I have written on this subject before, and I am no closer to understanding it now than I was then. Who is the real self beneath the shell of an exterior that we present to the rest of the world? There are so many different versions of us for so many different situations.
Is it the personality on social media? I think not. It is difficult, from a screen, to see through the words to the real person, the real meaning.
Is it the personality in work? The serious person in a meeting who has to stand up and speak in a room full of people? I think not. This is yet another facade we take on temporarily. I think the majority of us shed this second skin once we leave.
Is it the person in the pub having fun with our friends?
It is true that alcohol and a specific atmosphere can bring out honest, reflective thoughts and conversation and open people up in a way we don’t always see but this is temporary and there are more solid, dependable routes to bonding and healthier ways and situations in which we can be encouraged to open up to each other.
Is the real self the one whose mind has come to stillness like water settling in a pool, in a yoga class or during meditation?
This was the whole point of my earlier blog We’ve Got Soul. Meditation and Yoga are certainly, in my opinion gateways to the true self, the true personality but that does not necessarily mean that the meditating mind is the final product, the real you.
Is it the person who is with our friends and family? I think that surely this must be the closest thing to our real selves. If we cannot be ourselves with those we are closest to then how can we ever find our true selves?
It may be that it is all of the above. We are all made up of the different aspects of our day to day lives, defined by our actions. To quote Kevin Costner in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, “I’ve seen knights in armor panic at the first hint of battle. And I’ve seen the lowliest, unarmed squire pull a spear from his own body, to defend a dying horse. Nobility is not a birthright. It’s defined by one’s actions.”
The raw personality must surely be the personality, unearthed from deep down and shaped by ones actions in the world and interactions with people and the world around them. I like to think that the real self is the one deep down, the one we need to chip away at to find, like a sculpture. For me personally, I don’t know that person yet. The final product has not been unveiled.
I made this analogy in my previous blog. I think of it like the Statue of David by Michelangelo.
He believed that these figures were hidden away divinely within the rock. He was simply chiseling away the excess (the fluff) to get at the figure of David beneath, just like we chip away at ourselves in everyday life through meditation, care of our body, right action and right interaction with others or conversely, the opposite, through careless, frivolous behaviors, we pile on the fluff and pick up all the extra baggage that life offers us along the way until we are so heavily laden that we have no hope of ever knowing who we really are because we don’t have the dexterity or mobility to think.
So if we can drop everything and put down the burdens we carry (click here for my previous blog on carrying our burdens) and really start searching for ourselves, how will we finally know when we are there, when we have found the real self?
Will we ever know? Will we ever reach that final destination or is it always a work in progress as our lives, personalities and situations change over the years?
Would Michelangelo’s statue have been the same statue if it was sculpted at a different stage in his life?
My personality varies greatly from situation to situation, whether I am at a party with a group of people I know or a group of people I don’t know, whether I’m in work or at home, or even right now as I write this, I have a different personality in all these situations.
Is the real self a destination or a journey?
Take the statue of David for example, one may think that the final masterpiece was a destination, that the real statue was underneath, waiting to be unveiled and has stood unchanged since then. Not so, I argue, in this ever static state even a statue changes.
It changes, through light and shadow, it changes as the stone matures over time, it changes in a person’s mind, through opinion and reaction, it changes through perspective, from a small boy to an old woman, from a man ignorant of art, seeing it for the first time, to an experienced art teacher who has looked upon it hundreds of times, it changes through or minds.
For Michelangelo too, it was a journey. The process of sculpting David and the rigors he went through to create this great masterpiece. Michelangelo, like any human was a work in progress, a person journeying to find his true self.
Is there an ultimate, final self? Even in death, is that the final self? I think one has to take the entire life in totality. It must be weighed in conjunction with immeasurable aspects of our selves, like the mind, the thought, the personality, intentions. To Quote Robin Hood Prince of Thieves again, “there are no perfect people in the world, only perfect intentions.”
We are where we are in the present moment and we are who we are in the present moment. The real you is the person who you are right now. I went to see Guru Singh speak a few months back and he repeated the following statement over and over. “I am who I am, exactly who I am.” You have to accept who you are at different times in life. This is where you are at, but the great thing about the present moment is that it is the beginning. You life starts anew now and it always will. There is always the potential for a new beginning.
Does that mean there is more than one version of the true self? I struggle with this because I don’t think so. I think there are different possible versions of the true self and that the current self is always changing. It helps me to think of the true self and the current self as the same yet different. I mean that in the sense that those of are lucky enough to have found their true selves, those of who are enlightened will still see changes in their current selves. The mind or the personality will react to the world which surrounds it. One cannot predict what will happen to trigger a reaction, but the true self can temper and control that reaction of the current self like a sailor adjusting the rigging during rough seas.
We will always strive to refine and amplify, just like a sculpture trying to smooth out the edges but will we ever come to a state where the edges are smoothed. Maybe the rough edges are part of the masterpiece.