Self Portrait on the train to Somerset
Gillian Cornwall, c. September 2015
The Authentic Self recognizes the face in the mirror. One tries to stare back at that image with kindness, acceptance, celebration and love.
Why is that so difficult for us - to say to ourselves, as we wish others to say to us:
- "I see you
- I hear you and
- what you say means something to me"?
Where and when does the struggle begin? As children, many of us try to live up to our heroes - be they our parents, siblings, friends or teachers. Even as youngsters, we are taught to externalize our responsibility to ourselves onto the behaviour and ways of others. "You told me to do it!" "They made me!"
We are told there is a moral compass. We are shown what it looks like and how our behaviour relates to it and, yes, to some extent, that needs to happen. All animals learn survival skills from their packs - how to hunt through play, how to watch and how to work with others. Sometimes, we are shown how to lead.
If everything goes well, we become adults. Then what? Most of us set our own priorities and make decisions about how we will choose to live based on our experiences of the moral compass we have known as children... OR, we entirely oppose it because we see our parents (or packs) were messed up and struggling and had no way to guide us well... OR some combination thereof (the last is probably the most likely and most common). We are all muddling through and there is no rule book that includes or fits everyone. Every single person's experience, every self, is unique.
Back to the mirror. Who do we see? Do we recognize ourselves in what is reflected back at us? If not, then what?
I think I am describing a fairly common experience for all individuals. We all struggle with self-identity in our lives at some point and often this struggle is dependent on others opinions of what they see us to be and the box into which they are shoving us - as we kick, scream and rail against it - feeling misunderstood and powerless. If we protest, we are generally ostracized further for not "getting along with others" and simply accepting the way things are. To not fit others notions of ourselves is an affront to our communities - be they work, social or familial.
"Why can't you just get along? Why do you have to be so contrary?"
Ah, there is the rub! The authentic self struggles against the tide of perception, the tide of ordered thought and labels. There is little or no room to grow, think, change or become in the ruled, ordered society. There is still a compass on how we must look, behave, speak and feel. There is value set on people based on their fiscal net worth rather than their ability to reinvent themselves,to allow themselves to grow and become daily.
These commands are not a recipe for the authentic self. Religious precepts of what is good and right and what is bad and wrong are singular to another and they try to dictate our acceptability and worth and take away our accountability by telling us we are less than and fallible and fallible is bad because there does exist perfection in an unattainable being. ...So how do we learn? How do we err? How do we learn gentleness and forgiveness if the authentic self is not given space to fall, to accept the fall, to heal and to integrate that experience into personal growth. How is it that we are not perfect for simply walking our paths as best we can and taking responsibility for ourselves and our actions.
The authentic self is amorphous. I wish for my authentic self to have a core of kindness, acceptance and the desire to lift up others and say, in all honesty, "I see you. I hear you. What you say means something to me."
I try to do this. I succeed at it daily and I fail at it daily. I am growing, changing, falling and getting up again. I am learning strength and a wealth of ability to say no to the labels. I reject unkindness and try very hard to forgive it - in myself and others.
The authentic self I want to see in the mirror strives to understand that the picture is always changing. I am no Dorian Gray. I embrace the change and mourn the loss of youth while celebrating the blessings of aging - for not aging is a far worse alternative as it means an end of days to this great blessing of life - the heavenly gift of each breath and the chance to learn, love and embrace the miracle of change and growth.
My authentic self is immeasurable, connected to all and a conduit for the universal flow of energy. It IS the universal flow of energy. WE are the universal flow of energy. The authentic self is unique and the same as all else. We are an embodiment of the cheer of the Three Musketeers: All for One and One for All.
Praise yourself. Be accountable for your actions. Do not look to the gods for forgiveness nor hope and do not judge others on their unique paths. Realize that right here and right now, it (you) is all on you. You always have choice - perhaps not always in the experience, but at least in your response to it. Lead. Follow. Right. Left. It is all up to you.
In all truth, I write this for myself - perhaps to hold myself accountable. To remember my perceived failings and re-frame them into lessons. I write it to share my thoughts, in the hope that it may spark thought elsewhere and may lead to connection with others as we walk our unique paths on our journey to self-love and love for others.
-Gillian Cornwall, c. January 31, 2016
Clematis? - after the bloom, the beauty remains
Gillian Cornwall, c. September, 2015