, there are assholes and narcissists in the world, but why would you need their validation in your life anyways? In my ideal world, people talk to each other with respect, care, and concern.

Through my own experience, most of the times I felt awkward or uncomfortable in a conversation turned out to be completely fraudulent in reality. Much of my anxiety was falsely attributed to my conscious. My brain was trying to warn me of the unappealing qualities of my soul and speech, but I should’ve been listening to my heart the whole time. In the end, it didn’t matter and I’m sure both parties had forgotten most of the substance in the conversation anyways.

I don’t know man. I’ll branch onto this later. I gotta finish up some homework before class. But anyways:

If you’re one of those people who are uncomfortable in their minds and body, ask yourself why. You might find the origin to be an abstraction of your own insecurities or maybe you’re not doing enough mental or physical exercises to satisfy your general well being. Wherever you end up, realize that you’re a great person with a capable mind, and it isn’t much of a responsibility as it is a privilege to be able to have these thoughts that you find in yourself, and to share it with your fellow human beings.

You have a mind. You have a heart. Realize they’re both important to follow and show the world what you have to offer!

Descriptive Existentialist Essay #1: Reflection towards my meaning of life

This is my first descriptive essay for my Existentialism course at Portland State University. It serves as an elaboration of my life purpose, using reflections of the past and content from our assigned readings to weave my current meaning of life.

To put the matter succinctly yet concise, my life purpose is to overcome the barriers in my life in order to achieve the best personal experience in any of the interests of my own attention. At least, that is what it seems to be. I have been struggling to find my own stance on how I should choose to live throughout my entire life. Growing up in a home filled with conflicting spiritual and personal ideologies, much of which was catered to a traditionalist taste of cultured consistency, I found myself in dispute with the many of the conditions surrounding me. I grew up with baggage containing unanswered questions and behavioral quirks that have shaped me throughout my time. The primary sources of my comfort were playing music and hanging out with my best friends. That was the only time I could truly feel free in life.

Coming from an extremely musical family tree, my Dad was the first to introduce me to music and the power it had to encourage positivity and solidarity it could have on human beings. Music is in my blood, I have been playing it since before I could read. But it wasn’t until my high school years, 3 years after I had picked up the guitar, that I had truly found purpose in creating music and performing it to a crowd. Since then, I have been pairing my existential crises with my music as a way of therapy for myself. I was able to find flow in musical expression, and because of my opportunity to experience these tools that engage emotional acuteness, I have cultivated both my abstract and musical thinking immensely. Because of the personal impact music had on me and my upbringing, it is without a doubt that I will continue to create music in my life, for myself and those who wish to listen with me. Music has provided me the emotional purpose to keep exploring and to speak from the heart, and the many comforting qualities I’ve attained from music throughout my life have shown to be worth a lifetime of attention.

Though much of my life  I have always been an inquisitive and thinking musician, it was not until my sophomore year in high school I had become interested in the study of the human mind: psychology. The class had provided me with a way to expand these concepts of cognitive biases, personality, drugs, serial killers, and the overall behaviors of our social world, all of which I had contemplated to much degree prior my course. Psychology and music since have been the two topics of interest that have fascinated my interest the most. The opportunity to understand myself and the society of humans surrounding gave me more hope of the future. Psychology has impact on my writings in my music and the music I would make provided the comfort I needed in the present despite persevering through my hardships.

In the beginning of my academic career, I had traversed here, in the Pacific Northwest. Then, I had no idea what I was doing with my life. Before moving, I ran underground house shows in my friend’s basement back in Illinois. When faced with a blank setting for my next chapter in life,  I chose Portland instinctively, as I had figured it would have a thriving music scene. But I couldn’t gain my parent’s approval to travel anywhere unless I attended to college, which was not much a problem as it was the plan from the beginning to go. The point of this is that I am in college, not because I necessarily want to be, but because I know that it is a road taken for many reasons. On one side,  you get to cultivate your growth and experience as knowledge loving academic. On the other, you get to spend a lot of money you could be using to invest on other projects. One one side, you are provided a path where you can enrich your abilities to cater to your deepest and most desirable career choices. On the other side, it’s kind of hard to enrich your abilities when you’re not too sure which degree will provide the most benefit, both fiscally and emotionally. So many conflicts of choice. They all concern one important theme for my future: my method of surviving in this increasingly expensive and fiscally demanding world. Starting as a psychology major and jazz studies minor, I would soon dabble into majoring in film, then back to psychology, and now I’ve dropped the minor all together. I chose to drop my music minor, as I would rather go online and learn myself, and to meet fellow musicians to gain more experience, than to spend money on courses that demand extraneous effort on my end in order to gain a piece of paper that has very little to no promise in helping the chance of opportunity in my musical endeavors.

You could say my life purpose is an amalgam of strategies that aim to serve my adventure towards ideal survival in this crazy existence. This means I need to find ways to survive in the physical realm, as in afford the conditions of my shelter as well as food and water, also including being able to have means to afford anything unnecessary to survival (such as books, musical equipment, whiskey), but crucial to my development as a learning and satisfied entity. It also means I need to come up with tactics to accommodate and balance my emotionality, and to help myself enjoy the time here in the present, as opposed to worrying about the past or fearing the future. My spirituality must be maintained through meditation and abstract thinking, all geared towards empowering myself as my own individual, existing in this realm filled with other like-minded individuals here to meet. My personal goals are to discover more about the human psyche and ways to increase motivation in a person. My personal goals are to help people find happiness in their own lives, through music and counseling and also with those I am fortunate enough to have in my life. My personal goals are to make music that contains growth and honesty from the source in which the muses provide me, with the intent that others listening will be able to find some gain something from the experience. My main purpose in life is to take all I can from the world in order to fine tune my satisfaction in my own existence, so I will be better able to give back to the world as it has given to me. This is what I was born here to do and it is also what I want to do.

This is why I am in this existentialism course, so I can explore the minds of the ones with similar and new thoughts than my own, and to find the lesson in each one has. It is also interesting learning of existentialists like it is with any other person, they have unique origin stories and hardships to deal with, yet they all touch on similar qualities of thought when concerning our own existence. In Dostoevsky’s “Notes from the Underground”, the reader is offered a memoir of an incredibly conscious and anxious man, and presented a perspective which explores conflicts of thought and action. He makes claims of guilt and denies himself pleasure, he spends time with those in which he feels spite. He is a mess, and reading it showed me that there was a whole world of people who overindulge themselves with their thoughts. Chapter one in Kevin Aho’s “Existentialism: An Introduction” is founded by the description of the evolving framework of thought which was existentialism. Reading that helped emphasize the truth of history and the rise of existentialist thought in the world, and that itself had truly resonated with me. Now I had a source where I could extend even further my insight in life, and it was through the works of other people.

The readings from this existentialism course resonated with me to a high degree in my own introspective life. In Chapter two of Kevin Aho’s book “Existentialism: An Introduction”, Aho alludes to a quote from Plato’s Republic, “It leads the soul forcibly upward”. This claim portrays Plato’s insight of what happens when a person begins to apply abstract and mathematical thinking, such as geometry, in their framework of perception. For example, Aho mentioned detaching oneself of ‘…[the] physical body and my historical situation and employ the faculty of reason alone, I am able to encounter the essence of this particular object in terms of numbers that are timeless and universal.” (Aho, 2015, p. 39). He extends this thought by distinguishing the simple observation of ‘small circular thing’ to an enriched perspective  with attention to the unchanging geometric principles which exist in said small circular thing.

Personally, I was able to connect strongly with the sentiment of detaching oneself and their historical situation. Recently, my quest to find freedom from mental anguish has found light in the form of deep breathing and meditation. Though the teachings I’ve learned are not fully developed or absorbed in my conscience, I’ve realized much of my distress is a result of my nature to talk to myself uncompassionately. With the context provided by Aho, most particularly the phrase “my historical situation”, it shed hope to the idea that the concept of wrongfully attributing oneself to their environment in a negative light was not as foreign to the human condition as I had previously questioned, and that acknowledgement provided hope to finding an adequate framework of perception to encourage more peace and mindfulness to my daily lifestyle. It was not until this reading and class that I considered developing my math skills to have a direct effect on my abstract thinking process, so that is a lesson that I hope to indulge myself into more throughout my lifetime.

Another concept from Aho’s chapter 2 distinguishes the human being to any other being on this planet due to our emotional nature, which segways into the thought that we are more than just a reasoning rational animal, which is also a feature distinct to the human race. The more we ‘fear and suffer in confronting our own situation’ and become “[…more intensely aware of our situation… the more intensely we feel it, the more we suffer” (Aho, 2014, p. 41). In the beginning of this year, I realized I was more of an emotional creature than I had perceived myself to be. To be honest, I have been feeling very overwhelmed the past couple weeks by the perpetual state of existential crisis – many surrounding purpose and existence- which have served me since the dawn of my memory. Upon the reflection of my reflections, I realize not many of the concepts I touched could be applied with certainty. I enjoy the sentiment of an eternal, atemporal realm coexisting with our physical world. I enjoy the idea that much of our analog is commended by our muses. I enjoy the idea that our consciousness could prelude our brain and bodies, making the perception of a potential second life within reach. But more than anything, I am discomforted by the level of certainty any of us can truly have of much in our speculations.

Growing up, I was a very angsty individual for varied reasons, and it was my self-identity at the time. The classic sassy mama who listened to melancholy music and found emotional solidarity on his free time. Last year, I had found comfort in focusing on my actions more, and insight from removing myself more from my overindulgent nature of solving personal dilemma. One overarching quality I realized was that I did not have to attribute equal attention to every thought, and the core of the thoughts I found value in were tangible sentiments and concepts that catered to my interest on transforming my lifestyle to positive productivity. My concern and attention to the chance of god had diminished, I had placed more emphasis on myself than I did the worry of past social interactions with fellow human beings, I had started my phase into finding more light and liberty in my life and mind. This is why Kierkegaard’s proposal of an ancient Greek aphorism: “One must know oneself before knowing anything else” (Aho, 2014, p. 43), strikes my emotionality the most in Aho’s Chapter 2. In my own life, I would find dismay when focusing on the external world which I had been placed to exist and observe. My greatest times in existence were when I was expressing myself through music and writing and when I was with those who I could trust and was comforted by. Most if not everything else would give me anxiety to some extent; the indefinite sense of certainty of the best and most socially appropriate action I should make in a given environment is scary and harbors a lot of self doubt.

This is why much of my life’s purpose has been to question and have a certain consensus of my belief on everything, as I am on a journey away from self-loathing in order to find refuge in my own freedom of uncertainty. But as many people before I have discovered, not much is worth questioning until the questioner has truly found the answer for the underlying inquiry in each of our lives: “Who am I?”. Which leads into the next point of resonance I acquired from this class, Da-Sein, or in other words “being there”, or being in the present.

Da-Sein has a lot implications in it, but Martin Heidegger makes the point to not fear death and to live an authentic life in his work Being and Time. Heidegger argues not to flee from death and the concept of it, but to keep moving towards it and acknowledge that death is inevitable (Marino, 2004, p. 319). I think that moving with my plan and acknowledging that death can come at any moment should empower me more than intimidate me. But this alone was not enough to resonate with me. Heidegger also claims that an authentic life is one who approaches the equipment in their lives with care and concern (Marino). This is a re-affirmative concept that encourages me to find my tools and to utilize them gently, so as to make the best of my options, and so I do not approach such equipment blindly or arrogantly.

My life purpose has been stated: to overcome the barriers in my life in order to achieve the best personal experience in any of the interests of my own attention. Throughout my life, I know I will have many goals and ideas. I hope that I will take this trail for knowledge my whole life, so that I am better to achieve said goals and ideas most adequately. Because of certain texts that have resonated me in our class readings, I am closer than I’ve ever been to optimizing my mindset. Though, even when I’m old and brittle, I’m not sure if I’ll ever find true enlightenment.



Aho, K. (2014). Existentialism: an introduction. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

Marino, G. D. (2004). Basic writings of existentialism. New York: Modern Library.


This is the post excerpt.

Welcome to my site, friends. Inside you will find my introspective self delving into the contents of my own psyche. You will likely realize that I have no idea what I’m talking about, and for that reason alone is the catalyst towards the creation of this blog. I hope you enjoy and if you ever have any questions or would like to contact me for whatever reason, hit me up!