WE ARE MIMETIC CREATURES Sometimes I get asked how much I am influenced by others. This article by David Brooks was sent into my husband’s lovely Red Hand Files and I think it says a great deal in this regard. I have printed a couple of passages. So true. Love Susie. x


The worst advice you can give to people trying to find themselves is to look within. That presumes a person is like an onion, with layers of social selves to peel off to get closer and closer to the inner core, the true self. The idea is that if you sit in a room with yourself and focus on yourself, you will get in touch with the “real you” or self-actualize the “real you.”

People who try this sometimes find there is no “real you,” or they just make up a bunch of stories and poses about who they think themselves to be.

That’s because a person is not a closed system that can be studied in isolation. A self exists only in relation to something else, while perceiving something and interacting with the world. 

We’re mimetic creatures. We learn by imitating what excellent others have done before us. 

We are all like that in a way. We are all grabbing from the world bits and pieces of thought and fashion that we can mishmash into our own way of being. The more sources we borrow from, the more interesting our selves are likely to be.


By David Brooks for The New York Times.