Make Choices That Free The Authentic You

I saw the Angel in the marble and carved until I set him free. Michelangelo

A little boy and his dad were walking toward me the other day in a shopping center. They were dressed identically in polo shirts, baseball caps, sandals and shorts, and, oh yes, sunglasses too. But, even sweeter than dad and his child’s matching look was the child’s smile. So, as we met up, I asked the child his name. “Nawh”, he mumbled back to me. Noah, his dad said clearly. “Tell her how old you are”, his dad said. Two fingers lifted shyly upward. “Two-years-old; That’s wonderful”, I said. Then, we parted ways.

I couldn’t get that cute image of dad and his boy out of my mind, and I began to think about how early identity begins. By 2-years-old, we are already teaching children who they are and also who they should want to become. Name, age, mommy and daddy, and whether or not they favor peas or carrots eventually matures into a preference of living style, beliefs and values, biases and choice of career, politics, religion, type of romantic partner and everything else that puts a stamp on who we are. Psychology calls this our ego-identitya necessary point of reference that let’s us consider day-to-day experience against what we have come to believe and know. But, this learning, although vital to development, can also become a block to unfolding your true purpose and fulfillment.

There is more than the identity that helped to ground you in the everyday world. There is the authentic self; the natural instincts, desires, intellect, talent and capabilities with which you are born.

Is the authentic self God-given, genetic, or both? I’ll let you decide upon this. But, one thing is for sure, each of you has been born with desires and capabilities that, when freed, put you on the path to realizing your true purpose.

The Problem Between Ego-Identity and the Authentic You

The problem between ego-identity and the authentic you is that there is often a mismatch between the two. For example, the real you may be a Picasso, but your family values business entrepreneurship. Indeed, for long, you even suppressed this desire to fit in with your mother, father and siblings. I, for example, had no idea growing up that I had a natural talent to teach. I actually come from a long-line of family members who are successful business persons. Like so many of you, I had to bump into my true self through making mistakes here and there until I learned who I really was along the way.

Unless we have family members who can step out of their own ego-identity to see us clearly, our true selves will remain hidden to us. You start to learn about your natural talents and abilities by having parents reflect back to you what they see. “Oh, Johnny, you paint wonderfully.” Or, “Melissa, you write so well.” But, parents cannot show you where to look for your true self, if they haven’t found their own. What is often the case in childrearing is that parents teach children about the ways of the world, and who they should want to be, rather than who they really are. They don’t mean to suppress their children’s inner desires, but nonetheless, they do.

Thus, your parent’s lack of self-awareness, and the hundreds of value-statements that they impose upon you daily, may actually be stopping you from fulfilling what feels most natural to you. But, thank goodness our true selves are not lost to us, despite early training. Life has a wonderful way of getting us back on the right path to our true self, no matter how far away we’ve strayed from it. We are always learning and evolving and bumping into our real selves along the way. We eventually find ourselves, but at what cost? Some mistakes bring as much pain and suffering as they do learning. Also, they eat up a lot of precious time when we could have been doing what comes most naturally to us.

People often go to psychotherapy precisely because they made life choices that supported their ego-identity rather than their true selves. They divorce, switch careers, return to school, get religious, or dump their ego-identity altogether, to find authentic purpose and fulfillment.

Wouldn’t you love to make choices that get you closer to your true self rather than mindlessly bump into it? That’s what I’m going to show you how to do, today. I’m going to teach you how to chisel away at your ego-identity so your inner talents, intellect, and desires that express the real you can come forth. By quieting the ego, the paths of least resistance to your true self are easier to see.

The Paths of Least Resistance To Your True Self

Unlike the roads that lead directly to Rome, some life choices do not take you straight away to your true self. You have to approach life experience mindfully to know which roads are right for you. The paths of least resistance to the authentic self not only show you more about your true self in temperament, instincts, talents and purpose, but also are richer in opportunities for expressing them. In contrast, the paths of great resistance to your true self are tortuous and winding. They express the ego-identity and as such are full of lessons that are mostly painful.

The steps that follow help you to distinguish between ego-driven ideas, beliefs and learning and intuitions that speak to your true temperament, instincts, talents, and purpose. Now, because you are aware mindfully of the various forces that cause you to act, you can consciously choose for the authentic self.

Let’s start now!

1. Describe your ego-identity. What are the ideas, beliefs, values and desires that helped you to make your way in the world thus far? For example, in the 70’s, women legitimized their existence primarily through marrying and having children. And, if they worked outside of the home, they did more so out of need than personal desire. Thus, at 21-years-old, I did what I was expected socially to do; I married. It took unhappiness and a divorce to get me thinking about what was really right for me.

Which family or social ideas and values have been dictating what you choose in life? Bring these ideas forward, so they do not operate outside of your awareness where they have greater power to influence your choices.

2. Reflect upon your choices to date. What have you learned about your true temperament, instincts, talents and purpose from them? I recall a young patient of mine, Margie, who came to me because she was very depressed. She was working as an accountant and married to a man whose only virtue, to her, was that he was a loving father to their child. Margie had a very conflicted relationship with her mother. Her mother was very disapproving, so that Margie identified more with her father than her mother. This is what motivated Margie to become an accountant. At 31 years old, Margie was deeply depressed and acting out sexually because of it. What Margie learned, at this time, was that two of her major life decisions (job and relationship) came out of her ego-identity rather than her true self. She ended up divorcing her husband and leaving her job to go back to school for art. It didn’t matter that she had less money and didn’t know exactly what all of this would bring her. Margie was truly happy, for the first time in her life.

3. Connect to your inner self. Get into a relationship with your inner self. You have to remember who you are in the inside to bring your authentic self forth.What makes you happy or sad? What do you fantasize and dream about? Intuitive wisdom is there for you, when you quiet the reasoning mind. Get quiet, breathe deeply, and turn inward. When you quiet the mind, you can hear the inner self speaking to you through feeling, images, and momentary fantasies that reveal needs and desires.

What comes up for you? What needs, desires, and instincts are making themselves known to you? Make sure you do not reduce your hunches and intuitions to silliness. Don’t rationalize away your feelings and desires; don’t sell your true self short!

4. Face your fears and push open the doors to your true self. What is the worse thing that can happen by following your true self rather than ego?  Yes, like Margie, sometimes you may have to forgo security as you change a career or relationship path. And, family and friends may not like that you are following your true desires. Some people may call you selfish or think you’ve gone off on the deep-end. But, remember, the loudest protestors are often people who foreclosed on their true selves long ago. And, remember, you don’t have to have everyone accept and like you. If you lose a few people on the road to your authentic self, they were meant to disappear from your life. For sure, you will meet friends and lovers who resonate deeply with your authentic values, desires, ethics and capabilities ~ when you dare to face your fears and push the door open to your true self.

Thus, dare to step into the unknown for a short while. Walking the path to your true self can be scary at first. But, the journey to the authentic self is lush with opportunities to learn and grow. Don’t make life any harder than it need be. When you learn how to make choices that support who you really are in temperament, instincts, talents, and purpose, you will journey through life experiences that are paved with great beauty, depth of meaning and purpose, and wisdom.

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17 Responses to “Make Choices That Free The Authentic You”

  1. avatar Zerevan M Xalid says:

    First of all, You are welcome online again. Second of all, thank you no end for this advantageous article. I always look forward to seeing your nice articles. Best wishes.

  2. avatar pratik says:

    Hi Deborah,
    Wonderful article. It seems to me like verses rather mere words carrying some meanings. After a long time, I have realized the feeling called ‘Reading for pleasure’. So soothing!

    “My voice will go with you”- Milton H. Erikson.


    N.B. Do you have an email where I can write to you?

    • avatar Dr. Deborah says:

      Hello Pratik, I’m so glad to get to say hello to you today. I hope all is well with you. I’m glad this read is enjoyable and pleasurable. That is a very nice complement. I love the Erikson quote: My voice will go with you. Wonderful. You must have discerned from the emphasis on the ego-identity in this article how much I respect Erikson’s work. Yes, you can write me at:

      I look forward to hearing from you. Stay well my friend. Warmly Deborah.

  3. avatar Crystal Brown says:

    Reading articles like this are an enjoyment to me, but they also create alot of confusion. When you have been trained and programmed to be a certain way, how do you know what your non-ego self is. Are the voices I hear answering those questions my ego, or is it my authentic self? How do you know which voice to trust? I get confused by all of this because I feel its always stated so easily, but the situation is very complex. Again, I think these posts are great, but I have no clue how to apply them to my own life.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Crystal, how nice to say hello to you and that you took time to comment today. You are right–ideas like the authentic self versus what we were “programmed” to believe and follow can cause a lot of confusion. Everyone feels as you describe here Crystal. First, let me say, that we are never 100% sure that we are right when we decide to follow an intuitive hunch or feeling. We must discover the rightness of our choices as we progress down one road versus another. But, we can choose better by learning more about who we are as an ego self versus our authentic/intuitive self.

      There’s one rule of thumb in knowing the difference. Intuitive ideas, images, and wisdom is not thought out by the mind. Crystal have you ever had something come into your mind that you haven’t been thinking about; you just know? I’m sure you have. These are authentic intuitive ideas that come from within you–your gut, your inner self tells you. Yes, eventually we do apply reason to our intuitive hunches, to see if we can make some desire come true. But, true desires are feelings, hunches, impressions that come up from inside of us that have not been produced by reasoned thinking. For example, “I should, I must do this” suggests you are thinking through what you should do. I must be an accountant, for example, because accountants make money, have stable work. You see the mind working here? But, somewhere inside a feeling keeps coming up–I love to draw. Then, you might get into the thinking mode and say–artists can’t make a living, my family may not like this. You see ego has shut the door on the intuition that came up for you.

      It is complex; you are so right. It’s not like we just know easily which desires to follow. Life is trying this and then that–and we learn slowly about what and who fulfills us in an authentic sense.

      So, my recommendation is to not put pressure on yourself to know exactly how to do this. We follow our true desires everyday in small ways right? You may feel suddenly, heh, I want to play the piano. I don’t know why? I have no training. But, I want to take some lessons. This is following an authentic desire. Or, you get the feeling like you’d like to run a marathon–you follow that hunch. All of our authentic desires don’t lead to huge life changes in career and relationship.

      I hope this helps somewhat Crystal. What a great question you asked. Warmly Deborah.

  4. avatar soul says:

    i have read ur article. it is v good. i have a question to ask. is it good to end bad marriages? socially it is not acceptable, especially for a girl…. i knw it is good to end those bad relations which r hampering ur progression of self but it is so difficult to do… something stop us from doing that. in such a case whre u want to end the relation every sec of ur life n when u r given a chnace smthing inside u stop u from doing that. n then u regret it again. is it the fear or our iner true self that stop us from ending a bad marriage.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Soul! I like your name 🙂 As you can imagine, many people come to therapy asking the same question. And, it is a good question to ask, because it is not always clear if our desire is from fear of acting on our true desires or if our true desire, what is really good for us, is to stay in the marriage. Soul, I want you to evaluate how much you can grow as a person inside of this marriage. Can you fulfill who you want to become in life in this marriage? Only you can answer this question. Some marriages permit the two people to grow their desires. It doesn’t hurt the marriage–it positively stretches the growth of the marriage and the marriage. But, some marriages do not permit the two people inside of it to grow and mature. This can be true for women in some cultures. So whether or not your hesitation to divorce comes from fear of acting on your true desires or that it is your true desire to stay in the marriage–can only be answered by you. Let me say, however, that you ask a brilliant question dear. Really, most people should be asking this question when they are thinking about divorce. As a therapist, this is exactly the question I help people to examine before they decide to either divorce or stay in the marriage.

      Remember, Soul, family and some friends will tell us we must stay, we married now we have to stay in the marriage. They are talking from their ego-identity (from the cultural values) Only you can decide if this is right for you. But, remember, whatever you decide, you must take responsibility for that decision.

      That’ being said, let me ask you some questions: Can your marriage be made better? Are you and your husband well suited for each other? Does he love you; do you love him? Can you ever love him? Are you being physically or mentally abused in any way? Are the problems between both of you too difficult to change? Are there children in the marriage?

      You see there are many questions that you must ask yourself. How will divorcing affect you, your husband, and if you have children, them?

      Nonetheless, what is your heart telling you. Remember, you will never have all of the answers right now. Sometimes, we have to choose the path to our authentic self, to find out over time that we were right to have made that decision.

      Warm regards to you dear. Thinking of you. I know this is not an easy decision. Deborah.

  5. avatar tapo says:

    i like your article,its really superb.kindly do tell me one thing,sometimes we have talent but due to some reason we feel hesitation to show,it may one reason of it is fear of rejection how we can cope with it.

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Tapo, you are right. Sometimes it is a fear of rejection by family and friends that stops us from pursuing certain talents. Take a risk; become courageous. You have to try what you fear, to see that your greatest fears will not be realized. Take one step at a time. Show your talent a little each day so that you have the experience that everything you fear will not come true. And, remember, those people who laugh or devalue our talents and courage to show it are often jealous and threatened, because they do not have the courage to do the same for themselves. I wish there was a magic pill but there is none. You just have to DO! A little each day–you will grow in courage and strength to show who you are. Warmly Deborah.

  6. avatar hanifullah says:

    hy dear!
    first of all you are doing a great job….
    And then i want to share my problem with you that is before my martriculation I used to write a lot of material but then matric,fsc,graduation and now Bds….for a long time that hobby of me was out of reach for me due to study burden…now i try to write but my mind goes numb…whar should I do…?

  7. avatar Deana says:

    Great article. Excellent advice on how to awaken and tap into the paths of least resistance to the true self. My true self likes to lavish love on others, serve those in need, paint and draw, play music and dress creatively. I feel most alive when I am engaged in any of these activities, and when I am home with family. i like to feed people. I have always felt imprisoned by social and cultural strictures–ever since the first day of school. Behave, don’t talk so much, don’t laugh so loud, keep your hands to yourself, remain seated, don’t ask why so much, act like a lady, apply yourself to something useful, etc… The idea of bumping into the authentic self, and then not dismissing, but conversely, paying attention to those things that make your heart sing and soar, is wisdom. Your generosity is unparalleled. You are truly a spirit-filled woman of God. Your articles, and the healing advice you give away free of charge to those who write to you asking for help, uplift and inspire others to make small, authentic choices each day that lead to contentment and peace. Bravos for you my sister. How fortunate we all are to know you. xo

    • avatar Dr. Deborah says:

      Oh, thank you Dr. Deana. You are so articulate in what you say here. I just love ~ Behave, don’t talk too much, laugh….keep your hands….stay seated…act like lady…
      So descriptive of the norms that shut our true selves down. And, paying attention to things that make our heart sing and soar is wisdom. How true this statement is Deana. Wonderful. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us. And, thank you so much for your kind words and having the heart to be present to me and to other people. Much love to you and may your authentic self sing and soar high always. Love Deborah (your sister and best friend).

  8. avatar Fazal Karim says:

    Wow great article Dr. Deborah.!! Thank you so much for being so generous to the readers.Your generosity gave me confidence to ask some questions, although my English is not that good.
    If someone already has chosen a profession which is not giving satisfaction or inner happiness. Will it be possible for him to change the path of life while keeping all those hurdles in mind which u have to face??? and how many chances are there for success??

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Fazal, thank you so much. I’m glad you feel comfortable to ask some questions. So far, your English seems very good to me. I understand you very well.

      Yes, to your question. Fazal, I don’t know the path that you want to change to. Perhaps, it requires more education or some other change of which you will have to take on and adapt to. If you face honestly what you have to do and are willing to put the effort and time into doing it, then by all means, the change is possible. Most of us change paths in life at least one time. I have treated many people who were accountants but then became psychologists, or Psychologists who became lawyers, or business people who decided to follow their dream of becoming an artist. We just have to look honestly at the dream we want to pursue, what is needed to bring it about, and do we have the time, age, and money to make it happen. Many things are possible when we have the passion to follow a dream. Thank you Fazal. An excellent question. Warmly Deborah.

  9. avatar Manju says:

    Dear Dr. Khoshaba,

    I came upon this post you wrote and it reminded me so much of some people I know, both friends and relatives who have descended from different cultures. They are first generation here in the US. These friends and relatives continue to feel an internal struggle between living life based on what makes them happy versus living life based on what would make their parents happy.

    It is sad to see this struggle because life is so short. I understand it takes courage and resilience to “stand up” to those you love. And maybe it is that some people are strong enough to face the adversity and others are not.

    I’ve always lived my life doing what makes me happy. And thankfully my parents are fairly forward thinking even though they were born and raised in India. But they’ve always known they couldn’t stand in the way of me being me because I wouldn’t allow it.

    I appreciate your post and hope many people are able to read and learn from what you have written.

    Warm regards,

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Hello Manju, I’m so glad you liked this post. It’s a topic close to my heart too. It is hard to cope with the struggle of “living life based on what makes them happy versus living what would make their parents happy” as you describe here. It does take courage to go with what our heart and soul tells us and to have faith that our parents will eventually come on board when they see that we are happy and well. For the most part, this is what they most want to know; that we are alright and living a meaningful life. I think that we do have to stand up for our true selves and not allow others to impose ways on us that we know deep inside are not right. Again, it takes courage and faith, which you surely have. Thank you again dear Manju. Your friend. Deborah.


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