Have you ever felt as if you were trying to balance more than one you? Like there is a part of you that cares greatly what others think and values what you are “supposed” to do with your life and then there is also a deeper part of you that longs to do what just feels right for you?
In her book Finding Your Own North Star, Martha Beck describes these two parts of ourselves as the “Social Self” and the “Essential Self”. She tells us that the Essential Self is the true and natural expression of our essence and that it directs us toward our true calling in this life. Our Social Self is the product of domestication and training in our lives by our family, culture, community, society, etc. Our Social Self will help us get to our true calling, but it cannot find the way on its own.
The problems arise when we defer to our Social Self on a regular basis, thus overriding and ultimately silencing the Essential Self. In this situation, we can find ourselves living a life of doing what others think we should do and what we feel like we are supposed to do, while missing out on what would be truly fulfilling for us. But, don’t get me wrong, we do need the Social Self so that we can function in society with others and have the skills that will help us to follow the longings of our Essential Self.
When we are living from the Social Self, we are concerned with the view from the outside- how it looks to others- and we are often in a state of contraction as we are attempting to shape ourselves into something other than what we deeply desire. If we can relax into the Essential Self and allow it to direct us in our lives, we can find more joy and contentment as we experience a life that soothes our soul.
So, how do we find balance between the two and how do we know which we are currently following? For some, it is obvious, but for others, we have been listening to our Social Self for so long that it is difficult to see that we are not honoring the desires of our Essential Self. Have hope. Our mind and body consistently send us signs to let us know if we are wandering away from the Essential Self or moving toward it.
When we are living our lives out of sync with our Essential Self, our mind and body will try to tell us to change course by making things a bit more difficult. One sign to look for is feeling like the energy is sucked right out of us when going to a job or situation that is not in alignment with our Essential Self. We may feel sluggish and drained when going to work and then experience a burst of energy at the end of the day and on weekends.
Another sign to look for would be frequent illness and difficulty remembering things or thinking clearly. When we are moving away from our Essential Self, our body is in stress response. This means that proper function of our immune system is supressed and our brains are in survival mode just trying to make it through the day. We are working against our ability to thrive.
Regarding our attempts to be socially involved with people who will pull us further away from our Essential Self, we have a built-in ability to sabotage those relationships from getting off the ground. It may seem like we lose all ability to interact with tact or grace with those people. Have you met someone you thought would help you out professionally only to act like you have never been out in public before? And then later find out that the person you were attempting to be involved with acted in a way that would have gone completely against your beliefs and values? You can thank your Essential Self for that.
If we can start to tune in to these signs and see them as such rather than judging ourselves for not being able to force things that work against our Essential Self, we can live a life of joy and fulfillment. Of course, it takes time and practice to really get in touch with all of the ways that we are naturally directed toward our Essential Self, but it’s definitely worth it.
So, start to take inventory. Notice when your mind and body are working against what you are trying to do and assess if that is really the direction your soul is longing to go in.
I will be practicing right along with you.
Chat again soon,