Self-authorship is a way of interacting with the world people create in accordance with their environment and biology. It is based “on the interconnectedness of epistemological, intrapersonal, and interpersonal dimensions of development and one’s capacity to heed an internal voice with regard to these dimensions, severed from authority dependence” (Okello, 2018, p. 529). Its distinctiveness enables individuals to create the ‘self’, helping them express themselves and improve their life. It is because everyone should be engaged in self-defining actions and avoid self-denying deeds. Thus, self-authorship allows a person to create his or her own inner image of themselves without any outside influence.
Self-authorship’s importance is immense: it can save an individual from feeling the approaching death because of a lack of self-fulfillment. An example of this is the rich man who wanted to go to a clown school. He followed his parents’ dreams at first but developed self-authorship and switched to the profession of his own dreams (Hampton, 1993). Hampton (1993) views self-authorship as analogous to the soul, citing Stravinsky’s work about a soldier who sold his violin, representing his soul. Only by reclaiming the violin does he save his soul and, in the same vein, only by achieving self-authorship can a person find happiness. Therefore, self-authorship is necessary for self-fulfillment, achieving happiness and avoiding psychological problems, and creating a productive way of life.
Those who do not achieve self-authorship suffer psychological and sometimes physical damage caused by stress. For example, the rich man mentioned above did not want to live without working as a clown despite being rich. Terry, the overworking homemaker, who did not develop self-authorship, puts enormous stress on her own body in a way that has bad physical and psychological repercussions, harming her pregnancy (Hampton, 1993). The father of Hampton’s colleague, who did not develop self-authorship either, insisted on helping his friends and relatives by risking his health for them, throwing out his back or risking severing his fingers (Hampton, 1993). Thus, people who do not achieve self-authorship risk trauma and lack comfort in life.
The lack of self-authorship can take two possible forms, which are opposites of each other. The harmful form includes negative preferences of individuals towards both themselves and the people around them. As they cannot understand what it means to be a human being by not realizing what they owe to themselves, they are unable to function effectively. Case in point: the man who had the desire to be tied and beaten during sex caused his friends’ attempts to interfere with his actions, in part because they saw that he was filled with self-loathing. However, the altruistic variant of the lack of self-authorship also has a negative effect, even though it is more subtle. Those who received help from altruists sometimes felt violated, as they were barred from inventing and utilizing their own ways of dealing with their tasks. Therefore, the harmful form can make people around the individual more aggressive towards them, while the altruistic one can make other people uncertain about their capabilities.
Yes, as self-authorship is key to self-fulfillment, without which happiness is unachievable. For many years, altruism has been heralded as the correct modus operandi for functioning in society. However, Hampton proves that it is traumatic for the individual and not necessarily beneficial for those around them. People must not have anyone but themselves to regulate who they are and what they must do with their lives. In modern society, self-authorship is necessary for the completion of many tasks of an accomplished adult. This demand presents a significant challenge as, as cited by Bauger et al. (2020), half of modern adults have not yet developed their own self-authorship. Thus, despite there still being much progress to be made, it is the correct way, as society is made up of individuals, and individuals cannot be self-fulfilled by losing their ‘self’ to society.
Bauger, L., Bongaardt, R., & Bauer, J. J. (2020). Maturity and well-being: the development of self-authorship, eudaimonic motives, age, and subjective well-being. Journal of Happiness Studies, 22(3), 1313–1340.
Hampton, J. (1993). Selflessness and the loss of self. Social Philosophy and Policy, 10(1), 135–165.
Okello, W. K. (2018). From self-authorship to self-definition: remapping theoretical assumptions through black feminism. Journal of College Student Development, 59(5), 528–544.