The Elusive Nature of the "Authentic Self"
Throughout history, philosophers, scholars, and introspective individuals have grappled with the question, "Who am I?"
For the last 15 years I've been exploring this question gaining a deeper understanding into psychology, meditation, and personal development. Your "real" or "authentic" self is not who you are today or who you were yesterday.
Instead, you are a continuous transformation, a being constantly evolving through experiences and choices.
The Fluidity of Identity in Psychological Perspective
Contemporary psychology provides valuable insights into the dynamic nature of the self.
According to the concept of self-schema, our identities consist of cognitive structures that organize and interpret incoming information based on our past experiences. These structures are continuously updated and refined as we encounter new situations, resulting in an ever-evolving self-concept.
The idea that our personal narratives shape our identity is central to narrative psychology.
As we gain new experiences, our stories adapt to accommodate these changes, resulting in a constantly shifting sense of self.
Meditation and the Path to Self-Understanding
Meditation, deeply rooted in spiritual traditions, offers another way to explore the authentic self. Through mindfulness and focused attention, meditation encourages a non-judgmental awareness of the present moment.
This heightened awareness enables us to observe our thoughts, feelings, and sensations as they arise, without becoming entangled in them.
The conscious awareness of the non-conscious.
Over time, this practice can lead to a deeper understanding of the impermanent and interconnected nature of our identities.
A core teaching in Buddhist philosophy is the concept of "no-self" or "anatta." This principle suggests that there is no fixed, unchanging self to be discovered.
Instead, our identities are comprised of ever-changing physical and mental components, collectively referred to as the "Five Aggregates": form, sensation, perception, mental formations, and consciousness.
Through meditation, we begin to recognize the transient nature of these components and loosen our attachment to a static sense of self.
Personal Development and Compassionate Self-Transformation
In the realm of personal development, there is an emphasis on growth, change, and self-improvement. Which is wonderful as it aligns with the idea of continuous transformation, but it can put too much emphasis of reaching a particular state or identity.
There is no finding or discovering yourself. Only the witness of your self transforming. The more we become compassionate towards change, the more we're able to become who we want to be instead of who we've been.
When we embrace the idea of continuous transformation, we harness the power of making conscious change in our lives instead of being stuck in patterns.
Cultivating Compassion in Embracing Your Ever-Evolving Self
How can we apply these insights from psychology, meditation, and personal development to cultivate a more authentic sense of self?
Learn to recognize and celebrate the dynamic nature of our lives and what's possible.
Life isn't less short when you live many lives in one.
Here are a few practical tips to help you embrace your ever-evolving self.
Spend time reflecting on your thoughts, feelings, and experiences. After all, being aware of your self is the discovery of self.
This could involve journaling, meditation, or simply taking a few moments each day to check in with yourself.
Challenge limiting beliefs
Examine the stories you tell yourself about who you are, and consider whether these narratives are still serving you.
Is it who you want to be or who you've been?
Rewrite your stories to better align with your current values, goals, and aspirations.
Embrace growth and change
Recognize that development is an ongoing process and be open to learning from new experiences, even when they challenge your sense of self.
Seek opportunities to expand your horizons, whether that involves taking up a new hobby, joining a group, or pursuing further education.
Part of self-care is purposefully putting yourself in discomfort so you can work through it and draw upon the experience next time change feels uncomfortable.
Understand that transformation will be messy and uncomfortable at times.
That's kind of the point. Otherwise, you'd just be who you were.
Be kind to yourself as you navigate the twists and turns of your ever-evolving journey, and remember that setbacks and challenges are a natural part of the process.
Cultivate meaningful connections
Engage with others who share your values and interests, and be open to learning from their perspectives and experiences.
What you're surrounded by influences who you are and who you become.
Surrounding yourself with a supportive community can provide valuable insights and encouragement as you explore your authentic self.
The Journey of Self Dis-covering
The authentic self is not a static, unchanging entity but a continuous transformation.
Not a process of self-discovery, but self dis-covering. A revealing of layers to transform and become who we want to be instead of who we've been.
By embracing this fluidity and harnessing the wisdom of psychology, meditation, and personal development, we can journey towards a more authentic and fulfilling existence.
So, the next time you find yourself asking, "Who am I, really?" remember you are the observer, not the identity.