George Bernard Shaw? Mary McCarthy? Thomas Szasz? Sydney J. Harris? Helen A. De Rosis? Victoria Y. Pellegrino? Karen Horney? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: For decades pop-psychology has emphasized the task of “finding yourself”, i.e., identifying your deepest values, abilities, feelings, and desires. Yet, these qualities are not immutable. Instead, living fully means endlessly recreating yourself. Here are two versions of a pertinent saying:
(1) Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.
(2) The self is not something you find; it is something you create.
This notion has been attributed to playwright George Bernard Shaw, novelist Mary McCarthy, psychiatrist Thomas Szasz, and journalist Sydney J. Harris. Would you please explore this topic?
Quote Investigator: Tracing this saying is difficult because it can be expressed in many different ways. QI has found no substantive evidence that George Bernard Shaw who died in 1950 employed this saying; also, QI has seen no substantive evidence that Mary McCarthy who died in 1989 used this saying.
The earliest match located by QI appeared in 1969 within the syndicated column of Sydney J. Harris. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1
Young people searching for their “real self” must learn that the real self is not something one finds as much as it is something one makes; and it is one’s daily actions that shape the inner personality far more permanently than any amount of introspection or intellection.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
- 1969 April 18, Record-Gazette, Strictly Personal by Sydney J. Harris (Syndicated), (newspaper has misspelling: Sidney) Quote Page 1, Column 10, Banning, California. (Newspapers_com) ↩