Remove The Mask
“It takes more than just a good-looking body. You’ve got to have the heart and soul to go with it.”—Epictetus
It seems these days many people are preoccupied with their appearance. It takes courage to be yourself and I commend those who try to stand out. However, standing out has become a rite of passage insofar as the clothes one wears, hair colour, body piercings and decorations. Some may view it as a show of defiance rather than a proclamation of distinction. I don’t intend to cast aspersions over one’s appearance, nor label or judge others and I would invite you to do the same. We’re all doing the best we can given our level of awareness. Returning to my main point. As much as we yearn to be noticed, there are those who want nothing more than to uphold the status quo. They refuse to be acknowledged as different for fear of having the spotlight cast upon them. It may terrify them to reveal their insecurities fearing they will be judged and labelled.
What if, instead of trying to fit in you allowed yourself to be who you really are? We’re all trying desperately to be someone we’re not, hiding behind a mask. The great mystic Joseph Campbell and the imminent psychologist Carl Jung proposed that we adopt the persona of an archetype as a protective shield i.e. innocent, hero, caregiver, explorer, lover, sage, etc. They reasoned this persona lives in the collective unconscious and is tied to one’s core values and personality types. Removing the mask by connecting with our core self allows a fundamental shift towards wholeness rather than separation. There are two questions which echo the complexity of this ideal, so allow me to clarify.
1. How Do We Get Connect With The Essence Of Our Core Self?
“Follow your own star!”–Dante Alighieri
The core self is the spiritual essence of your being. It is grounded in the understanding that you are more than the physical self composed of thoughts and emotions. These are characteristics which help you move about in the world, yet they do not define you. Your thoughts and emotions are fleeting states that come and go like the ocean tides. It is unreasonable to attach yourself to them since they are transitory conditions. You may be angry today and at peace tomorrow, therefore how do you define yourself based on this? The core self is often buried under layers of conditioning, thoughts and ideas of an illusory self.
Suffering occurs when we strive to uphold an image of who we think we should be. We create a persona, an image or likeness of who we have to be to feel secure, loved and self-worthy. Unfortunately, life may not be so sympathetic and will shatter this image via a personal crisis i.e. divorce, illness, bankruptcy, etc. The good news is that when we relinquish the image of who we think we should be, we allow the authentic self to emerge. The authentic self need not be defended or upheld, since it is egoless and transcends the limitations of time. Your authentic self is not constrained to the thoughts or beliefs about oneself and is not limited to the needs of the ego.
2. What If In Connecting With The Core Self, We Dislike Who We Are?
“Be who you are, not who the world wants you to be.”– Unknown
You cannot oppose that which is the truth of your existence, the essence of your true nature. You may have mistaken your spiritual substance with that of your ego’s; the part of you that has needs, wants and desires. Suffering ensues when we disconnect with the true self, since we identify with the ego instead. Our identification with unfavourable parts of our nature are the egoic qualities which we have attached ourselves to. Instead of opposing them, we ought to allow them to meld into our spiritual being. We cannot identify and experience something which we are not. You are not fear, anxiety, misery, sadness, etc. These are passing states you have associated with.
The core self rises above these states and views them as transitory feelings: “I have the feeling of sadness” rather than “I am sad” may be a better way to express it. Therefore, we must be attentive to what we attach the prefix “I am….” to, since this has the power to create empowering or negatives associations. To become who you really are, identify less with your thoughts, emotions, beliefs and ideas. I’m not suggested these are not important elements, yet they stand in the way of discovering your true essence. They impede your spiritual development, since they shroud the true self from emerging beneath the shadow of what is already there: the timeless, loving nature of your soul calling you home.
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