Free the Authentic You
Learn how to spot inner desires and capabilities to your true self.
Posted April 27, 2013
I saw the Angel in the marble and carved until I set him free. Michelangelo
A little boy and his dad were walking toward me the other day in a shopping center. They were dressed identically in polo shirts, baseball caps, sandals and shorts, and, oh yes, sunglasses too. But, even sweeter than dad and his child’s matching look was the child’s smile. So, as we met up, I asked the child his name. “Nawh”, he mumbled back to me. Noah, his dad said clearly. “Tell her how old you are”, his dad said. Two fingers lifted shyly upward. “Two-years-old; That’s wonderful”, I said. Then, we parted ways.
I couldn’t get that cute image of dad and his boy out of my mind, and I began to think about how early identity begins. By 2-years-old, we are already teaching children who they are and also who they should want to become. Name, age, mommy and daddy, and whether or not they favor peas or carrots eventually matures into a preference of living style, beliefs and values, biases and choice of career, politics, religion, type of romantic partner and everything else that puts a stamp on who we are. Psychology calls this our ego-identity; a necessary point of reference that let’s us consider day-to-day experience against what we have come to believe and know. But, this learning, although vital to development, can also become a block to unfolding your true purpose and fulfillment.
There is more to you than the identity that grounds you in the everyday world. There is the authentic self; the natural instincts, desires, intellect, talent and capabilities with which you are born.
Is the authentic self God-given, genetic, or both? I’ll let you decide upon this. But, one thing is for sure, each of you has been born with desires and capabilities that, when freed, put you on the path to realizing your true purpose.
The Problem Between Ego-Identity and the Authentic You
The problem between ego-identity and the authentic you is that there is often a mismatch between the two. For example, the real you may be a Picasso, but your family values business entrepreneurship. Indeed, for long, you even suppressed this desire to fit in with your mother, father and siblings. I, for example, had no idea growing up that I had a natural talent to teach. I actually come from a long-line of family members who are successful business persons. Like so many of you, I had to bump into my true self through making mistakes here and there until I learned who I really was along the way.
Unless we have family members who can step out of their own ego-identity to see us clearly, our true selves will remain hidden to us. You start to learn about your natural talents and abilities by having parents reflect back to you what they see. “Oh, Johnny, you paint wonderfully.” Or, “Melissa, you write so well.” But, parents cannot show you where to look for your true self, if they haven’t found their own. What is often the case in childrearing is that parents teach children about the ways of the world, and who they should want to be, rather than who they really are. They don’t mean to suppress their children’s inner desires, but nonetheless, they do.
Thus, your parent’s lack of self-awareness, and the hundreds of value-statements that they impose upon you daily, may actually be stopping you from fulfilling what feels most natural to you. But, thank goodness our true selves are not lost to us, despite early training. Life has a wonderful way of getting us back on the right path to our true self, no matter how far away we’ve strayed from it. We are always learning and evolving and bumping into our real selves along the way. We eventually find ourselves, but at what cost? Some mistakes bring as much pain and suffering as they do learning. Also, they eat up a lot of precious time when we could have been doing what comes most naturally to us.
People often go to psychotherapy precisely because they made life choices that supported their ego-identity rather than their true selves. They divorce, switch careers, return to school, get religious, or dump their ego-identity altogether, to find authentic purpose and fulfillment. Wouldn’t you love to make choices that get you closer to your true self rather than mindlessly bump into it?
That’s what I’m going to show you how to do, today. I’m going to teach you how to chisel away at your ego-identity so your inner talents, intellect, and desires that express the real you can come forth. By quieting the ego, the paths of least resistance to your true self are easier to see.
The Paths of Least Resistance To Your True Self
Unlike the roads that lead directly to Rome, some life choices do not take you straight away to your true self. You have to approach life experience mindfully to discern which roads are right for you. The paths of least resistance to the authentic self not only show you more about your true self in temperament, instincts, talents and purpose, but also are richer in opportunities for expressing them. In contrast, the paths of great resistance to your true self are tortuous and winding. They express the ego-identity and as such are full of lessons that are mostly painful.
The steps that follow help you to distinguish between ego-driven ideas, beliefs and learning and intuitions that speak to your true temperament, instincts, talents, and purpose. Now, because you are aware mindfully of the various forces that cause you to act, you can consciously choose for the authentic self.
Let’s start now!
1. Describe your ego-identity. What are the ideas, beliefs, values and desires that helped you to make your way in the world thus far? For example, in the 70’s, women legitimized their existence primarily through marrying and having children. And, if they worked outside of the home, they did more so out of need than personal desire. Thus, at 21-years-old, I did what I was expected socially to do; I married. It took unhappiness and a divorce to get me thinking about what was really right for me.
Which family or social ideas and values have been dictating what you choose in life? Bring these ideas forward, so they do not operate outside of your awareness where they have greater power to influence your choices.
2. Reflect upon your choices to date. What have you learned about your true temperament, instincts, talents and purpose from them? I recall a young patient of mine, Margie, who came to me because she was very depressed. She was working as an accountant and married to a man whose only virtue, to her, was that he was a loving father to their child. Margie had a very conflicted relationship with her mother. Her mother was very disapproving, so that Margie identified more with her father than her mother. This is what motivated Margie to become an accountant. At 31 years old, Margie was deeply depressed and acting out sexually because of it. What Margie learned, at this time, was that two of her major life decisions (job and relationship) came out of her ego-identity rather than her true self. She ended up divorcing her husband and leaving her job to go back to school for art. It didn’t matter that she had less money and didn’t know exactly what all of this would bring her. Margie was truly happy, for the first time in her life.
3. Connect to your inner self. Get into a relationship with your inner self. You have to remember who you are in the inside to bring your authentic self forth.What makes you happy or sad? What do you fantasize and dream about? Intuitive wisdom is there for you, when you quiet the reasoning mind. Get quiet, breathe deeply, and turn inward. When you quiet the mind, you can hear the inner self speaking to you through feeling, images, and momentary fantasies that reveal needs and desires.
What comes up for you? What needs, desires, and instincts are making themselves known to you? Make sure you do not reduce your hunches and intuitions to silliness. Don’t rationalize away your feelings and desires; don’t sell your true self short!
4. Face your fears and push open the doors to your true self. What is the worse thing that can happen by following your true self rather than ego? Yes, like Margie, sometimes you may have to forgo security as you change a career or relationship path. And, family and friends may not like that you are following your true desires. Some people may call you selfish or think you’ve gone off on the deep-end. But, remember, the loudest protestors are often people who foreclosed on their true selves long ago. And, remember, you don’t have to have everyone accept and like you. If you lose a few people on the road to your authentic self, they were meant to disappear from your life. For sure, you will meet friends and lovers who resonate deeply with your authentic values, desires, ethics and capabilities ~ when you dare to face your fears and push the door open to your true self.
Thus, dare to step into the unknown for a short while. Walking the path to your true self can be scary at first. But, the journey to the authentic self is lush with opportunities to learn and grow. Don’t make life any harder than it need be. When you learn how to make choices that support who you really are in temperament, instincts, talents, and purpose, you will journey through life experiences that are paved with great beauty, depth of meaning and purpose, and wisdom.
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