By now, most of us on a journey of growth and change have heard the term “authentic self” and yet I feel aware that there is confusion about what it means. We throw around the phrase ‘who I am’ or ‘my true self’ so much so that there seems to be an expectation to develop a clear definition, a palpable understanding or a clear vision of what that means.
My clients will often tell me they know more about ‘who they are not’ than ‘who they are’. In either case, I believe that identifying one’s “authentic self” is based more on feeling than on intellect. The truth is – we KNOW. It is innate. We are born with the ability to ‘feel’ it yet some of us for one reason or another don’t take the time to pay attention (listen) or we just stop altogether
I will sometimes use the analogy for “authentic self” of a Totem pole – the center of our being that is carved of love depicting values, dreams, and hope. Our daily behavior is kin to a dance around that Totem pole; honoring the carvings.
When we dance (behave) too far a distance (inconsistently) from the pole, we allow space for anxiety, depression, and dysfunction. When we stay close – become a ‘pole hugger’ – we are living authentically. I’m not sure many of us are ‘pole huggers’ consistently… that thought brings up images of Mother Theresa and Gandhi. I believe that emotionally healthy people dance pretty close, sometimes holding on to, the pole.
You DO know your “authentic self” (subconsciously) but you have to FEEL it in order to identify with it – bring it into your waking consciousness. Pay attention to symptoms that may suggest that you are dancing too far away from the pole:
- Muscle aches
- Low immune system
And recognize the feelings that you experience when you are dancing close to the pole:
Learn to notice the FEELING both mentally and PHYSICALLY as you dance through your day/week/month and purposefully repeat the behavior that signifies you are close to your personal Totem. When you begin to feel down… examine your actions and reactions! Experiment with change until you FEEL yourself getting closer to the pole. Keep a diary to help you indentify behavior with feeling. Self-discovery is often about feeling versus knowing. Learn to FEEL when you dance and you will develop the ability to answer the question “who am I?”; you will know your “authentic self”.