If you ever want to work hard on your own junk, try being unemployed for six months. I found myself in this space. At first, it was like an extended vacation. Then an actual vacation: three weeks in Denmark, Scotland, and Ireland. Fantastic. Then one week of excruciating jet lag (how come no one ever mentions this part?). I thought I was coming home to a job, but when I arrived home, that job had evaporated. So, the two extra months off have been difficult. But I did enjoy the slow mornings, daily exercise and two or more hours to read, pray and write. The problem is, what then? Looking at blank calendar day after day got old fast.
It’s a good thing I was reading “The Gift of Being Yourself,” by David Benner. He talked about finding your True Self and I’ve always been curious about what that means and how to find it.
WARNING: Finding your true self means you have to face your shadow self, with all of the layers of false self you have developed over the years through your familial expectations, life experiences, and your own inner critic. This unearthing will take a lifetime.
But, being out of work those last two months and reading this book helped me get my head around the idea, so I thought I’d share some of what I’ve learned with you.
First some terms:
True Self: The person you are that was “loved into existence by the Divine.” You are as unique as a snowflake. You bring the fullness of who you were created to be into the world — with your gifts and talents — and then you love others with that true self. Nothing else is needed. Just you, being you, loving others, will heal the world. You, resting in Divine love, using your God-given gifts – is enough.
False Self: Unfortunately, like a real snowflake gets dirtied with car exhaust, this beautiful snowflake self gets layered over with lies that can seem both good and bad, but are ultimately inaccurate. Some of this falseness comes from your family of origin. You might have heard, “You’re the special one.” This can be just as harmful as, “You’re the stupid one.” It begins to build a false identity. We get similar false images from society, which gives us messages like, “Women can’t lead.” Or “Men shouldn’t cry.” We internalize these messages and give them to ourselves as, “I’m not good enough. She (or he) is better at this than I am.”
How do we peel off these layers to find our true selves? This may take some time but here are some ideas for starting.
- Be honest: Brainstorm all the things that are true about yourself and write them down. Your list might include, “I’m a loyal friend,” and “I’m judgmental.” Write it all, good and bad. See it honestly and accept that all the parts of you, right now this minute, the good and the bad, are all loved unconditionally by God. Sit with that truth.
- Look at your list and identify where those characteristics came from: Did you get your dad’s love of reading? Your mom’s love of hard work? Was your best friend a cynic and you admired and emulated that trait? Find the origins of your false self and the nuggets of your true self.
- Then look at each characteristic and decide: Is this characteristic something I want to keep or let go. We have to acknowledge that each one came to us as a form of protection at the time, but perhaps now it is no longer necessary or beneficial in life and we can let them go. For instance, perhaps you developed a wall of protection as a child that kept you safe, but as an adult, it is keeping you from being intimate with another person. It might be time to let that wall come down.
- Decide that each time you become aware of a false part of yourself is active, a part you want to let go, acknowledge it, thank it, and dismiss it as no longer necessary. Each time you become aware of a true part of yourself, welcome and reinforce it.
What is the goal?
Benner says, “The self that arrives is the self that was loved into existence by Divine Love. This is the person we are destined from eternity to become – the I that is hidden in the I AM.” (pg. 110)
Tell me about your process in finding your true self. I’d love to hear about it.
To continue the understanding of the true self, I’ve decided to do a twelve blog look at archetypes using the book: Illuminating the Way: Embracing the Wisdom of Monks and Mystics by Christine Valters Paintner I’d love you to read it with me and follow along. So, if you want to book-club it, get the book and start reading. You have until the first Tuesday in January to get through the first chapter. I will be illuminating for us all.
Photo Credits: Top Snowflake. Second snowflake.