"The authentic self is the soul made visible"
-- Sarah Ban Breathnach
It is a joyful thing to live life authentically, but most in our culture probably do not. What does it mean to be our authentic selves, and why is it hard to do? I like to think of soul as our true essence, and ego as the "packaging" that builds up around us as we go through our lives.
Our souls come here to experience physical reality and to share earthly experience with other souls. Each soul has its own unique nature, which, ideally, would be expressed through our personality as we take this journey. Again, ideally, parents would provide love and nourishment, but allow the child's true nature to emerge-like planting a flower and caring for it so it can be the best possible manifestation of its being.
Typically, this is not what happens. Instead, parents often see children as a blank slate to be programmed according to their beliefs and expectations. Media influences begin to shape children before they even start school. Once in school, children must fit a mold in order to be considered successful.
Socially, throughout school children are under pressure to conform. For whatever reason, children ridicule or reject those who are different. At an early age children begin to strive to be like others rather than simply and unselfconsciously being themselves. This is like an iris growing in the garden, looking around at the roses and daisies and then trying to reshape itself.
Ego takes this all in. Ego wants to get love and approval, and knows it can do that by pleasing others, or at least acting in accordance with their expectations. Ego wants to be admired and respected, and knows it can do that by succeeding in the ways that society recognizes and accepts.
Slowly the uniqueness of the individual soul has become so constrained by the demands of ego that we do not even truly know ourselves-like the iris snipping its petals to try to make them look like the ones on the daisies.
It could well be that stress, anxiety, depression and the sense that something is missing in life could be caused by years of ignoring and denying our true nature. Think how wonderful you feel when you are doing something that you really love, be it gardening, building something, creating art, dancing or walking in the forest. In these moments, what you are doing is in alignment with your true essence, so there is no resistance. You feel relaxed, forgetting about yourself and just being in the moment.
We treasure these moments because for a time, we are nurturing our soul. Ego slips away, and when that happens what is left is soul. We use terms such as "soul satisfying" or "good for the soul." We appreciate these moments so much because they are such a contrast with our usual way of being, and they are rare.
That is not how it should be. The authentic, unique aspects of our being, be they gifts and talents, a loving nature or simply our own true thoughts, are our gift to the world. We came to share our soul, and to experience the souls of others. However, if we are all hiding our souls behind the costume of ego, we miss the whole point of being here.
We did not come to this earth simply to do our job, make money, acquire things, and be like everyone else. We did not come to make ourselves so busy that we have no time to feel our soul, and to listen to its gentle guidance. We came to blossom into the fullest expression of our true nature, our authentic self-who we were destined to be before we were shaped into someone else. There is still time.