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by David Truman
Chapter 2: Creating Your "Self"
Why most people are dissatisfied with themselves
Do not go gentle into that good night.
- Dylan Thomas
Most people I've met, over the age of 20, remember a time when they were much more alive, much simpler, nicer, happier. They know they are not themselves anymore, and so they feel frustrated, stifled, unfulfilled. We've all heard friends, or parents, or spouses talk nostalgically about what they used to be. "I used to be brave." "I used to be full of life." "I was so adventurous in my day." "I was once capable of falling in love." A common complaint counselors hear is: "I'm just not what I used to be. I don't have the heart, the life, the feeling, the desire that I used to have." I once even heard a man say, "I sometimes worry that I don't know how to feel anymore." When he was a boy, this man was a most sensitive soul. He was Mr. Feeling. Obviously, he went through some dramatic changes.
So many people are experiencing a reduction of the quality of their life, of their love, of their happiness. The erosion of their well-being, over time. And you don't have to be any particular age to feel this way. I've known teenagers who felt they'd lost something of themselves.
"I remember when I was 15, realizing that I didn't know how to be myself anymore. I didn't know how to be simple or happy, like I was before. I didn't even know how to be real." -- anonymous
It's possible to return to your true selfhood, and regain the "lost" treasures of being, heart, personality, feeling -- who we are is never truly or permanently lost. And, it's even possible to avoid the sorrowful path in which we lose touch with who we are. A good first step is to understand how and why we manage to get so far from ourselves.
The experience of losing oneself, or becoming something we don't like, is an outworking of MyWayism -- the decision to deviate from what we truly feel, what we truly are, and from the Divine sensibilities God gave us. God gave us God's Heart, you see? A Heart of love, rightness, compassion, beauty. And we were also each given a unique character, with many beautiful aspects.
But how much of that gets to be lived, given, and known depends on the choices we make -- how much of ourselves we accept, and how much we reject. We decide what to share and not to share, what to dare and not to dare, what to be and not to be. All these decisions are made over a lifetime, and what results is generally a remnant of the original package. Very few of our native features are allowed to stand.
"When I was maybe 11, I was at a dance, and I was dancing like crazy -- I was really happy -- and someone came up to me and looked at me with their eyes all squinty and said, 'You're insane, that's not the way to dance.' So I decided that I wouldn't do that anymore. After that, when I went to dances, I didn't know how to dance among people." - E.M.
"At a young age I decided that being emotional and showing my feelings in front of anyone was bad, and I committed to putting a sock in it whenever I felt emotional with people. I remember sitting in a movie theater with my mom when I was ten years old, and we were watching a movie that had a poignant, emotional ending. I began to cry, almost uncontrollably, but then choked it back. I really didn't want my mom to know I was crying." - C.S.
The truth is, God gives us everything we need, and it is extremely good. Natively, we have plenty of love, strength, wisdom, sensitivity, intuition. We each have a set of distinctive and lovable qualities. The Self God made is rich and full -- an extraordinary gift, complete in every detail, and magnificent in many details!
But most of us have sinned against ourselves many times. We've suppressed our true feelings, impulses, and wisdom. We've done things that aren't natural for us, or that we feel bad about. And by doing so, we bury ourselves and create a whole new character, different than our own -- a character that we don't really like.
True Story: Tina (Lost Soul)
Self-re-creation becomes particularly intense when we're teenagers, when the question of "who am I" becomes extremely important. It's normal for a teenager to worry about self-definition. At that age, you aren't so sure who you are yet, and you're trying to figure out how to be recognized as an individual. It's a perplexing and troublesome problem we've all experienced, no doubt. You want something to hold onto and identify as yourself and as your position.
Sadly, most teenagers don't succeed in truly understanding themselves. Instead, they creatively construct a brand new personality, driven mostly by their social desires, fears, and insecurities. This false persona is created essentially from scratch, without regard for the Self that was already created.
God took a crack at it. Hey! Not bad! But, on the other hand, when you're a teenager, you're sure you've got a better idea. That's the thing about teenagers, they always have a better idea. So, like Dr. Frankenstein, we assemble this new being -- our own monster, that we personally create. It is this monster we refer to later, when we say, "I hate who I've become. I used to be better."
Finding parts for your monster
So, the driving principle of ego creation is this concern: to be someone, to become someone, to take on or create some kind of identity.
We begin by finding some parts to build our monster, something to call ourselves. We look for a way to stand and sit. Hairstyles. Clothing styles. Ways of talking. Mannerisms. Ideas and beliefs. An entire image. We just look around, and anything that seems promising or cool, we adopt.
For example, when I was a kid, I distinctly remember noticing a man whose walk seemed slightly cooler than usual. It had the toes just slightly pointed in, not too much, but at least parallel. I decided that his way was definitely superior to the kind of duck-footed walk that comes naturally to Homo sapiens. We have a natural turn out, you see; I decided to override this, and I did. Then I had inherited a perfect piece for my monster -- a new walk.
Thoughts to call my own
One of the most important aspects of building the monster is forming opinions. You want to be someone other people can take seriously because you have something to say. As a kid, you might feel, "Other people have opinions. Other people have something to say in a conversation. I don't." You feel a need to find or create some opinions of your own, so that's what you do. Construct a set of opinions; read the newspaper, or philosophy books, or Cosmopolitan, so you have something to contribute if there's a discussion. You don't want it to happen that while everybody else says things that sound astute, intelligent, and passionate, you just sit there and go, "I don't know what I think. I don't think anything." That just doesn't sound right.
During adolescence, your opinions usually become a very important part of your self-image. That's why in college people will sit around and argue politics or some other topic as a pastime. Debating and just throwing out views. It reminds you of little goats butting heads. Verbal jousting. The one with the strongest argument is the winner. But win or lose, you gain a certain kind of strength from the exercise. You're cutting your little teeth on the idea of being someone and representing a strong viewpoint. You don't really think it's so important what your viewpoint is; it's much more important that you have one -- and that you argue for it, and that you don't give it up easily.
The trouble is, real thinking, honest thinking, is usually abandoned in the pursuit of having a personal opinion to stand by. It's natural, when you start growing up, for questions about life and God and people to arise in your mind. It's natural to start wondering what is true, and what is bullshit. But the obsession with having one's own opinion is different than honest questioning. In fact, it deadens the mind to cling onto and defend your opinions, to be a "know-it-all." It puts a stop to real thinking. Truly honest minds would not be so certain, would not form such staunch opinions. They would remain open to changing their views, because they are humble enough to realize that they don't know it all.
The quest for certainty blocks the
- Erich Fromm
Doubt is uncomfortable, certainty is ridiculous.
It is the dull man who is always sure.
Besides deciding how to look and what to think, we also make important decisions about our deeper emotions, our sensitivities, our character, the treasures of our hearts and souls. We decide what we are willing to be and not be, what to give and not give, what to allow and what to suppress.
And usually, the personality and the emotional character we create is exactly opposite from who we are. Have you ever noticed that the softest hearts seem to become the most closed-up people -- people who seem hard, and guarded, and impervious? Like the strong silent type, for example, or the mean-looking man who is really a teddy bear inside. Have you ever noticed that the most passionate women become the most withheld, the most rigid and "hard to get"?
By the time they reach adulthood, many people have thrown away the most beautiful aspects of who they are -- their sensitivity, their generosity, their passion, their adventurousness, their ability to fall in love deeply and intensely, their kindness, their honesty, their curiosity, their open-mindedness, their respect for others, their desire, their playfulness, their humor. So many things go in the trashcan, and are replaced with a plastic persona -- a monster that we don't even like.
"In this country, people die at 21. They die
My responsibility as an artist is
- John Cassavetes, filmmaker
When we're building our monster, we make our decisions based largely on what we want to get out of life, and what we want to avoid. With that in mind, we choose which characteristics to keep and which to throw away.
For example, a person might decide to be uncaring or selfish, because they think they'll lose out if they have to take the needs of others into account.
There are all kinds of ways in which people alter themselves to suit their goals and desires:
"I grew up in a large family, and learned early on that to get my way I needed to be pushy and mean, and that became a way of life for me. If I wanted something, I made a fuss, and I got my way." - anonymous
"For most of my childhood I was bullied and ostracized. Then, in the seventh grade, I moved to a new school. On the morning of the first day, I stood in front of the mirror and vowed, 'I will never be a victim again.' I knew I had a fresh start, and I wanted to make sure the bullying didn't happen anymore. After that I became really mean. I would just annihilate people verbally if they seemed to cross me or try to make fun of me. People didn't bully me anymore, but it was terrible. Even my friends didn't REALLY like me after that." - D.H
"I remember when I was 13, I starting thinking that I wanted my friends too much. I thought it wasn't appropriate to want and love people so much, and that it would make me seem weird. So, I toned it down to fit in better. I got better at being 'cool' and disinterested. I thought I'd do better socially that way ... but in the end it made me very lonely. Pretending not to care too much made it be that my friendships didn't go as deep as I wanted." - M.A.
People who make that decision -- to want and love others less -- later find themselves severely crippled in relationship. In order to enjoy a real intimacy with someone, they have to learn how to soften again, open their hearts, desire another. All these things that society says are "uncool" or dangerous are necessary for a truly good relationship.
Another common decision is to "never love so truly or passionately again," as you did in your first relationship. What a rebellion against our own hearts that is! So many people, after experiencing the heartbreak of losing their first love, decide to shut themselves down, and become less vulnerable, less open-hearted; to guard their hearts better in the future. And as a result, their relationships become less real, less full, more disappointing.
I've locked my heart
- Ella Fitzgerald
It's almost inevitable that we'll mess up when we first try to handle real, romantic love. We will make mistakes, we'll be too selfish at times, too reactive, too jealous, etc. What else would you expect? But that's no reason for people to give up.
If only they'd taken on the challenge of real loving and living, and made an effort to learn how to do it right and make it last, instead of shutting down their hearts. With some persistence, and humility, and love, they could have done it, they could have learned. But instead they took the "safe" way, the way that leads to desolation and misery.
We make all these decisions, to be selfish, to be pushy, to be lazy, invulnerable, unloving, dishonest -- to be all kinds of things that our hearts hate, because we feel that they will help us to survive in this world, or get what we want.
Perhaps we teach ourselves to be leaner and meaner than we really are at heart. Perhaps we stifle our social desires, in order not to be too vulnerable. We try not to be so trusting, so generous, so innocent, so emotional, so "sappy," etc.
But in the end, it turns on us, when we find that we don't know how to be soft or passionate or openhearted anymore, when we find ourselves so entrenched in the habits we taught our monster that we don't know how to get out of them.
True Story: Maureen (Rebel Without a Cause)
True Story: Anthony (The Casanova)
When people get far enough on the path of ego-creation, you see funny things happening. You begin to feel that the person is actually disappearing. You know how it is; you've seen it happen. It seems as if they're not there anymore. The person that you recognize is not apparent. That's when you might hear questions like:
"What happened to the person I fell in love with?"
"What happened to the sweet daughter I once had?"
Before and after pictures of humanity recreating itself
Self-creation is part of the Original Win
At the dark heart of the desire to "re-create" oneself is the Original Win -- the claim that "I am my own, and therefore, I have the right to decide who I am, based on what I want." There is a lack of respect for what was created in us, for what we already are.
Sometimes people go to extremes in the effort to deviate, to be a distinctive person. They rebel intensely against their own sensitivities and feelings, just to make the point that they are their own person, and not what anyone expects or wants them to be. That's when you get people who are extremely callous; people who always say shocking or obnoxious things; people who always argue, for no apparent reason; people who dress and talk as weirdly as possible; girls who are promiscuous, and pretend not to care, etc.
I know of a young man who went around telling everybody he admired Hitler. Of course, people were always horrified, and that's just what he wanted. As long as his views were in stark contradiction to others, and even to the values of his own heart, he felt he had satisfactorily achieved distinction. He had transcended the "sappy" sentiments of the heart and conscience. He was not beholden to that. He was his own man.
But you don't have to do or say anything extraordinary to have this attitude. The man sitting at his desk in the big office building is normal enough, he seems to fit in just fine; but internally, he is absolutely committed to an attitude of disagreement and separation. He may comply with what others want, because his survival depends on it, but he resents it terribly. His life is a misery, because in his mind he is constantly fighting with others, constantly defending his right to be contrary to what's wanted, needed, or expected. On that, he stakes his integrity. He feels it would be terribly sick and hypocritical to happily go with the flow, cooperate, get along with others, etc. What kind of non-person would he be then? He is his own man. And according to him, you can't be happy to do what others want, and still be a self-respecting person.
The desire to be different and contrary is most obvious in teenagers, but the basic attitude exists in many people. And that is really the driving force behind self re-creation -- the urge to be distinct, to be your own person, to be different, to be able to say, "I am my own."
Self-discovery is the true way, not self-creation
Being true to who you are doesn't mean you won't go through changes, or discover new aspects of yourself as you grow. Of course you will. Self-discovery is a natural and beautiful part of human life -- particularly during your teenage years, but it can go on forever. There are parts of you that you'll discover, that you may have never known before. But that is different than building your own personal monster. In self-discovery, you are allowing parts of yourself to exist, rather than trying to build new parts of yourself, for reasons that have to do with pride and fear.
Unlike self-building, self-discovery feels exceptionally sweet and good. For example, to discover that you have the ability to make people laugh. To feel, for the first time, a deep and loving response to another human being -- perhaps the affection inspired by deep and loyal friendship, perhaps the new and surprising passions that a lover invokes, perhaps the tender care and powerful protective instincts that a mother or father feels when their first child is born. Throughout life, we are meant to discover new and deeper parts of ourselves. There is nothing wrong with that.
Were it not for the energy that teenagers put into building an egoic monster, teenagehood would be a beautiful time. When a girl becomes a woman, or a boy becomes a man, there is dawning awareness that a new and larger nature has awakened within you. You begin to find treasures within yourself that you never knew were there.
But when we let ego run the show, the inevitable result is that we cut off many of the more beautiful aspects of who we are, and build something that even we don't like.
We are all living in the remains of what God created. We have rejected and cut down ourselves, because of what we judged to be our flaws -- all the unacceptable things about us. That's the long and short of it. This editorial process is man's sovereign right. Right or wrong. Wise or unwise. For better or for worse. But you begin to really have deep respect for the power with which man determines his own destiny.
Defending the monster
Once it is assembled, a person has a tremendous attachment to their monster, and is very concerned to protect it. Since the persona is built out of all these little false parts, there's a sense that it's easily perishable. It feels vulnerable, like it could fall apart, or be undone. And so, a phase begins -- which usually lasts to the end of one's days -- where one will studiously protect the monster. If anything about the persona is questioned or threatened, it will be defended.
True Story: Grace (The Boss)
You see, the monster you build has its own preferences, its own ideas, its own tendencies and emotions and habits. And as long as you think that's who you are, you will stand by those ideas, habits, tendencies, etc, even to the death of your relationships, even to the point of ruining your life. Because, as you understand -- or misunderstand -- it to be, you are fighting for your existence. You are fighting for "who you are," as you defined yourself when you were a teenager.
To have and to hold, for better or for worse -- your position
Have you ever had that sinking feeling in your stomach, when you're standing up for a position you know is wrong, but you're not going to give in anyway? You know you're going to alienate everybody by doing it, and yet, to your ego, it seems like there's no other option -- the monster must live! And since it is made of pride, opinions, etc., that means pride and opinions must be defended.
You simply won't concede the point easily, because that would show weakness of spine, a lack of self-security, an insufficiency of character. You don't want to lose face by giving in, by saying, "You're right." So, you keep arguing, even though inside, you don't want to. You fight for your opinions, stand by them to the very end -- that is, the end of your affinity with everyone around you.
"Do you realize that if you keep arguing for five more minutes, everyone's going to hate you?"
"Yes, I do, but it's okay, I need to make this point."
Most people are fighting all the time for their beliefs and behavior patterns -- against God; against the needs, wants, and demands of others; and against their own inner promptings, the drive and desires of their soul. When the soul says, "I should change my ways. I should love more, give more. I should re-think my opinions, because I'm not comfortable with them," the ego responds: "NO! Don't! You'll be lost if you do that!"
And ordinarily, people obey the ego, and don't do what their heart loves or craves -- the very things that would liberate them from the miserable life they created with their monster.
True Story: Scott (The Runaway Poet)
True Story: Jake (Lone Warrior)
Here's another example: When you get in your first relationship, your enthusiasm for love comes into combat with your desire to defend and maintain your persona. On the one hand, you want to give everything, abandon yourself entirely, be what your beloved needs. You feel moved to open up, lose your cool, be yourself with the beloved. You feel more yourself than you ever did before. And you know what that means? It means the monster is losing its grip. It's about to be extinguished -- by love!
To the soul, that is a good thing, but to the ego, it's horrifying. To the ego, it feels like you're going backwards. You just went to a lot of trouble to try to be someone, and now this? You're going to throw it all away?
When the voice of the ego kicks in, things usually go downhill fast. At some point, you realize you're about to lose the monster you so carefully built, and you dig in your heels. You rebel against your own tendency to change for the sake of others. That can lead to some grand-sounding resolves about protecting one's identity: "Never again am I going to surrender all my opinions, all my personhood, all my self, all my ..."
When a person decides to continue a relationship under these conditions (which happens all the time), what you get is a pair of very separate people, with their own separate desires, and habits that hurt one another, and enough distance between them to ensure that the monster is totally safe -- even though the soul is crying for what was, or could have been.
"Why can't you just accept me the way I am? Why must you ask me to change?"
Stuck in the prison you built for yourself
By fighting so hard for our monsters, for our decisions about who we are, we build a prison for ourselves that we then have to live in. Life's most wonderful possibilities all begin outside the boundaries of the ego's prison, beyond what the monster says is okay. They're outside the boundaries, because they require change. And the most obvious change is, they require that you not fight for yourself and your existence at all times against all people. That one characteristic will not work in love, in relationship, in society, with God, in social life, in existence altogether.
But until you realize that you are not the monster, you cannot relinquish the fact of fighting, because you feel your existence depends on it. So, fighting becomes a lifetime commitment, a lifestyle; and only the precious few, who have the recollection of what they've done, who remember that this persona is only a fabrication, a virtual self, and not a reality, could possibly escape having to live out their days protecting and defending the monster -- and losing virtually everything of value in the process.
People who take the fight too far
When people take fighting too far, things start to get strange. And that's why things have started to get strange on this little planet of ours. You see, at some point, fighting itself becomes a value. It becomes part of who we think we are. When that happens, a person will feel like the only way to have any integrity is to not do what others want. For example, have you ever known a person who would turn their music up when someone asked them to turn it down? That's what it really means to be a monster.
"When I was 14 years old, I got onto a very destructive streak, where I wanted to break and burn things. One day my dad looked me in the eye and said, 'God help you if you break another thing!' So, I went straight to the kitchen and broke his favorite glass." - anonymous
A "true blue" fighter measures their power and individuality by how much they hurt and annoy other people, by the depth of their wrongness, by how stridently others will disapprove.
But the most terrible outworking of the fighting tendency has to be cruelty. For example, the impulse to tease somebody, just because they hate it. The impulse to hurt another human being, because they don't want you to, because they object. That is where fighting for the monster leads, ultimately: it makes you into a monster.
"I hate what I've become"
But no matter how far into egoism you go, your spirit will never accept ugliness of any kind. And, your spirit will never accept the persona you've created -- because it's not you. Therefore, any commitment to personal wrongness, any refusal to love or give, any deviance from your own heart will produce guilt. It will keep you awake at night. You can't get away with it. And that only proves that your real self is alive and kicking.
In truth, most people hate the things they do to protect their monster. Maybe you snap at your friend, as part of the routine of defending the monster. Or you be cold, or indifferent. You push people away, you hurt their feelings, you end up with big distance between you and others. Broken hearts, sinking stomachs; problems, in short -- emotional problems. Regrettable words, regrettable deeds, even regrettable attitudes. You betray your heart, you betray your loved ones, and you suffer.
In A Picture of Dorian Gray, a young man prays that his sins will not burden his body or face, but rather, appear on the face of his portrait -- a painting done by a friend. Over the years, he does many awful things, hurts many people, acts cruelly and selfishly. Then one day he looks at the painting and sees a hard, cruel face, a monster, and he is horrified. Similarly, many people get to a point in their lives where they look at what they've become, and are horrified.
One day you wake up, and you realize that you've lost your softness. You lost your feeling. You lost your trusting nature. You lost your vulnerability, your generosity. You lost your sexuality. You've reached a point where no one can get to you, where you're not going to be taken. You can't be wholehearted anymore. That was then but this is now. You don't have the ability to enter into true intimacy -- you don't have the flexibility to enter into it. You can't move.
Example: At 41, Dorothy doesn't know what happened to her energy, her life, her passion. She's become so hard, so dry, so unable to feel. She can't remember when she last felt deep love. She can't cry easily. She doesn't feel the compassion toward others she WISHES she could still feel. She is a shadow of the woman she used to be.
We knew it all along
If you'll think back far enough, you'll remember that even when you were busy building the monster, you knew that what you were creating was horrible. Even in high school, when you go into full gear on creating this monster, you have mixed feelings about it, about the pieces you're using to build it. You feel a little funny about the people you're hanging out with, the things they value, and the things that are going on. It doesn't sit right. You hate the person you're trying to be. You don't like the morals of the people you idealize. You don't like the superficiality of the looks-based culture in which you're trying to look your best. You don't like your goal. You don't like the means to achieve it. You hate yourself for buying into it. You feel guilty and ashamed of yourself for doing that. But yet, you know that's what's popular, so you do it anyway.
And you feel resentful. You feel, "Why is life forcing me to become someone I'm not, when what was wrong with me?"
Of course, that was all blame. People weren't mature enough then to take responsibility for the fact that they were choosing this. They were doing it partly to avoid pain, partly to get what they wanted, and partly because the ego in them couldn't handle the demands of love. It couldn't handle the challenge of caring for others, and living in a way that was right and beautiful.
It's a hard thing to stand up for what's right and true. It seems easier just to get the right haircut and call it a day. It seems easier to bail on what you know, bail on what you feel and are, and then blame it on the cruel world and the people that disrespected your true self, and made fun of it. But it's still a choice. And actually, living in integrity is a much easier choice to make. In the end, living according to your heart's true feelings and your soul's standards will bring you much more joy and much less pain than the monster will.
Are you satisfied?
So the key question you need to ask yourself is: are you satisfied? Are you satisfied with the self that you've created, and the lifestyle you have to live to defend that self?
Truth be told, when you analyze the products of a life lived as the persona, what you see doesn't leave a smile on your face. You've got alienation, loneliness, conflict, hopelessness, despair. You've got shame, blame, guilt. You've got the inability to have a love life. These are the things we create when we fight for our monster.
But if you are willing to let your monster go, and be your true self, the very one you rejected, then the answer is, you have everything. You have all the love and wisdom and strength you need to live beautifully, and to meet any challenge life or love could present. If you be yourself, everything will love you even more than your Levi's or Guess jeans, even more than your proper walk, or talk, or hairdo, even more than your rock music -- a billion times more than that. The beautiful qualities we tend to reject would inspire incredible love. Your fragility, vulnerability, feelingness, desire, your native cuteness -- these things would win hearts. They would make a stone weep. They would bring life to life. They would heal.
If you look back, you'll find that your life is characterized from one genuine moment to the next, even if they're five years apart. You'll notice that in the moments when you settle down into your actual Self -- because your guard wasn't up, or the stars were right, or whatever happened -- you suddenly feel a tremendous sense of happiness, reality, sustenance, goodness. And that's because you are good, and beautiful, and full of wonders just waiting to be born. You are the cat's ass. You are God's gift. You cannot actually do better. That's why these however scattered moments, when you truly be yourself, are so precious.
So, why not forget the need to create an alternative self at all? You have a Self. And the Self that you have is a fine Self; you don't have to hate it anymore. The authentic feelings you have, the vulnerable feelings, the sweet feelings, the feelings of devotion, the desire to serve -- those are good. Don't hate those feelings. The desire that's in your soul, the fire in you -- don't try to put it out. Just be it, live it. Who's to stop you? Stop giving the big finger to your own heart and its values, and give the finger to your monster.
How to rediscover yourself, and be the real you again
The truth is, you are who you are, and you will never be the monster. You are as unique and distinctive as God made you, and you can't be undone. God knows, you've tried! All of this investment in the artificial self has been an attempt to undo, defy, dismantle, or deny who you really are -- and it hasn't made a dent. Your heart still lives, still speaks, still kicks up a fuss when you do or say things you don't really like.
The extreme arrogance of the ego is in the idea that "I am what I decided to be." That isn't true. We don't create who we are. We only create who we think we are. Escape from the ego-self lies in understanding those simple words.
Creating who I am is very, very different than creating who I think I am. If you realize that you have only really created who you think you are, then you see how insignificant that little creation is. What difference does it really, ultimately, cosmically make who you think you are? You've changed that many times.
"But if I've spent so many years being this monster, how can I be myself again? I don't even KNOW who I am anymore."
Good question. It is possible to be your true Self again, no matter what has happened. But for that, you have to go back and reverse the original decision -- the Original Win. You see, all the changes you made, all the adjustments, all the suppression was done out of fear, self-protection, the desire to get or to succeed, or the desire to avoid something. God's way is a way of love, and love is the opposite of all that.
God is love, and you are love. You can only be yourself if you love. Let love direct your life and actions. Don't turn against your loving impulses, your right impulses, the feelings and desires you are so afraid to share, or to live by.
Love brings out the beautiful qualities God gave us. When we love someone, they bring out our tenderness, our care, our sense of fun, our strength. They bring out all kinds of unique qualities we may never have known we had, if we hadn't loved. This is true in any kind of love -- whether you're loving a friend, a lover, a spouse, a child, or anybody.
"I feel like love has washed away all of my past, all of my fears and insecurities, and made me whole again. I'm discovering parts of myself that I've never known before. I never knew, for example, that I could yearn so deeply, and feel so much. I never knew that I could smile and brighten up a room. I never knew I had a sense of humor. But most of all, I never knew that I was meant to be happy -- until now." - anonymous
Many parents will tell you that raising children brings out strengths in people they never knew were there. The patience and forbearance it takes to raise a child. The strength, the self-sacrifice, the tenderness, the deep devotion, the desire to give your child everything they need to be happy.
And many people who've committed their lives to service of some kind, where they really gave their heart, their strength, their life to others, say that doing that work showed them so much about themselves, brought out so many feelings and qualities they didn't even know they had.
Love will show you who you are, as long as you love deeply enough, truly enough, honestly enough. Of course, it won't work if you hide behind a shallow "agape" love -- just being nice to people; or working at a soup kitchen, but not really giving your heart, etc. Real love takes risks, emotional risks. Real love of any kind is naked, implicating, personal, vulnerable.
The search for oneself can only be fulfilled when we accept that we are love, and we want love, and we want to give love -- real, deep, satisfying love -- and live accordingly. Because love is who we are. We are children of God. God gave us God's Heart, and God's Heart is love. We are love. Genetically, deeply, essentially, absolutely, love. If you've got a problem with that, you've got a problem with you. You see?
The world needs you
Have the courage to live as you are, to feel honestly, to express love authentically, to take the risks your heart wants to take, to desire truly, to speak without affect, to show it when someone moves you, and to do what your soul knows is right. Have your moments be genuine.
Be the exact "wrong" thing -- the thing that everyone says is dangerous, uncool, too vulnerable, too loving, too feeling, over the top, etc. And you will be back to yourself, and you won't have to go to the counselor and say, "I don't like the one I've become."
The world needs you, and you need you. Until people start bringing what they really are, what they really feel and know, to the party, we will all be desolate. So, what are you going to do about that?
"May your heart always be joyful
- Bob Dylan
by David Truman
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