Introducing the Five Aspects of Self

Find out who you are and be that person. That’s what your soul was put on this Earth to be. Find that truth, live that truth, and everything else will come.

— Ellen DeGeneres

Barbara A. Bernard

Barbara A. Bernard

Many years ago, I discovered the work of business consultant Roger Von Oech, author of A Whack on the Side of the Head. Over the years, his ideas and clever delivery style have proved most valuable to me as an educator. His follow-up book, A Kick in the Seat of the Pants, describes four distinct roles each of us can assume in the creative process.

Inspired by and expanding on Von Oech’s model, and incorporating observations from my own experience, I have identified five aspects of self that support me in living a life of discovery: the Guardian, the Explorer, the Artist, the Judge, and the Champion—the one who encourages all aspects of myself to live inspired.

When each of these aspects is supporting me fully and freely to live in discovery, I can say it is functioning in an inspired state. This is a way of being that enables me to grow, evolve, and integrate mind, body, and soul. Inspired in this way, I remain present-oriented, open to possibility, and free from self-limiting thoughts. If my mind visits the past, I know I can update my stories and entertain fresh perspectives.

For any of these five aspects, I can also find myself in what I call a “wonky” state.  Wonky means that my body, mind, and soul are out of balance. When I’m wonky, I’m living with old stories, frozen perceptions, childhood beliefs, and unrealistic limitations. My behavior looks like this: I’m living in fear, focused on myself. I’m judgmental, comparing myself to others and assigning labels to people and situations. I resent and blame others. I take things personally and speak before I think. Being wonky is part of being human, but learning to recognize my wonkiness and finding ways to move back into my inspired self are powerful tools for living mindfully.

First to consider among the five aspects is my Guardian, who works to keep me safe in the world. If I’m living an inspired life, my Guardian will change with me as I grow and mature. It understands that I’m no longer expected to confine myself to the playpen of my past. But when it is wonky, my Guardian serves as a rigid gatekeeper and operates from unexamined stories or fears from childhood.

My Explorer responds to my yearnings and allows me to be curious and open to possibility.  It supports me in learning new things in my life and is comfortable trying out new ways of being. In contrast, a wonky Explorer gets caught in exploring endless loops of wandering and investigation but doesn’t allow for creation or action as a result of what has been learned along the way.

My Artist’s job is to support me in being imaginative and creative. In an inspired state, the artist uses what my Explorer has discovered as the basis for doing something new. When my Artist is wonky, it clings to the familiar to avoid experimenting with an untried approach. Challenges and obstacles are allowed to block my creativity.

My Judge helps me to assess, evaluate, and make decisions in my life. When it’s inspired, my Judge is informed by my inner knowing and remains aware of my current environment. When my Explorer or Artist is in the creative mode, the wise Judge waits patiently to be called upon until decisions are required. But if I see only two options, the Right Way and the Wrong Way, I know my Judge is being wonky. Rigidity, childhood fears, and concern about appearances are all hallmarks of a wonky Judge.

My Champion supports me in growing, becoming, and evolving as a human being. It believes I CAN. It believes I AM WORTH IT! My Champion understands that obstacles are likely to arise and that they are a necessary part of most learning experiences. Like the other four aspects, though, my Champion can be wonky. I know that’s the case when I hide in my fears, lack confidence, or roll over and give up. But the inspired Champion knows that I can learn from my attempts and that they have the potential to inform my future.

In a nutshell, if I’m rigidly clinging to established ways of thinking and behaving, without acknowledging other possibilities, I know one or more the five aspects is being wonky. If I’m feeling open, flexible, and eager to create—if my mind, body, and soul feel integrated—I know all five aspects are inspired. And because my Champion wants me to live fully and in possibility, I can call on it to support my Guardian, Explorer, Artist, and Judge to do their jobs appropriately and further my life in discovery.

© Barbara A. Bernard