Are we who we think we are or are we living in someone else's idea of who we ought to be. And if so, then are we denying ourselves to true existence of who we ought to be?
The idea of self is at times debatable. in terms of biology and palaeontology, we are the result of millions of years of evolution adapting through each successive eon to the environment to the point where we have been the dominant specie through our tool making abilities.
In Abrahamic religions, we have been created in God's image and thus share some of the qualities of the divine such as abstract thinking and creativity that other animals do not possess or seem to have in diminished capacity.
Science and religion both attempt to explain our nature and our place in this vast space filled with gas, dust, stars, galaxies and planets like ours. In this expanse of the universe, one specie however as far as we are concerned has channelled thought into action and reached beyond the skies into space and landed on a satellite moon after thousands of years of conscious existence which in cosmic scale and evolutionary terms is very short timescale.
So in all of these, there must be something about the human that is beyond flesh and digestive processes that allows us to accomplish feats other animals are incapable of. And what is this?
Culture. This is the totality of our organisation. Culture affects how we think and eventually how we live and invent tools.
The thoughts that run through our mind are influenced by the pattern of socialisation we were taught and what we see around us. In a patriarchal society, men will expect to be given first priority and will control resources thus a man born and socialised in that system will think of himself as superior given his access to resources and the denial of another sex of the same.
Culture also determines what we wear, what we eat, how we eat, it determines everything and the unique aspect of culture is that it is dynamic and this also affects the nature of the person because it also means that the person is dynamic.
As individuals just like the culture in which we are raised in are subject to change depending on the dominant outside influence of another culture. In this regard, we can change our thoughts based on our perception on what is valuable to our own survival or what is best suited for our needs.
As such, the concept of the individual is fluid. Our behaviour can change to either be deviant to our original socialisation or to complement our current culture.
The influencers of culture are the powerful charismatic personalities who are leaders of their own fields be it political, economic or social and whose thought processes are adapted by the majority who admire them. This represents the concept of ideology.
Culture is basically an idea that people have chosen to follow and through which rewards and punishment are awarded to individuals who adhere to the social rules and cues. Ideologies are thus very powerful and the whole world can be said to be run on people's thought on which is the best economic system of trade or political system of governance and so on.
A person enculturated therefore is the sum total of the ideas of the social system in which he/she finds themselves in. True existence and the freedom of will cannot work in isolation as new ideas arise from restructuring the old ones to have a new perspective. We have the free will when the old is modified by the new and the person is the influencer of that change.