Religious Views of the Self
In Christian theology, while there may well be an individual Self, the essence of the individual, the eternally lasting Self, is the Soul. It is that part of God that exists in every individual and that will, if one has faith and follows Christian teachings, ultimately come to reside with and in God after death. In Islam, the individual ultimately will join God in Paradise if one seeks to do right and asks forgiveness if one does wrong.
In Buddhism, the essential Self is seen as the potential Buddha present in every individual, waiting to be discovered, developed, and ultimately freed as the Buddha self from the sufferings of this world, by following the path to perfect enlightenment and escape, Nirvana. Buddhism has no god, however, and the focus is on individual enlightenment, not pleasing a divinity.
Religions in Western Civilization have seen this life, this Self, at least for some until recently, as transitory and not ideal. The ultimate ideal is found only in the afterlife.
Can One Make or Change One’s Self?
To what extent can one determine the nature of one’s Self? I was recently assured that the personality is largely formed by the age of 10. As one whose personality continued to change and develop for several decades, as one whose personality did not take on its basic present characteristics until my 50s, I have to argue differently.
I have two sons whose personalities did not take relatively unchanging characteristics until their late teens or early 20s. Adolescence is a period in which essential parts are not “set” until the end of the period. Sexual orientation, for example, may be free-floating during the teenage years, as both males and females explore different aspects of what fulfills them. Peer pressure becomes more important during those years than parental influence.


Trying on roles and then casting them off is normal. Traumas and unfinished tasks of childhood and adolescence may not be dealt with for a long time. Personality formation is in flux while that process continues.
At some point, one may ask oneself, can I change this or that about myself? In an ethics class, can one develop a more ethical approach to life? In interpersonal communications class, can one discover that more useful approaches to human relationships are possible if one changes how one values and treats others? In relationships, can one discover that self-centeredness produces only unhappiness and that more charity produces greater happiness?
If one learns to love oneself, can one then love others more? Perhaps the quality that allows one to ask those types of questions and answer them through change might be called a pre-existing personality trait.
Self Portrayal
Self Portrayal
To say that, however, presupposes that the trait existed, with no evidence to prove it. Ultimately, however, one can argue persuasively that one can change one’s personality. Ultimately, one can argue that one’s personality changes because of life experiences. Ultimately, then, just what is the Self?