Exploring Our Own True Selves
We believe we know ourselves well. After all, we have known us our whole lives. We work hard and spend years trying to be true to who we are. Eventually we realize we are strangers to our own true selves.
The selves we thought we knew come apart in our hands, fragile facades and masks.
Behind the masks we find carefully constructed defenses, one after another, which we do not remember building. We try to find a path to ourselves with reason and logic, but realize we cannot analyze our way through. Our own true selves are not puzzles to be solved or equations to be balanced.
We realize we are strangers to ourselves. There is so much we do not know, and so many of the things of which we were certain are not true.
Thinking and feeling will take us only so far. What we believed we knew about our hearts and our minds is called into question.
Our challenge is to develop an honest relationship with someone we thought we knew. We need to explore and discover who we really are. Someone with as many defenses as we have might easily be sacred into running away and hiding.
We do not build our understanding of our own true selves through dramatic action or direct confrontation. Our task is to draw ourselves out of seclusion with patience and welcoming acceptance.
We do not analyze or emote or act our way into this relationship, but we listen. When we wonder whether there is any true self there, we listen to sacred stillness.
We listen to the voice of our own true selves in the sacred stillness.
Discovering Our Own True Selves
My own true self hid from me for years. He was wise to hide. I was not a very wise or welcoming friend.
It is not that I was always rude or impolite. I was not intentionally trying to annoy most people. I talked more than I listened and was trying hard to be somebody else.
My life was wrapped up in perfectionism and workaholism, and I did not even realize it. I believed life was a series of puzzles or problems to be solved and I was working hard to find the solutions. If I could just work harder or be more perfect, I was certain everything would be fine.
I was better at thinking than at listening. It was a challenge for me to listen to myself or other people, much less listening to sacred stillness.
Thinking and working were the focus of my life. I worked as long as possible, then I would get sick and go to bed. If I could just figure out what the steps were to be perfect, I was confident I could get there.
It can be a dramatic revelation for us to see how far we are from our own true selves. All that work and struggle and thinking did not change the fact I was try to be someone else.
I began to notice, out of the corner of my eye, I was not satisfied. It was a surprise to me because I was doing what I was supposed to do to find satisfaction. I had believed what people told me and followed the rules they taught me.As I recognized my dissatisfaction I noticed it was not just I was not doing what helped me be satisfied or happy. I did not even think about it.
Recognizing Our Own True Selves
It was as if my practice ignoring my true self had convinced me I was another person. I did not know who I really was and decided I wanted to get to know myself.
Getting to know our own true selves well is like becoming friends with anyone else. We need to take time to realize who we are and grow in intimacy with ourselves.
For me, I needed to learn how to listen. I began listening to sacred stillness, to other people, and even to myself.
Obviously, I remembered a few things about myself. We share a lifetime of memories and I spent time putting those pieces together in new ways. Like with any new friend, it took us time to grow comfortable with each other.
Our relationship to our own true selves is not mandatory. We are not forcing anyone into anything. Any good friendship grows over time as we build trust.
I began to understand perfectionism is not all it promises to be. For all it claims, perfectionism is not even close to being perfect. My friendship with my true self took a big step when I embraced what I saw as my imperfections.
There is no final answer. We grow closer to our own true selves in our everyday lives even when there are still challenges.
Becoming Our Own True Selves
Whether we struggle or try to cooperate, we are becoming our own true selves.
No matter how we hide from ourselves behind intricate defenses, we are who we are.
The fact is we cannot force ourselves into being someone else. We may try for a while, but it creates anguish and pain for us.
Our lives are not about squeezing ourselves into someone else’s expectations. Each of us is drawn into the quest to become our own true selves. We are not at home trying to be anyone else.
Becoming our own true selves is not a paved path with clear markers. We grow closer to our own true selves the same ways we grow closer to other people. It takes time and patience, caring and listening.
We will get tired or frustrated along the way. Our own true selves know exactly where to push to get to us. It is a lifetime adventure.
The more deeply and intimately we connect with our own true selves the more satisfied we become.
How are we becoming our own true selves today?
Where are we discovering our own true selves this week?
[Image by paulternate]
Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and leadership coach in Southern California. He is a recovering attorney and university professor, and a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com, and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.