The spiritual path is, in many ways, the search for your true self. If you practice meditation, recite prayer, chant mantras, sing kirtan, say affirmations, or do yoga, you are engaging in practices designed to connect you with something beyond your mind and your personality. Some call that the soul; others call it Atman. For the sake of simplicity, let’s call it your true or authentic self.
Perhaps you already know who your true self is, or perhaps you’re still figuring that out, but you already know there are parts of you that are real yet you don’t share with others. That side of you feels whole and real and yearns deeply for expression. Most of us struggle with expressing that authentic self. We go through life holding back parts of ourselves because we worry about what others think, and allow our true self to come out only in limited, protected circumstances, where we feel safe.
This suppression comes at great cost: a prevailing sense that we never quite belong and people never really get to know us. We long to feel like we can always be our true self, wherever we are.
Why is it so hard to be our true self?
SEE ALSO: Just What Does It Mean To Be A Yogi?
We Fear Judgment
We fear that we will be judged and our true self-rejected. We are afraid that the people dear to us will withdraw the love and affection they hold for us. However real this fear feels, it is not true. The people who truly love you already will be overjoyed to see this new expression of the true you. The people who don’t were never in love with the real you in the first place. You have to face the fact that those relationships were never authentic in the first place.
We Lack Practice
Opening up and sharing the real you takes practice. Most of us have spent our lives hiding away, wearing masks and giving a performance of what we think others expect of us. Sometimes we wait for external circumstances to change before we take the leap of courage and begin to share our true self. Even if you’ve started to share the real you, sometimes you fall back on the default ways of presenting yourself, ways that were designed to avoid rejection or make you feel safe. We have to retrain ourselves not to fall into the same patterns. Be patient as you learn to share your authentic self.
We Fear Change
Deep down, we fear to be our true self because that might require you to make profound changes in your life. If you’ve been hiding from the world, much of your life may have been built on an inauthentic façade. It might mean needing to let go of some people, change your job, or commit yourself to new goals. It might mean some hard work and sacrifice to enable you to make that transition, like the butterfly working its way out of the chrysalis.
That kind of change—however authentic and real—can be frightening. Trust that the Universe is there to guide you. Your true self will never steer you wrong.
We Threaten Others
When we start to act authentically, connected with our souls, and are willing to behave in ways that seem foreign to us, many people will feel threatened by these changes. You may be sharing aspects of yourself they have never seen, and they don’t know how to react. You’re also threatening because you’re doing something they long desperately to do as well. They too have been repressing their authentic selves for so long. In the fact of someone so authentic and present, they sense a danger: Their own authentic self might want to come out too, and their own fears are now rising to the surface.
Being Your True Self Is A Form of Service
Once we’ve overcome our fears, there is nothing more exhilarating than expressing our true self to the world. Ultimately, that is the reason we are all here. But having the courage to be your true self is not just about you. Being your true self is a gift to the world. Haven’t we all been around someone who is so authentic, so present, that you feel more alive, energized, and connected to your own authentic self? (Think Oprah Winfrey.)
This embodies an important spiritual truth: Our lives are not primarily about what we can do for ourselves, but what we can do for others. So the next time fear is holding you back, remember that, by being your true self, you won’t be helping only yourself. You will be helping someone else find the courage to do the same.