It appears as if becoming authentic is difficult in the face of what others expect and want us to be. As very young children we intuitively learn to mirror those around us in the hope that they will then feel comfortable with us and we will belong and feel safe. We buy into their projections.
Brain scientists write of the presence of “mirror neurons”. We mirror what we see out there, especially when we are young and helpless, when “they” are in control of what we get, how we are treated and dole out the most treasured gift of all, attention or “love”. The all too common danger is that we abandon our authentic self and take on the role that gets the attention—or at least survival. Like many fairy tales, we hide what is most precious and in time we forget.
Becoming authentic is an inside job, it takes courage. Asking others about who we really are can be useless if they bought into our academy award winning performances of being what others expect.
A 43-year-old man once told me he felt like he had lived inside of a glass box, always looking out at the world. He hid how empty and alone he felt inside the box, but it was also a safe place to hide. He went on to tell me about his life “outside” the box. He was successful, had a social life, but no close relationships. He explained how well he had hidden himself from everyone. “I have spent my whole life inside a glass box covered by a one-way mirror where others could get a lovely reflection of themselves and how wonderful they felt from me. I could see out. I lived in that box for 43 years.” It is interesting to note that he spent the first six weeks of life in an actual glass box—in an incubator. No one ever touched him inside his self-imposed glass box. After therapy, he said to me, “It is an amazing change. I can get out of the glass box! It’s like giving a kid the most flawless gift they could ever have.”
It is a slippery slope to become yourself. The pathway has warning signs “caution”. How much faith do you have in becoming you? Remember the word courage? It comes from a French word meaning heart, spirit.