I think where I have the problem with European existentialism is that 'the true self' is strictly of one's own creation. Camus and Sartre with both completely convinced atheists for whom the universe had no meaning save what we project on it. So the true self can be...whatever the situation calls for. Existence precedes essence.
that would be a mistake i think. what they are talking about, that is the false self, the one we create. we can create it knowingly and make it nice-nice...but it is only for the outer layer of existence, and managing affairs in this world. we can work on it while we are looking for the true self, since it is being channeled through this personna.
the true self is the one we have to try and discover, that which is behind all the masks and games, which alone is capable of true action. that is the one that tries to talk to us and we jumble up its attempts to be known.
existence and essence have to be a unit-if there is no essence nothing exists, and if nothing exists there is no essence. one cant precede the other, can it? neither can supersede the other either, i think.
In pre-Kierkegaardian philosophy, philosophers believed that there were certain things innate about human beings which must be universally accepted in order to have a good life. Aristotle, for example, believed all human beings must value contemplation, eudaimonia, etc. They thought an ideal human essence is already determined before the birth of any particular human being.
In Kierkegaardian philosophy, "Existence precedes Essence" one is born into the universe, and then has the "task of becoming a true self" in the sense that, one has to deal with the boredom, despair, etc. of life, while choosing the values which are valuable in themselves.
Kierkegaard does not follow Aristotle by saying "human beings must all value contemplation, eudamonia, etc". Personal identity is formed by finding the values "that is true for the individual self; the truth that he or she would live or die for." In that sense, salima is right in the second paragraph; a true self has to find and discover the values that apply for one's own self. However, Kierkegaard doesn't deny the existence of objective values, but one must appropriate those objective values subjectively. If one wants to value eudamonia or contemplation, that's great, as long as one values it because that's what one wants, and not what Aristotle says you ought to.
In post-Kierkegaardian philosophy, "Existence precedes Essence" as thought of by Sartre means one is first born into the universe and then one creates values, those created values being entirely groundless and arbitrary. For Sartre, the "true" self is precisely that which the individual constructs for oneself. Whereas Kierkegaard thinks that the particular values individuals adopt can be grounded on some objective truth or reason, Sartre thinks that truth is whatever one makes it out to be but sometimes people falter from creating themselves because they are denying their own freedom to create (what Kierkegaard called angst).