Anatta (anatman in Sanskrit) is also translated as non-self or non-essentiality. This is the teaching that "you" are not an integral, autonomous entity. The individual self, or what we might call the ego, is more correctly thought of as a by-product of the skandhas.
The five skandhas are form, sensation, perception, mental formations, and consciousness. These aggregates or heaps give us the illusion of being a self, separate from all others. But the skandhas are constantly changing and impermanent. You are not the same for two consecutive moments [...] We cling to who we think we are, but we are never the same from moment to moment.
For a long time I've struggled to define who I really am, since it feels like the core of my being shifts around all the time. All of me changes—my behaviors, my worldview, my actions, as I see and process a changing world around me. Sometimes a tectonic change in a nanosecond.
These days I'm learning that the idea of "you" is not a separate, permanent individual entity, rather a byproduct of many processes inside and outside the body. It is the output of a function that is never the same from moment to moment.
We may refer to “you” for the sake of convenience, but “you” doesn't exist beyond our own pattern-finding, like grouping together an arbitrary set of trees and calling it a forest.
THE CONCEPT OF "SELF" IS MERELY A CONVENIENT METAPHOR TO REFER TO A GROUPING OF COUNTLESS INSTANCES OF CONSCIOUSNESS SPANNING A SHARED CONTINUUM OF TIME, TIME BEING THE VERSION CONTROL SYSTEM.
IT IS A GIVEN THAT THE YOU OF 10 YEARS AGO IS NOT THE YOU OF THE PRESENT. BY THAT LOGIC, EVEN THE YOU OF 10 SECONDS AGO MAY NOT BE THE YOU OF THE PRESENT.
THERE ARE MOMENTS IN LIFE WHERE IT SEEMS LIKE THE ENTIRE WORLD IS TURNED UPSIDE DOWN IN AN INSTANT, BUT WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS IN THOSE MOMENTS IS A NEW VERSION OF YOU APPARATES INTO EXISTENCE, VASTLY UNRECOGNIZABLE FROM THE YOU THE INSTANT BEFORE IT. THESE MOMENTS MARK CLEAR DELINEATIONS BETWEEN THE YOUS YOU CAN BE FRIENDS WITH AND THE YOUS THAT ARE COMPLETE STRANGERS.
MY PREVIOUS SELF DIDN'T BELIEVE IN ITSELF. IT WAS TOO AFRAID TO CONFRONT ITS NATURAL DESIRE TO SING AND DANCE AND SPEAK POETICS. IT TOLD ITSELF THAT IT WAS INCAPABLE, THAT IT WAS WORTHLESS, THAT IT WAS BETTER OFF NOT TRYING AT ALL. IT KEPT ITS MOUTH SHUT OFF FROM THE WORLD, AND RELISHED IN HOW MUCH IT SAVED THE WORLD FROM ALL ITS EMBARRASSING AND ILL-FITTING MANNERISMS. IT FILLED THE HOLE OF YEARNING FIRST WITH MINDLESS DIVERSIONS, LATER WITH RELATIONSHIPS IT DIDN'T VALUE.
MY NEW SELF HAS REALIZED THE IMPERMANENCE OF SELFHOOD—THAT THE SELF IS AS DISPOSABLE AS A USED NAPKIN. IT WANTS TO STRIP OFF THE CRUSTED VESTIGES OF THE OLD SELF, DUTIFULLY—VIOLENTLY EVEN. TO SHED ITS EGO LIKE A CRAB MOLTING, VULNERABLE WITHOUT ITS SHELL, KNOWING IT'S THE ONLY WAY TO GROW. IT WANTS TO GROW A NEW IRISCIDENT SHELL, ONE IT CAN BE OKAY WITH LETTING OTHERS EXAMINE. ▲