Self also matters, as I’ve hinted, because it’s who we are to others. It’s the “user interface” that makes social interactions possible. Understanding who others are, is the glue that makes community possible. Self not some simple-minded ego-centric concept that can be disposed of, for the sake of “spiritual evolution”. Our public Self, as well as our private Self, is the vehicle that our personalities use to find our place and fill our space in the wider world. And our Self is the reference point others use to interact with us.
Our Sense-Of-Self is what makes life meaningful and gives us direction not only in our own minds, but in the context of the wider world we inhabit. Yes, especially in the context of the wider world. Only by knowing what matters to us, and how we think and feel and believe, can we lead lives that are truly responsive and responsible to others. And only by knowing who we are, can others be responsive and responsible to us. As we solidify our Self identity by picking and choosing our actions, each day of our lives, we mature and grow in the presence of others. We teach others who we are and how they can treat us. We define our boundaries and alert them to characteristics that can both attract and repel. Being who we are and doing what we do each day, builds the personality that not only carries us through life but – just as importantly – also connects us to others.
Let’s say that you’re a member of a tight-knit department, and each day, your co-workers see you doing things to help others around you. Holding doors open for people. Getting someone a cookie from the cafeteria, when they’re having a bad day. Picking up they slack on projects that others are struggling with. In the context of the group, you’re a valued member with a stable Self-expression that others can count on. Your habits define you and make your position and role a predictable and dependable one. Far from being rote and boring, the predictability of your behavior is you chief asset.
It’s who you are.
And others have a Sense of your Self that also operates instinctively to prompt them to look to you for help when they are in need. They don’t need to pause and think, “Who might be able to step up and help me with such-and-such?” They just know. And if they’ve walked behind you into the office often enough, they know they can count on you holding the door for them, when their arms are full of folders or boxes. The larger group has a Sense of who you are, as well. And it relies on that Sense to instinctively shift activities to and from individuals who are known to be a certain type of person. Having a known identity and role in your group doesn’t make you less of an individual. It makes you more of one – and more capable to express your individual gifts and talents in the company of folks who know and trust you to be part of their social ecosystem. Just as you need to know who you are to function effectively, your social circle needs to know that, too.
When we haven’t figured out who we are, we drift… aimlessly letting circumstances dictate our life’s direction. When we have no Sense-Of-Self, we have no rudder to guide us as the winds and tides of life push and pull us. And everyone around us knows it, too. They need us to have a clear Sense-Of-Self, so that we can participate in their world, connect with them, and provide support and ballast as they weather the seas of life, as well.