If I were given the opportunity to present a gift to the next generation,
it would be the ability for each individual to laugh at himself.
– Charles M. Schultz
Socrates said, “Know thyself.” In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Polonius cautions, “To thine own self be true.” But what self are we getting to know? To what self should we be true? Where is the self located anyway? On second thought, which self is reading these words?
These questions pondered by playwrights, philosophers, and other serious thinkers–if answers could be worked out through mathematical calculations, mathematicians and scientists would be the most enlightened people on planet. But the self continues to elude the greatest thinkers of our age.
What I know is, there seem to be two voices.
The first voice–the false self–judges and criticizes: “I’m not good/rich/thin/smart enough,” or “Now that I’m in a wheelchair, I have to prove myself,” or “I am now unlovable.”
Our humanity comprises only a small part of the rich experience available to us as total beings. As human beings, we all put a great deal of effort into trying to be who we think we are supposed to be; this is the false self.
The false self is also called the personality or ego. Some aspects of it are inherited; others are developed through experimentation with families, friends, and the culture we live in–our education and our religious upbringing. Though aspects of the personality may change over a lifetime, the false self tends to become frozen and rigid, full of regret and resentment over missed opportunities.
The need to control is probably the most prominent characteristic of the false self.
It is from here that many characteristics spring, because the need to control often runs our lives. This is ironic, considering that we have so little control over reality and what happens in the world around us.
The need to control inevitably leads to frustration and disappointment.
The false self’s characteristic need to control sends it on a search for power from external sources. We have to seek outside ourselves for something that makes us feel good.
We are constantly looking for that event, that nod of approval, that recognition that will make us feel more secure. This constant search for approval is evidence of the false self’s insatiable need for recognition by any means, even negative ones.
Even when the false self is able to break out of a rut, it usually jumps into another one. A new marriage may repeat the patterns that doomed the previous ones. Giving up smoking often leads to overeating.
WHAT ARE SOME ASPECTS OF THE FALSE SELF?
- • Needs to be right, make others wrong
- • Needs to control and dominate; runs life
- • Searches for power from external sources
- • Seeks outside ourselves for something that makes us feel good
- • Has an insatiable need for approval and constant recognition
- • Has a tendency to judge self/others, makes irrational comparisons
- • Is full of regret, disappointment and resentment over missed opportunities
- • Tends to become frozen and rigid
WHAT ARE SOME NEGATIVE BELIEFS/FEELINGS OF THE FALSE SELF?•
- Being in a wheelchair, I am powerless, helpless and invisible
- • I can’t do it myself
- • I’m all alone
- • I have lost my sensuality
- • Others do not want the burden of being my friend
As stated earlier, the false self functions in the realm of personality and the ego. In this realm, we identify with what we look like, what we do for a living, how much money we have. The false self is like a spoiled, jealous child–always wanting to be number one.
It wants you to believe that you are your body.
Contrary to what your false self will let you believe, you are perfect the way you are. Rather than feeling inadequate when you see that someone else has more worldly or physical success than you, ask yourself why you can’t accept yourself the way you are.
Ask yourself what would happen if you shifted your perspective? Instead of seeing yourself as a stressed out human being grasping for enlightenment, for some kind of spiritual experience, think of yourself–as Pierre Teilhard de Chardin so eloquently put it–”as a spiritual being having a human experience.”
Is there a way out? Yes, but not through the false self. When we live in the false self, our lives are narrow, confined, and repetitious. Another notable characteristic of the false self is its tendency to judge. Judging others feels good in the short term, at least. It gives us a momentary sense of superiority and strength over those we are judging.
We also use judgment to put ourselves down. We may spend an unnecessary amount of time comparing ourselves to others, and when we find that they have things we don’t have, we beat ourselves up. We may tell ourselves we need to improve, which sounds very well intentioned, but is really a subtle form of self-judgment.
The true self–the second voice–is our true guide, supporting and acknowledging: “I am healthy, resilient, intuitive and courageous.” The true self affirms our true essence, which is love.
Things to act upon and questions to ponder:
• How do you hold yourself back?
• Recall a time when you have done this.
• What beliefs and thoughts are you holding that limit you?
• What mistake are you afraid of making?
• What mistake have you made that you have not let go of?
• When you hold yourself back, in which part of your body do you feel tightness or imbalance?
• What needs to be loved right now?
• Place your hand over your heart and feel the loving going in and through your body.
• Forgive yourself for any judgments you are holding against yourself.
• Describe how you’re feeling inside.
• What have you learned?
Celebrate your True Self,