Being able to really see the self

Many of us think we know ourselves and have clarity about who we really are and what is happening around us. But do we?

The book, A Course In Miracles, points out our physical eyes only see our material projections, which are an outward expression of our internal landscape and perceptions. “You see what you expect, and you expect what you invite.” This means you give everything you see the meaning it has for you! Your past experiences create your meaning. Therefore, your eyes only see the past.

If our physical eyesight leans towards the superficial and programmed, then we don’t always ‘see’ the truth of who we are. Your past learning plays a major role in your idea about yourself! What you notice in the physical world are your thoughts projected outwards. So, this gives rise to the question; does your past accurately interpret who you are? The Course in Miracles says, “the voice you choose to hear, and the sights you choose to see, depends entirely on your total belief in what you are.”

When you look at yourself in the mirror, do you see who you really are? Is the image of yourself that you see in the mirror a true reflection of the real you, and not a false perception of yourself? Looking deeply at yourself in the mirror and seeing beyond the physical is humbling because it often reveals the real person that you are; the person many people often try to disguise or run away from.

My learning and quest to find the source of my anxiety and depression raised several questions for me. One of which was: Can mental afflictions like anxiety and depression be connected to a confused misnomer of the true self?

I reached the conclusion that my anxiety and depression were somehow tied to emotions that had gone awry- negative feelings that were left unresolved and allowed to colour my perception of myself and my place in the world. Anxiety and depression robbed me of being able to see myself clearly. I could not properly acknowledge, support, celebrate and validate my achievements and strengths. I existed in a never enough world, striving for more to make myself feel deserving and to prove my acceptability. I was driven by egotistic societal expectations and in the process got lost and forgot who I was.  This is a common trap for most people.

A Course In Miracles states, “Listen to what the ego says, and see what it directs you see, and it is sure that you will see yourself as tiny, vulnerable and afraid. You will experience depression, a sense of worthlessness, and feelings of impermanence and unreality. You will believe that you are helpless prey to forces far beyond your own control, and far more powerful than you.”

The ego, which goes hand in hand with unrealistic societal expectations or our perception of them rules many of us. The need to please and live up to the expectations of others and of the ‘system’ drives many people’s lives. This is fine if one has clear personal boundaries in interacting with that ‘system’. They can use their drive as a self-motivator to achieve great things in their lives. However, for those who don’t have clearly defined boundaries, the result can be confusion, anger, bewilderment, dread and deep hurt, which can lead to anxiety and depression.

From my experience, placing unrealistic expectations on ourselves often results in overwhelming thoughts and feelings of failure and hopelessness. I have learned that these thoughts stem from a belief system that is often formed in our childhood. We then seek to validate the false belief system as we grow up, with matching thoughts, feelings and actions, resulting in a bottleneck of emotions. Negative thought fuelled feelings are powerful, complex drivers that, if not kept in check, can derail our lives and cause great confusion and loss of self.  Mike Dooley, in his book Infinite Possibilities, captures the key role our beliefs play in our lives. He says, “nothing else affects our thinking more than our beliefs.” According to him, “what we ought to at least be aware of, is that it’s our normal, everyday thoughts and wandering imagination that compose most of our thoughts, so it’s these thoughts that are responsible for bringing about most of our experiences.”

Once I started paying close attention to my thoughts and actions, I was able to unearth my drivers. I started becoming aware of the energy and colour of depression. I learned how it interacted with and affected me. For instance, every time I tried to be carefree, the voice of depression jumped in and put me back in my box. I did not deserve joy! Depression was like another person living inside me, constantly telling me how wrong, not good enough and worthless I was, and how I did not deserve to achieve. I had given this person free rein and over time she took over and derailed my life!

How do we learn to counter negative thoughts and how can we see our real selves?

There are several ways of countering negative, depressive thoughts to help reveal the real self.  Opening your heart to go beyond the everyday physical activities is very helpful.  Through my learning, I discovered that prayer, meditation and affirmations foster acceptance of our inner feelings and enable us to access the hidden parts of ourselves that are causing us emotional harm. They give us the courage to go inside and expose our deepest feelings, particularly the fear driven ones, to the light and examine them. That is an effective way to release them and expose our truth. It is a long and intensive process which requires full commitment, but it works!

Learning to access your subconscious mind is another powerful way to take control of your thoughts and feelings. The subconscious mind is where the churn centre is. That’s the saboteur to your conscious thoughts.  I accessed my subconscious mind through hypnosis, and also through the power of positive repetition. From a young age, most of us learned a lot of things that we now do automatically through repetition. Often what we were repeatedly told, or shown through people’s repeated behaviours, is what we adopted as our truth and behaved accordingly. To undo that, I went back to the source to deprogram and reprogram.  I constantly repeated positive affirmations and self-approval messages to myself in front of the mirror. Self-help experts like Louise Hay made mirror work popular. It is a well-known, powerful way to help us access our inner selves and release emotions and beliefs that do not serve us well.

The self-deprogramming exercise is not an overnight solution. It takes determination, grit and perseverance. Your ego and mind will fight you back like crazy. However, keep going and believe that change will happen. Always keep in mind that in a situation of wanting to instil permanent self-change, fear and inertia are the fuel that keeps the ego alive. The ego hates change, and it will fight to keep the status quo. Don’t buy into it. Fight for control of your life!

When I was growing up, I never learnt about self-praise, self-acknowledgement and self-empowerment. In my culture, praising your efforts was considered boasting and frowned upon. I internalised this and went through life downplaying my achievements. People would congratulate me on something, and I would respond, “It’s nothing really.”  I realise this reinforced my belief that I was undeserving. If this is your pattern, stop and validate yourself for who you are and what you achieve! A lot of us strive to live a good, fulfilling life daily. Life is often a plain slog, one foot in front of the other. But we keep at it. Let us learn to acknowledge the minor triumphs as we go. These are what we build upon to manifest the big triumphs.

I also found that stepping back every now and then, such as taking a holiday, allowed me to slow down and enjoy things.  It helped me to discover what I enjoy most and who the real me is.  When we are always looking forward to the next thing, it makes it difficult to stop and find time to pursue personal hobbies and be grateful for everything our world offers.

I wish you the very best of happiness and pleasure in your life. Find pleasure in small things. I love walking; it does not cost me anything, but I have to find time. I do that daily when I can. Not only does it give me great pleasure, but it also gives me an opportunity while walking to repeat my affirmations and reassure myself how valuable, worthwhile and lovable I am. It works for me. Look deep enough inside yourself and you’ll find what makes your life tick. Believe me, it is sitting there, waiting for you to recognise it.

I came across this powerful video on YouTube about seeing our true selves through the mirror. Check it out! It’s very interesting and eye opening!




Foundations for Inner Peace. A Course In Miracles: The Text Book for Students and Manual for Teachers. Penguin Books. London. 1975.

Dooley, M. Infinite Possibilities: The Art of Living Your Dreams. Atria Paperback. New York London Toronto Sydney. 2009


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