People spend countless hours trying to find their ‘true-self’. They scourge the internet, run behind self-help gurus, buy books, join communes; all in search of finding that elusive ‘self’ which purportedly will lead them to ‘contentment’ and ‘happiness’ in life – A life of harmony.
It’s also not difficult today to find such avenues, to waste your precious time, money and energy. You start to feel that if you find the right guru, book or amount of money, you might just find the key that will unlock this so-called undiscovered powerful ‘self’.
The problem is you are never sure which ‘key’ will help you open that elusive treasure box with a gem called ‘true-self’.
The view is that their exists an identity that is free of all the baggage that you have accumulated over years of your existence and when you ‘peel’ away those layers you would excavate the ‘gem’ that is your ‘true-self’.
Problem with the metaphor of ‘Onion-Peeling’
Often the self-help guides have described the journey of ‘discovering your true-self’ as a process similar to ‘onion-peeling’. They say that as you peel away the many layers you will reach your ‘core’ which is your identity and that is ‘true-self’.
I have a problem with this line. Is it ‘binary’ as we are made to believe? Isn’t the whole onion useful?
The point I am trying to make here is that we are always ourselves. Whatever you do or are experiencing is exactly the person you are meant to be in that moment. If you lead your life wearing masks like a ‘social chameleon’ eventually not be able to differentiate between the mask and your real face. I am not suggesting it is a right way to live but for the person leading such a life, it is the only ‘self’ they know of and that’s true for them.
You must divest yourself from ‘concepts’ which propose to help us find our ‘true-self’ under all the layers of onion. The fact is you are actually all of it, the good, the bad, the flaws, et al. No matter how much effort you put you will never ever get rid of it completely. And let me tell you that’s absolutely fine.
‘True-self’ is just an idea
We have been sold the idea that discovery of your ‘true-self’ will lead to a path of happiness. It’s also been part of our historical, social and philosophical legacy. Its almost like we are now expected to have an ‘identity’. And if we do not know who we ‘truly’ are, we are expected to explore and find out. It is sold as a goal when once achieved puts you in a league which is above all others. It is a crown which people yearn to wear. It’s not just in personal life, this idea is sold aggressively even in corporate circles. The need to find that ‘true’ – ‘authentic’ self. I have been guilty of doing the same and making some money of it as well. This leads us towards a continuous and anxious drive to find that elusive ‘true-self’. The outcome is definitely stress.
Search for ‘true-self’ can be costly
This idea of finding your true-self by peeling away at the layers is also very much tied to our financial resources. It is the result of an industry worth billions of dollars which continues to instill doubts in your mind and capitalizes on it. I see people are inherently insecure about the fact that they do not know ‘who they are’ which other greater beings claim to have a grasp of. It is a well-oiled industry which is built on the notion of ‘true-self’. You will be made to believe that you are ‘less’ than what you ‘currently are’ and you need to put in a lot of time and money to find yourself.
These ‘onion peelers’ are very expensive and once you have bought into it, difficult to extricate. I’ve interacted with many people who bought this idea of discovering their ‘true-self’ and invested in the ‘onion-peeling’ exercise. I found that once they have put in their time and money, they fiercely defend their position and start to bullshit that they are just a few turns away from unlocking their ‘true-self’. Try asking these people what this ‘true-self’ is all about and define it for you, they will start to stumble and use all sorts tactics to manoeuvre their way out of trouble. Even if they do tell you what ‘true-self’ means, it will be from a ‘script’ which has been sold to them by some so-called evolved being.
Just face the fact – ‘true-self’, ‘self’, ‘authentic self’ is all a feel-good philosophy. You are who you are and a complete package. I am however not suggesting that the complete industry is a sham. There are lots of people who genuinely want to help others, but you must accept the fact that any industry has its own vested interest.
Assumption that ‘true-self’ must be really good
We live with the assumption that we can compartmentalize our lives into different parts like an onion skin and can peel away until we discover a hidden ‘gem’ called our ‘true-self’ at the core of it. This is also the dichotomy of the concept of ‘Work-Life Balance’. How can you talk about ‘work’ and ‘life’ as two entirely separate parts? Isn’t work part of your life?
You must realize that one of the key factors which drives the ‘human’ engine is that of ‘curiosity’. This feeds into the urge of mining through life in search of some hidden gem ready to be excavated and enrich your life. It sounds very nice and hopeful, but rather difficult to believe. Your identity is in fact a ‘whole’ which is greater than the ‘sum of its parts’.
Discard ‘onion-peeling’ and embrace the ‘onion’
I am not suggesting that you do not put in the effort to improve yourself by questioning our actions and look at what has been helping and retain them; at the same time discard those which have not helped. However you must quickly discard the grand idea of discovering your ‘true-self’ as your life cannot be dissected and peeled as is the case with an onion. You are not an onion, you are the whole because of all the parts which make your life. There is no ‘gem’ waiting to be excavated. Don’t waste your time in such pursuits. In fact you must embrace the ‘onion’ that’s you completely with all pains, traumas, successes, joys, emotions, flaws, people and all that which make you who you are. Life is not binary after all.
When you are invested in all the dimensions of your ‘being’ that makes you who you are i.e., money, career, family, relationships, personal growth, health, leisure and spiritual, is when you can find the ‘harmony in your life’