In an earlier career I was taught to be “all things to all men (sic),” and became somewhat proficient at doing so. I became a professional “pleaser” in a sense, working very hard to have others feel better about themselves and their lives. In the process I felt good about my self as well, finding a genuine meaning in life. But that all changed as I grew aware of other truths of me that had been neglected or feared.
Every self has many facets. That is not to say every self is a chameleon, as I sometimes perceived my self early on. To want to be liked is thoroughly human so a self constantly, if not consciously courts that feeling. Meeting others for the first time, any self ordinarily wants and tries to make a positive impression – the easy part of becoming known. A smile, firm handshake, a sense of humor, shared friends or interests, a harmless tease or whatever it takes to feel well met presents a safe, familiar truth of self.
But there is so much more to every self. Other truths, depending on circumstance and relationship, emerge over time. Tastes, values, talents, beliefs, maybe biases, etc., can solidify the truth of anyone through sensitive self-disclosures which grown-to trust invites. Friendships take root in such shadings.
The neglected and fearful truths of my self early on were questions, doubts and feelings that did not belong, I had learned, while aiming for a life of ministry. Still, I lived what I thought was a full life, sharing the self I knew while ignoring or denying the deeper truths within. Caring for others came easy; but caring for my self did not. Eventually, my integrity began to pay the price.
Over time I have grown to believe there is at the core of every self a truth that belongs to self and self alone. Call it identity, ego, soul, whatever. It is where one’s whole truth pulses. Many never think or need to go there. Life “on the surface” is demanding and busy enough. But when the deeper truths of self are damaged by neglect or compromised by fear, a self’s integrity becomes, at best, at risk.
If, as I believe, life is a journey toward wholeness, a self cannot afford to neglect the deeper truth within. One’s journey inward can hopefully and ultimately lead to an awareness that, as has been said, all share the same soul.