Solitude is a wonderful (in fact, the only) way to uncover the person you are behind the persona you present.
“Solitude is the path over which destiny endeavours to lead man to himself.
Solitude is the path that men most fear. A path fraught with terrors, where snakes and toads lie in wait…
Without solitude there is no suffering, without solitude there is no heroism.”
– Herman Hesse
What would you think if a total stranger came up to you on the street and said, “I love you!”? I suppose your answer might somewhat depend on whether they were cute or not, but even if you very much wanted to believe that their declaration was true, you might think that they had mistaken you for somebody else, and/or they were delusional and should probably be locked up.
You probably wouldn’t believe that they love you, because they don’t know the first thing about you. They might lust after you, and want to get to know you better, but any love they imagine they feel for you is likely to be groundless and shallow.
Where am I going with this? We’re told we should respect and love ourselves if we want to be happy, and this is good advice, but first we have to know ourselves. If our respect and love isn’t grounded in self-knowledge, it’s just ego and puffery. Muhammad Ali used to claim to be “the greatest”, and he actually was, at least for a while. I’m sure we can all think of people who lay claim to being the greatest at what they do, but based on self-delusion rather than self-awareness.
The Persona is Not the Person
Speaking for myself, it took me a long time to get to know myself, and to appreciate myself for who I am, while accepting who I am not. Starting in childhood, most of us develop a public persona, which is an amalgam of the traits and behaviours that seem to win approval and make us popular. Over time, we observe how people respond to our words and actions, and modify our persona accordingly.
In children this is called socialisation, which is defined as “the process whereby an individual learns to adjust to a group (or society) and behave in a manner approved by the group (or society)”, or “a process with the help of which a living organism is…