“The common assumption most of us make about the self is that our goal as individuals is to look within, find our true selves, and try to be as authentic and true to ourselves as we can be,” Puett says. “But this assumes we have a stable self.”
By contrast, much of the Chinese philosophical tradition derived from Confucius envisions “the self” as more of a messy product of habit than a clearly-defined inner essence. “From a very young age, we’ll form patterns of responding to the world. Those patterns will harden and become what we mistakenly call a personality,” adds Puett.