I’ve been reading a book by Martha Beck titled Finding Your Own North Star. The subtitle is “claiming the life you were meant to live”. In it she talks about the essential self and the social self… each of these serve an important purpose in creating a life you don’t need a vacation from.

The essential self is the basic part of you, the personality and preferences you were born with. It knows what your purpose in life is – the gifts you have to offer the world that only you can share.

The social self is the part of you that has been socialized to do what is expected to fit in, obey laws, do what needs to be done. It keeps you from stabbing people with a fork who annoy you at dinner parties.

Martha suggests that when these two parts of you are working together toward a goal things go smoothly. You are on the path toward your North Star, or the life you’re meant to live. She qualifies this by saying there is not one right way, but that if these parts of you are in alignment you’ll enjoy the journey and be excited about the work and effort it takes to get there.

Things go awry when your social self stops listening to your essential self.

A whole myriad of challenges begin at this point. Depending on how out of sync your two selves are you may feel mild boredom and unrest or be completely miserable, angry, and repeatedly self sabotage every effort you make to move forward.

As I was working through some of the exercises she has in the book I had aha thoughts about different times in my life where I have experienced symptoms along those lines. How about you?

Think about times when you’ve felt listless, tired, and frustrated with life. She points out that chronic forgetfulness in an area might be a sign your essential self is resisting something about that subject. She points out that even the most forgetful person probably hasn’t forgotten the plot line and character names of their favorite TV show or movie from years ago. Maybe you can’t show up to work on time to save your… job? Have you ever bumbled through a situation doing everything wrong despite careful preparation? This is evidence that your social self and essential self are not in sync.

Next consider the times in your life when you’re excited to get out of bed and get working on a project. What gives you energy for days when you’re doing it? When was the last time you were so involved in something that you lost all track of time? How about times when you could visit for hours with a friend about a certain topic? When life is flowing and you are excited and energized its a good bet you’re in sync.

I woke up this morning with the lyrics from a song in The Greatest Showman in my head. (if you haven’t seen this movie get to a theater ASAP!) It’s from the scene where Barnum is trying to convince Philip to help him with marketing. It’s a classic example of the way the our social self tries to keep us safe and shut down the urges and desires of the essential self. Obviously, there is a balance that needs to happen, but way to often we squish our natural gifts, talents, and instinct to use them to create something magical because of what others might think.

In this scene, Philip says to Barnum, I can’t just run away and join the circus. Here are the lyrics and music.

What is your cage?

What is your key?

What is your essential self yearning to do that your social self is saying “NO WAY!” to?

If you’re not sure I encourage you to grab a copy of Martha’s book and work through it. I promise it will help you discover how to reconnect with your essential self and move forward to claim the life you’re meant to live!