I want to ask you a question. It is a simple question; one that you have been asked so many times before.
Who are you?
Now think about it for a bit. Think about how you would answer if some asked you this question right now. How did you answer?
I will tell you. Like most people you probably thought about your job, you role in your family or perhaps a hobby or sport that you love more than life itself. You are an Eagles fan, a Yankees fan, a father, daughter, a therapist or doctor.
Now let me ask you the same question again.
Who are you?
Now really think about it. Think about how you would answer this question if you only had to tell the answer to yourself. Take break from reading this and come back in few minutes.
How did you answer?
I know how you answered; the same way everyone else does. You answered with a list of qualities about yourself. You are honest, loving, compassionate, inspired, creative, athletic, or artistic.
But none of these answers are who you are! You are only describing yourself. They are descriptors that are shared with hundreds, if not millions, of other people across the world. These descriptions are like tiny prisons that we put around ourselves and we allow others to put around us. We have become so comfortable in these prisons that they have become our homes and who wants to leave home.
So who are you really? Who are any of us? What makes us unique and special? What makes us who we are and unlike anyone else?
The concept of an authentic-self has been around for generations; before that, the soul or the anima. We have written countless books and blogs on how to find our authentic-self and on how to live an authentic life. This is the question of a life time. It is the only question we need to seek an answer to, because living an authentic life fulfills us. It is a safe refuge in the chaotic storm of life. Being our authentic-self is a bulwark against misery and suffering.
What is our Authentic-self?
Joseph Campbell put it best…
“The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.”
Now Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines a privilege as “a right or immunity granted as a peculiar benefit, advantage, or favor”.
It is a benefit and an advantage over everyone else alive to be who we truly are. While others are blind to themselves, those that know themselves can see the path of their life. An authentic life is immunity to guilt and shame. Our authentic life is our birthright.
But what does that really mean?
Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines Authentic as “worthy of acceptance or belief as conforming to or based on fact”. Our Authentic-self is that which is already worthy. It is the self that accepts itself as it is rather than how others think we should be. Authentic-self is that which conforms to the facts of our lives not to opinions or perspective.
In Zen Buddhism there is the concept of Ordinary Perfection; the perfection found in nature. It is the perfection of imperfection the acceptance that what makes us perfect and unique is not being like everyone else, but rather it is our flaws, our quirks, our eccentricities, and yes, even our flaws and mistakes. It is the acceptance that we are perfect already as we are not because someone else has defined what perfection should be.
Our Authentic-self is the true self accepting of ourselves simply as we are. An Authentic life is living our as our truth and accepting that mistakes will be part of the path.
So why do so few people seem to be living authentically; to be engaging in their own authentic-self?
We learned early on by our families, our friends, our communities and the societies we grew up in to pursue things that will allow us to be accepted. We have been told not to be different. We have learned to excel but not to standout. We have answered the call to be different but not so different as to engender rejection. We have in short been told to conform, to be different just like everyone else. These lessons have imparted fear upon us. Fear of judgment, fear of rejection, fear of not measuring up or the newest fear: FOMO. Fear of missing out.
But ask yourself; what have you been missing out on by not being authentically you!
What are you truly capable of? What could your life be?
What stops most of us from living authentically? Why are so many of us content to indulge the ‘woulds’, and ‘shoulds’ of society? What keeps us in a zombie state of obtaining things; things that we use to define our place in this world. What stops us from grabbing onto the privilege that we have been given?
Most of us do not break out of the prison of things, stuff and descriptors of what we own and what we are because most of us are not only blind to what we are but because we have become deaf as well. We are deaf to the voice inside us that whispers; “You are meant for more.” “This is not all your life is.” “Go, seek, conquer and live.” Many of us hear this voice in quiet moments but many of us silence that voice quickly.
Inside of us we have two voices; the Big Voice and the Small Voice. Our Big Voice is loud, obnoxious and annoyingly persistent. Our Small Voice is quiet, barely a whisper and easily ignored. Our Big Voice tells us who we should be, what job we should have, and what life should be like for us. Our Big Voice screams what we are entitled to and what we are not entitled to. Our Big Voice Describes what it sees around us and describes who it thinks we are. Our Big Voice is wants to be satiated. It is greedy, needy and selfish. It tells us to be safe, to be comfortable, to be accepted and protected. Our Big Voice is the Voice of our mothers and fathers, of our leaders and our society.
“There is nothing outside of yourself that can ever enable you to get better, stronger, richer, quicker, or smarter. Everything is within. Everything exists. Seek nothing outside of yourself.”
The Small Voice is quiet. The Small Voice whispers the truth. The Small Voice tells you that you are enough. The Small Voice tells us who we are, what we truly value and that life can be whatever we make it to be. The Small Voice tells us to take risks, to jump into the unknown , to pursue our passions. Our Small Voice whispers that we are already accepted, we already have a tribe and that our only job is to go and find them. Our Small Voice is fragile. It is kind, compassionate and risk taking. The Small Voice is your voice. It is the voice of your authentic-self.
Society has drowned out our Small Voices. The Big Voice is everyone else’s opinions and perspectives. The Big Voice is the fears and the judgments and thoughts that scream in your head that you are not enough unless you… The Small Voice is always there beneath the distractions, buried beneath the noise. The Small Voice demands nothing it just points us in the direction we must take. The Small Voice is our truth that we already have everything we need to be happy. The Small Voice tells us it will be hard but worth the reward but is talked down by the Big Voice that says life should be easy.
So how did the Big Voice get to be so strong and loud? Because, like the Lakota Medicine men believe, there are two wolves that fight inside of us. There is the wolf of the Big Voice and the wolf of the Small Voice; the wolf of Ego and the wolf of intuition.
Which wolf wins?
The one you feed the most.