When you think that who you are is connected to something you are not, you are identified with it. To make this clear, think about how you felt the last time you accidentally scuffed your brand-new shoes or tore your brand-new pants. It felt like it was you who got damaged! Remember? That's what it means to be identified with something or someone. It hurts! None of this is too difficult to understand when it comes to things outside of us, but when it comes to the word "I," suddenly the mental fog rolls in.
When you think of yourself, when you say the word "I," there is a great storehouse of accumulated memories and experiences that rush forth, forming an almost solid wall of thoughts and feelings. In thinking about your "self," you feel real, because as these waves of your accumulated past wash through you, it gives you the very familiar feeling of being you. But this sensation of self -- no matter how many times or how strongly you may feel it -- is not you. For instance, you are not your past, regardless of how "real" you may feel while reliving old regrets. It is being identified with these old sensations that ties you to their torment. This false identity, this "false self," is false because it is a borrowed life.
The great playwright and philosopher William Shakespeare wrote, "Neither a borrower nor a lender be, for loan oft loses both itself and friend." How much more so does this powerful idea hold when it comes to life itself? Truth tells us that we must not be borrowers, let alone of our identity. No wonder life seems to have lost that vibrant quality of being new every moment. We only thought we were living a real life! Trying to find and own your True Self while living in and from this borrowed, counterfeit identity is like waiting for the sun to come out in a deep, subterranean cave: there is lots of excited anticipation, but none of the light and warmth that come with true self-realization.