The Authentic Self
With a capital "S."
Posted February 28, 2018 | Reviewed by Jessica Schrader
“I’m not myself,” “I don’t know why I do that!” “I didn’t mean it!” “I don’t know why I’m crying!”
These are all statements made when we become slightly aware that we are out of touch with the authentic Self. Self with a capital “S.” It has a capital “S” because it isn’t the same as the identity, which we often refer to as self. The identity is a mask and costume that we have worn since we introjected the thinking, feeling, and behaviors projected onto us by parents, caregivers, family, religion, and society. That identity can act, it can think, it can even feel. It can do that because we have moved the sense of self into a mask and costume that we have worn so hard and for so long that we think it is who we are. But it isn’t who we are—it is who they needed us to be. It is who we became in order to belong to them. And we think that it is our survival.
But all along, while we are living in that identity, the authentic Self is coming forth through the small cracks in the identity. Perhaps we feel this as a deep longing for something, or perhaps we surprise ourselves with something we say or do, or perhaps we just slowly begin to look deeper and find new aspects that have previously been undiscovered. When it surprises us, we often very quickly stuff it back into the unconscious. We do that because it rocks our boat. We do that because it has said or done something that makes us temporarily aware that we are not happy with our lives, with our relationships, our careers, or our own behaviors.
We come here as a Self. But we are born, most of us, into families who need us to be something. They need us to be something, something very commonly other than who we actually are. They may be projecting their own unresolved stuff onto us, so that, for example, we might be “asked,” through this projection, to play bad guy to their good guy role. That would be because they feel such shame attached to being “bad” that they need to believe that they are never bad. So, someone else has to live that out for them. That’s just one example of many. But all the while we are playing the identity, after we have introjected and identified with that projection, we are not living out the authentic Self.
And all that time, the authentic Self is trying to find little ways to show itself to us. It wants us to come to know it intimately. It means to give us the peace of congruence. It means to show us who we are so that we can become that in our daily lives. It means to point out our original thoughts, our original beliefs, and our genuine feelings and behaviors. It means to finally bring us home to our own souls (a term that can be seen as liberally synonymous with Self).
We look for the Self within. We look for it in earnest desires, in genuine emotions, in original thoughts, in behaviors that have always wanted to manifest. We don’t find it in other people’s opinions, social or cultural belief systems, social mores, familial agendas, or other external data. We find it by looking for it within.
So, the journey may begin with inner dialogue, in which the identity begins a conversation with the authentic Self. Letter writing to and from the Self, poetry to and from the Self, artwork that comes from the Self, or just taking note of genuine emotions that one has normally and previously repressed. The journey is a quest for the Holy Grail of the Self. It is a deeply spiritual journey, for it intends to unite us with our own wholeness. And those who take this journey are challenged to get the deeper meaning from difficult emotions, to draw boundaries with people who are toxic, to nurture and care for the Self even when the external rules of play would say that they should bow to another agenda. It is both the most challenging and most rewarding of all possible journeys.
We’ve heard the words authentic self thrown about quite a bit, with many out there urging us to do you. But before we go there, we must first understand that doing you doesn’t mean doing the identity harder. It means finding and beginning to live in and from the authentic Self.
Mathews, Andrea. (2007). Restoring My Soul: A Workbook for Finding and Living the Authentic Self. Bloomington, IN: IUniverse.