Monastic Strategies: Knowing and Becoming Our True Selves

Monastic Strategies: Knowing and Becoming Our True Selves September 19, 2019

Knowing and Becoming Our True Selves

How do we ever really know and become our true selves? Can we ever really appreciate our own deepest truths?

Some of us seem to work hard at hiding ourselves from ourselves and from each other. We live in a world where the ways we can disguise ourselves seem to be endless.

Many of us choose our own masks and costumes to avoid our own true selves. Others of us allow other people to choose our disguises for us.

We may depend on selves we have inherited or learned in school. Some of us spend our time and effort trying to understand and become someone else. Using costumes and masks, makeup and scripted words, we present different people to the world.

Where do we begin to know and become our true selves?

It can be a challenge for us to meet and become acquainted with ourselves. We are skilled at hiding and avoiding direct contact with the people we have the potential to become. Some of us are afraid we might not be enough to live in this world. We have constructed complicated defenses but do not remember why we are defending ourselves.

Many of us are concerned we might not like the people we are becoming. We fill our lives with distractions to avoid discovering and exploring who we might be.

I do not believe knowing and becoming our true selves is primarily and analytical exercise. When we approach ourselves as puzzles to be solved it often ends up pushing us into deeper hiding.

There is no list of steps or questions we can check off to ensurer we find the truth. We reflect and listen and, like in any relationship, become acquainted with who we are.

Knowing and becoming our true selves is a friendship.

Who Are Our True Selves?

The most challenging struggle of our lives can be knowing and becoming who we really are.

We protect our true selves with elaborate systems of distractions, detours, and defenses.  Like in a medieval castle, we are behind a moat which is difficult to cross, surrounded by nearly impenetrable walls, and filled with confusing corridors and passageways.

We are drawn inward, despite the challenges and the pain of losses along the way. Deep within ourselves we know beyond any doubt the struggle is worth it.

I believe, in primal ways, my true self lives in union with God, and in connection to everyone and everything else.

As we go deeper, as we get to know our true selves, new aspects of us are released into the world. We know ourselves in new ways. Our core values and our vision for ourselves become clearer and more integrated. We become who we have the potential to be. The ways we relate to ourselves and others, and how we live in the world, are transformed.

Our interior lives and our everyday lives come together.

Ironically, our true selves flourish as we learn to free them from the defenses we have constructed. Like many castles, the protections we have built have become a prison. We cannot become our true selves unless we are free.

As we persist and continue to grow and explore we discover who we are hoping to become.

We are not working to achieve our goals or change our habits. Our exploration is about discovering our true selves, not forcing ourselves to become someone else.

Who are we when we free ourselves from all the costumes and masks?

What do we love in ways which set our hearts on fire?

Knowing Our True Selves

It was as if ignoring my true self convinced me I was another person. I did not really know who I was and assumed I was someone else.

Getting to know our true selves is like making friends with anyone else. We need to take time to appreciate who we actually are and who we are becoming.

For me, I needed to learn how to listen. I began listening to sacred stillness, to other people, and even to myself.

My true self and I 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.

Nobody is requiring us to know our true selves. It is not a form of punishment we are enduring. We are not being forced into anything. Good friendships grow over time as we build trust.

Knowing our true selves may take us more time and work than we would like. We will discover things we will regret and which cause us pain.

There are no final answers. We grow closer to our true selves in our everyday lives even though we still need to face challenges and find ways to grow.

Becoming Our True Selves

Whether we struggle or try to cooperate, we are becoming our true selves.

No matter how we try to hide behind intricate defenses, we are who we are.

We cannot force ourselves into becoming someone else. We may try for a while, but it just creates anguish and frustration 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 true selves. We are not at home trying to be anyone else.

The path to becoming our true selves is not a paved road with clear markers. We grow closer to our true selves the same ways we grow closer to other people. It takes time and patience, caring and listening and friendship.

We will get tired or frustrated along the way. Our 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 true selves the more comfortable we will be taking off our masks.

How are we knowing and becoming our true selves today?

What will knowing and becoming our true selves show us this week?

[Image by Erica Schoonmaker]

Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and coach in Southern California. He is a recovering attorney and a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is and his email address is

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