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Søren Kierkegaard and the Value of Despair

Academy of Ideas

The Despairing Man and How to Become One's True Self

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To become a true self, one must embark on a process of self-realization, actualizing latent potentials and developing all aspects of one's personality. Failure to do so results in despair. The path to selfhood requires confronting anxiety and moving ahead despite it. Some individuals make progress towards selfhood and possess great character and radiance, while others become stunted in their development due to bad influences, bad luck, laziness, or fear. The modern conformist is hindered in cultivating a true self due to an excessive focus on external values, such as wealth and social status. Inner values, such as emotional intelligence and psychological resilience, must also be nurtured. Conformity promotes despair and encourages self-deception. The despairing individual must have the courage to accept their despair and examine it. Taking action and choosing a personalized ideal or passion is crucial for moving towards full selfhood. A passion provides meaning, direction, and an authentic expression of who we are. It can be a cherished value, a noble goal, or a purpose in life. Perishing in pursuit of these high and noble goals is a fulfilling life purpose.

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