Socrates and many mystics from the past like Jesus and Lord Buddha realised that to end the despair in life is to be yourself. However, if you throw the question to them like “Who are you?” I guarantee they would never reply you. It doesn’t mean that they were not who they were but whatever answer to your question will be fake, unreal, illusion. Here are some insights that Søren Kierkegaard gave (and I would like to clarify).
You were born with your true self
but you didn’t realise it.
No one even I didn’t know his innate potential. He was just born without carrying the past. His eyes reflects the very present moment. That is why the babies are so pure and blessed because the family and society hadn’t conditioned him with the political, religion, social and cultural ideologies, the poison. (I still cannot believe that some religions need to wash sin that was born with babies.)
Because of ignorance,
you want the different self.
The ignorance and fear will come to children. They had raised because they could not be responsible, mature and survival in their lives. However, because of ignorance, they misunderstood that everyone will come to him and service him like an emperor. He must get what he want here and now. That was when his first ego developed, the emperor, the false substitute that he wasn’t born with.
You try to make yourself
into someone different.
He doesn’t need to be just emperor. He may want to be someone who is so special in this world like General, President, King, Prime Minister, Winner in any competition, CEO or whoever that people acknowledge. His egocentric mind is working. He keeps comparing the one who had the quality that he appreciated but he doesn’t have. He feel inferior. Therefore, he will put all effort to become celebrity to be acknowledged. You could check more insight here.
No matter you succeed or fail,
you will end up with despair of your true self.
If you fail in becoming acknowledged, you will even more despite yourself for failing. If you succeed, you will abandon your true self. However, you will have the fake life forever. You have to wear the mask and cannot take it out forever. Both will end up with sorrow just because you cannot realise your innate potential. You still sleep in the world of desire.
Find your true nature,
then you can dispel your sadness.
If you are still ignorant, you want the different self, so you continue your desperate vicious cycle. To end this painful cycle, Kierkegaard encouraged us to be your true self rather than to be someone else. Despair is dispelled when you stop denying who you really are, figure out and accept your true nature. That is the beginning of existential psychotherapy that supports individual to be responsible on finding his essence and propose of life.