Finding out who you are is a lifelong journey.
The main obstacles we encounter and need to overcome on our journey are our false selves, our fear, and even our false hopes.
The Development of the Self
Small children have a somewhat vague concept of their own self. As we grow, and then grow up, we construct an image of the self that we can refer to.
This image grows and changes, but it also has several layers that we need to unravel in our search for the true self.
This journey is called ‘individuation’ by the great Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung, meaning that you become the unique individual you truly are, after you remove the illusions of the false selves and stop obeying societal messages that are often decades out of date.
Some of Our False Selves
From childhood onwards, we get lots of messages about who we are supposed to be.
Direct messages (‘Be nice!’ ‘Win!’ ‘Don’t cry!’) and indirect messages through role models and examples of people who we should try to emulate.
If we come close to following those societal orders, we are rewarded with praise and love. If we veer away, we are penalized with criticism, exclusion, and pain.
Therefore, it comes as no surprise that we try not just to behave the way we should but also to become the elusive person we think we should be. We wear the mask both inside and outside.
Sadly, the most powerful messages are often the most negative ones. We are afraid to discover that our true self might be ugly, destructive, unattractive, unlovable.
All of those are reasons for exclusion and even persecution. All of those are the images we receive from the outside, images that scare us. False selves that make us hate and reject ourselves.
And so, many of us never find the courage to look beyond the more everyday false selves, afraid of what might be lurking deeper down inside us. But the true self is very big. It contains both light and shadow.
And then there are our highest expectations of ourselves. Maybe I am a genius. Maybe I am the chosen one. Maybe I am able to transcend my troubles.
But a strong attachment to the bright shadow can stand between us and the discovery of our true self.
Can we accept who we really are, with no judgment, positive or negative? Can I love myself if I am not Superwoman?
Tools for Finding and Staying with Your True Self
The True Self is Not Fixed
The search for the true self is not a treasure hunt with a fixed map. It is a deep connection to yourself.
Finding, accepting and being at peace with your own true and unique self is a lifelong process of change and growth.
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