The courage to be who I am - A book review of The Inner Self by Hugh Mackay

Are you living for yourself? Or for others?

This book beautifully captures a lot of the work I do with clients – stripping back the layers of who we’ve learnt to be based on society and other expectations and labels, and connecting again with our own unique inner authentic self.

When I talk about core self, or inner self, I refer to it in a similar way to Australian author Hugh Mackay in his latest book, The Inner Self: The Joy of Discovering Who We Really Are

"Try thinking of the self as a seed, and the face we present to the world as a husk - the visible, external part of us that shields the seed from the view of others and protects it from predators. The husk/persona, being self protective, is naturally tougher, more defensive, more competitive, less tolerant, more prejudiced, less forgiving than our inner seed/self. The husk is a perfect hiding place for the seed, but it would be a tragic mistake to become so focused on the husk that we forgot to nurture the seed within it." 

Mackay, a social researcher and author of 19 books, has reflected on the topic of the inner self in terms of examining the ways in which we hide from this self. He explores the ‘top 20’ hiding places - from addiction to materialism, anxiety, work and playing the victim. All of these hiding places keep us from confronting, owning and living in alignment with our authentic self. Which, over time, can lead to all sorts of maladies.

“The Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard saw our tendency to live as if we were someone other than our true self as a particular form of despair – the despair of weakness and passivity. He believed that this kind of despair often goes unnoticed in the world because you can hide from yourself and still put on a flawless performance, be successful in material terms, attract praise and honours. He wrote scathingly of those who may ‘amass wealth, carry out enterprises, make prudent calculations… perhaps [be] mentioned in history, but they are not authentic selves. They are copies. In a spiritual sense, they have no self.’

“No self? The picture Kierkegaard is painting is of a person who has chosen to hide in the shadows – in spite of a public performance that suggests otherwise – by refusing to answer the deepest and most searching questions that ever come to us from the depths of our own being. Are you living for yourself, or for others? Have you understood the oceanic breadth and depth of the love that is available to you; the love that can transform your own life and the lives of those you touch? Do you think of your relationships mainly in terms of what you’re getting rather than what you’re giving, or could be giving?”

When we aren’t connected to our inner self, we live a surface-level life. Maybe there are moments of feeling anxious, without a trigger; or feeling generally dissatisfied; or feeling as if you’re constantly striving and pushing but aren’t sure of the destination you’re trying so desperately to move towards. For many of us, there is fear. A fear of being inherently unlovable; or a fear of inadequacy, so it can be far easier to keep yourself busy and push down emotions or uncomfortable thoughts when they arise rather than doing the work of getting to know who you really are.

The title of this book is The Inner Self: The Joy of Discovering Who We Really Are and for me, it is a joy. It may not always be comfortable – learning about why we do what we do – but it is so incredibly worthwhile. When we connect with our authentic inner self, we allow ourselves to completely reach our potential – the potential of our unique humanness and creativity, and from that place, we are less judgemental, more tolerant, more open and accepting of ourselves, as well as others. In essence, we’re more loving.

We all have an Inner Self. The greatest joy and meaning I have found in my work with clients, as well as in my own life, is exploring who that little seed is and how we can nurture and cultivate that inner seed to the betterment of ourselves, and our world.

At the heart of connecting with our inner self is… the courage to be who I really am.


Read this book. It will open your eyes to the potential of your own little seed, revealing the hiding places that you’ve observed over your life, and possibly making the changes, you know deep down, will benefit you in the long run.

The Inner Self: The Joy of Discovering Who We Really Are
Hugh Mackay
August 2020

Available in-store - Slowwell, 233 Ocean View Road, Ettalong Beach.

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