I remember one of the first mental crisis I went through was trying to attain an indentity when I was in 8th grade. Now I didn't tell myself that was what I was Going through. It is only through retrospect that I learned that was what was happening to me.
I had reached puberty and all the associated issues, both physical and emotional, that goes with it. I was in a school where I didn't know many people and they all seemed to be so far ahead of me in the ways of life.
My mom, a school teacher, wanted me to dress in a style that my peers called, "square." She didn't understand the peer pressure and shame that came with having to dress like a "teacher's child" and the chiding, teasing and bullying also. I so hated how I had to dress that I decided I'd become a blighted being. That way I could at least establish some kind of identity even it meant negative. I had to unload that "image" of a being a square.
So I decided to not iron my clothes or even wash up in the mornings. I only changed underwear, socks and brushed my teeth. Little did I know I was in search of self and trying to seek it externally. Prior to that I was not overly concerned with where I fit in life. I know now that this is a phenomena of the maturation process. At or around puberty there is an internal shift where each individual seeks to find their niche in life. Most fail and just accept what's available.
In indigenous cultures this is a time for initiation and afterwards a specialty is assigned to the young man or woman by a guide or Elder. In modern civilization there are few authentic initiation process thus the search of self is often exploited by businesses selling a product to make you you.
I had never deeply considered the concept of self until 2003, when I was in my late 40s. By then I had come to think that perhaps the human psyche was a composite of mini selves, or personalities, but it took deep introspection, meditation and the ignition of initiation to come to began to know self.
Some sages and wise men have attempted to define self, but I have found that it is impossible to define, which is to limit something as abstract as self. If it attached to the divine, that that is, it depth and breadth are unlimited.
It is a solitary journey fraught with the terror of the realities one encounters with their past and present. To accept the hard truths about oneself and to come to the realization that ones reaction to life is not the responsibility of a perpetrator or violator, but centered right back with them.
The self is indestructible and though the carrier, the thing, the body, is subject to the laws of psychics, that that is replicates itself over and over.
In conclusion here is a little word game to consider and though it may not be etymologically sound I still have fun doing it. The word self actually means separate or apart, but part from what? SELF (Se, El, Elf)
Figure it out.