We spend a lot of time talking about being “authentic.” We are encouraged to look within, struggle to uncover who we really are, and then embrace what we discover.
The pitfall in this process is we often unearth only a snapshot of who we are at a particular time and place. We must be alert to the danger of labeling ourselves based on parental observations attached long ago during childhood i.e. she is hot-tempered, he is not very attentive. These childhood labels become permanent and unshakeable. In reality, we are a complex array of desires, traits, and emotions that pull us in different directions.
So how do we avoid the danger of defining ourselves as frozen in a moment in time?
Confucius would instruct us to work on our patterns and rituals. For example when we close our mind when a certain individual begins to talk, or when we say “I love you” without thought. We must work on our daily patterns that have become inflexible. When we allow different sides of ourselves to emerge we internalize a more constructive way of acting as opposed to being led by undisciplined reactions. Little by little you develop parts of yourself you never knew existed.