We live in a psychologically-sophisticated age. We know we need self-esteem, self-worth, self-compassion, self-love and we need to do self-care. We know we have an ego or personality that can behave badly at times. We know we need to work on ourselves to overcome our negative character traits. We may too have an awareness of an inner essence that is more magnificent than all of this. But who actually are we? A mix of all of this? One self at one moment… and another self at a different moment? Let me try and clarify it.
- We have a small self. This is our concept of ourselves that we take with us into our daily lives. It is who we believe ourselves to be. This self, with all its conditioning, sees itself often as small, vulnerable, ‘not enough’ and at the mercy of our life experiences. This self has dreams that it would love to fulfil. Yet, it recognises that we live in a Universe that also has plans for us. As a result, it feels it must either work hard to obtain its desires and intentions. Or, scale them down given the mighty forces that seem to be against it.
- We have a big self. In an attempt to move beyond the conditioning of the small self, we create a big self that seeks to be ‘more’: more confident, more skilled, more talented, more beautiful, more successful and more loved. Ultimately, we desire more of everything including money, VIP status, public recognition, approval and validation in an attempt to enhance our sense of value. To cover up the insecurity we actually feel. And to ensure we feel more powerful than everyone else around us. In truth, we know this is just a cover up, but it feels good… especially on the bad days!
- We have a shadow self. As we move between our small self and big self, there is another aspect of our self that occasionally emerges: our shadow self. This part of us incorporates all the darkest aspects of our personality that we do not want the world to see. And those guilty pleasures. Deep down, our shadow self believes that it is bad, hateful and deserving of punishment. Its beliefs subtly undermine us and cause our anger, depression, overwhelming anxiety, addictive behaviours and ultimately bad health. Even so, we do our best to keep it suppressed.
- We have a True Self. All of the aspects of the self I have mentioned above form our concept of who we are. But it is just a concept. It is not who we really are. It is a conditioned self that we have created, over time, to hide the reality of our True Self. Our True Self is in totality who we are. It is joyful, magnificent, radiant, loving, compassionate, serene, patient, trusting, honest, generous and open minded. With inestimable worth, esteem, security and value. And it is changeless. Totally unaffected by the outer world, all that we have done and all that has been done to us.
In answer to the question ‘who are we’, the answer is our True Self. Our responsibility is to fully acknowledge it. And do our best to live in alignment with its qualities and the security it offers. There will be times when we revert to our small self, especially when we feel challenged. There will be times when we feel we need to become our big self. And that is fine. Our non-judgemental observation of what we are doing is all that is needed. And, from there, we can re-orient ourselves to the attributes of who we are in reality.
Amidst the outer turmoil of our lives, we all have this calm, quiet inner nature that nothing we can say or do will take from us. We need to rejoice in that!