When I was younger, I used to marvel in incredulity at some adults over 40. Adults who would say, without batting an eyelid, that they didn't feel a day over 20. How could decades go by without one feeling or acknowledging the difference!? Obviously, these adults were just being silly.
But as I've grown older, I have realised that I can say the same myself. At 26 going on 27, I still feel like I'm the person I was 10 years ago: short, wily, tactless, and outspoken. My recognition of self has not changed. The person I see in the mirror everyday, is still flawed...
How could decades go by, without one feeling or acknowledging the difference!?
It was as I was contemplating this rather profound question, that an answer came to me - and this answer transformed my perception of self-identity. Because when you define identity in terms of self, you get a definition that sounds like this:
Identity is the fact of being who or what a person is
Yet once we humans become aware of who and what we are, with all our flaws and imperfections, we immediately feel inadequate; we immediately begin to cover them up - and so it is, that we change.
We go to school to become smarter, we take anger management classes to become calmer, we train ourselves to be more disciplined, we work out to be healthier and better looking... We "improve" ourselves because, you know what? The identity we started with wasn't good enough - or so we think.
At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves.
Still no matter what we do, nor how many layers of education, sophistication, and gentrification we apply to ourselves, that seed of identity we started with, doesn't change.
What happens is that now, after you initially want to blow up in anger, you restrain yourself and give a calm answer; After you initially want to say something stupid, you catch yourself, and decide to stay quiet; After you initially would've done X, now you "know better", and instead do Y.
So it is no wonder, that we feel the same. Because what we see of ourselves - are the initiallys, and what the world sees, are the insteads.
Courtship and Marriage, are the processes of taking the person you love from seeing the insteads, to seeing the initiallys, while trusting that they will still love the naked, imperfect, version of you.