Sue Monk Kidd: False Selves

Sue Monk Kidd: False Selves

“Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.” Kahlil Gibran

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I especially relate to Sue Monk Kidd’s naming of our false selves or masks we wear that we initially put on to protect ourselves from the difficulties we encounter from our very beginnings, but these identities are not our true self. These are similar but an expanded, feminine form of Fritz Kunkel’s four: Turtle, Star, Eternal Boy, and Tyrant. Kidd describes the Little Girl with a Curl (pleaser, very good), Tinsel Star (overachiever, perfectionist, performer), Rapunzel (waiting to be rescued), Little Red Hen (duty), Chicken Little (fear based like Turtle), Tin Woodman (no heart or connection to body). She offers some advice as how to recognize these false selves and how to take off the mask with each of them.

In When the Heart Waits, Kidd challenges us to think about who we would be if all of the roles we play were suddenly stripped away. I connect to her writing about the difficulty of letting go or diapause. I remember my difficulty completely retiring from medicine. I worked four days a week, then twice a week, then twice a month, and finally one day a month. It is so hard to let go of a persona that has been ours for forty years.

Kidd describes the tension that arises when we recognize these false selves that have dominated our lives. She describes an orphanage of banished selves still crying out inside of us. What happens when we still hear the “ego logic” of the Star and the Red Hen driving us to promote ourselves or responding to the Little Girl with the Curl who feels abandoned and unloved and wants to please? What happens when the Star decides not to perform because she learns more about God’s love and no longer needs to be approved by others? I remember this was my persona from an early age when my grandfather first put me up on a picnic table when I as maybe 9 or 10 years old to play my accordion at our family 4th of July picnic. She has been so much a part of my life for so long.

On the other hand, we know we are connected to our real or true self when we respond out of love rather than fear, and honesty rather than approval seeking. The Tin Man is healed by reconnecting our body to our mind, heart and soul by creative dialoguing with our body. I am reminded of the body exercises of Anthony DeMello.

Kidd believes that when we do find our true self and Rapunzel no longer gets someone to rescue her, and the Woodman recovers his heart and embraces his feelings and body, and the Little Girl with the Curl finds her own voice, and the Red Hen stops taking care of everyone else, and the Pleaser stops pleasing, that other people we live with may have difficulty. They no longer know how to react to us as our true self.

Kidd calls us to hold our false selves in our hands and trace our fingers over the masks we wear and begin to find the real person God created us to be.



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