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Self-Definition is Self-Limitation

The question of “What am I?” may lead to self-objectification or to self-liberation.  Which path would you take?  How would you answer it?  By saying something along the lines of “I am this” or “I am that” or “I am such and such”?  I hope not.

Understand the self-limiting meaning of the verb “to define:”

to define, according to OED, means: “to specify; to end,” from O.Fr. defenir “to end, terminate, determine,” and directly from L. definire “to limit, determine, explain,” from de- “completely” (see de-) + finire “to bound, limit,” from finis “boundary.


Any self-definition is a self-limitation.  To define yourself is to limit your understanding of yourself.  To define yourself is to box yourself into this or that category.  To define yourself is to finish your understanding of yourself.  To define yourself is to end your curiosity about yourself.

A self-definition is not self-knowledge: it’s self-delusion. You are not limited to any “this” or “that,” certainly not until you are finished living.  You are un-limited (by words or thoughts).  Your suchness is beyond description or comparison.

A self-definition is self-objectification.  But you are not the object of your consciousness, you are not a thought “I am such and such.”  You are the Subject that inquires, the one asking the question – not the informational answer that passes through your mind.

Do ask yourself the question “What am I?” (to re-experience your ineffable essence) but ignore the answer.

Reference: Lotus Effect

Self-Definition is Self-Limitation

Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

Pavel Somov, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice and the author of 7 mindfulness-based self-help books. Several of his books have been translated into Chinese, Dutch & Portuguese. Somov is on the Advisory Board for the Mindfulness Project (London, UK). Somov has conducted numerous workshops on mindfulness-related topics and appeared on a number of radio programs. Somov's book website is and his practice website is

Marla Somova, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Pittsburgh, PA. She is the co-author of "Smoke Free Smoke Break" (2011).

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APA Reference
Somov, P. (2011). Self-Definition is Self-Limitation. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 2, 2020, from


Last updated: 9 Jul 2011
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