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A Conversation with Your Ancestor Self

College is a time period of significant personal change and growth. We came into college as bright-eyed 18-year-olds ready to begin the next chapter of our lives. From day one of our higher-education career, we’ve been figuring out who we are and how we see the world. Imagine sitting down for coffee with pre-college you, who maybe has nothing figured out. How have you changed? What can you learn from them?


According to my Intro to Philosophy course, there’s a concept that suggests when you go through a big change and feel like a new you because of it, the old you is referred to as an “ancestor self,” simply stated.


The theory of the ancestor self relates to personal identity. It goes like this: There’s really no such thing as a “solid self” because people are constantly changing. Instead of living within a stagnant identity, the theory says that we live in dynamic “person-stages” that evolve just as we do. For example, the 2018 me is in a stage of becoming increasingly concerned about a summer job but is also happy to have found the creative outlet that is Her Campus!


College is a time of turning points, resulting in a departure or creation of a new ancestor self. Throughout the course of a lifetime, a person can have multiple ancestor selves, each a succession upon the one before. The event that creates a new you doesn’t have to be traumatic; it can be as gradual as falling out of love or realizing your heart isn’t really in your plan to go to medical school. The turning point that creates a new you could even be as simple as changing your mindset or entering into a new semester. You may not even feel when it happens.

If I could get coffee with my 18-year-old ancestor self well, first of all, she’d get hot chocolate because she hasn’t yet formed her caffeine addiction. Get ready kid! She’d be naïve and nervous and not yet jaded from the college routine. We’d talk about her favorite pop punk band, The Story So Far, because she has yet to leave her angsty phase. She’s silly and weird and hasn’t yet revealed that to anyone in her first week of college. We’d bond over the fact that we still have no idea what we’re doing with our lives, but I’d reassure her that I’m chipping away. I’d say, “Feel more confident about yourself and get to know more people!” That will happen in time. But, I’d also tell her not to change a thing. She got you to where you are now with your career knowledge, your involvement at Clemson, and the very best of friends.


The current you will be changing again, maybe sooner than you think. Know that you’re ready, you’ll be wiser, and you’ve got your ancestor self in your corner.

Hi, I'm Justine! I'm a senior Health Administration student with fun-mom-energy and a spunky personality! Likes: improv comedy, breakfast sandwiches, thrift stores, plush throws, complex salads Dislikes: moral dilemmas, American cheese, wet countertops, physical competitions
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