The "True-Self" versus the "False-Self"
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson
It’s more common than you think. Many individuals go through life without ever realizing who they really are, living an illusional life of purpose and fulfilment. Few are lucky enough to eventually become aware of who they really are and what they truly love. As a late-bloomer myself, I can now state that I honestly wish I had become aware of my “false-self” earlier in life. Knowing yourself, owning yourself and loving yourself can be the most rewarding achievements in life. In short, I thought it was important to share a few of the methods and thought processes that really helped me in discovering my true identity.
1. Let Go of the Past in a Healthy Manner
It’s a long process and some might even say, “easier said than done.” That said, I think it’s important that, first and foremost, we make sense of the past. Recall your memories, the good ones, and the less pleasant ones too. Let them all resurface - even if you wouldn’t normally do so. Try to make sense of your upbringing, your family's dynamics and how these people both affected and shaped you as a person yourself. Make sure to take into consideration and process any trauma you might still remember in order to prevent it from moving forward with you. Shock, denial, pain, guilt, anger, depression, reconstruction, forgiveness, acceptance and hope are all healthy stages of trauma processing. Once you overcome your past issues, you can then start to focus on your present and future. The harder it is for you to process your past, the harder it will be for you to reconstruct, forgive, and accept your true self. It’s a continual work in progress, but one that offers great benefits.
Psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, and hypnosis are only a few of the therapies that can really help a person make sense of their life story, their history, and become aware of who they are. It is safe to say that if you need it, a professional specialist can guide you into literally talking everything out of your system and making room for your true self. If you feel that you could use a little extra support, then don’t hesitate to reach out. Find a professional you feel comfortable talking to on a regular basis, discover your personal comfort level and rhythm, and follow through! It takes a conscious, mental and physical effort over a span of several months or a even years, but speaking from experience, the end result is absolutely worth every second.
Journaling, or writing in general, is a common and very handy tool that can considerably help someone on the search to understand their true self. In fact, it's an easy and effortless technique that can be performed anytime, anywhere. Personally, I prefer journaling in the morning upon awakening and at night before going to sleep. You can write everyday, several times a day, or a few days a week. That said, I would recommend writing a minimum of once a week in order to keep the up momentum and make long-term progress. Let me guess, now you’re wondering, what do you journal about? For starters, anything you like. You see, much like freely talking to a trustworthy person in a safe place, writing can have a very cathartic effect. When you start talking or writing about your experiences and feelings over and over again (and even more especially, in different formats and different contexts), eventually you start to make sense of how you function and why. Generally speaking, I usually write about the major events that marked my week and how I feel about them. I also write a lot of what I'm grateful for because I think it’s important to give ourselves regular reminders of the good in our lives.
4. Become Your Own Research Project
Have you ever had to do tons of research for a certain school or business project? Chances are you went all in, dividing your findings with sections and titles in order to better understand and visualize it as a whole. Besides journaling about your everyday experiences and feelings, you can also write sections on Who you are and What you are passionate about. Make a list of words and adjectives that qualify you, identify your strengths and weaknesses, let yourself discover what you like and what you don’t. You can come back and update the section over time and as you unearth new revelations about yourself. Make a second list about what you enjoy doing, the activities you appreciate and the hobbies you like indulging in. Identify what you are good at too (this can be different from what you like to do). But don't forget, first the being, than the doing. We are often validated based on what we do, rather than who we are, and therefore, you want to make sure to work on both. Remember to give into your different facettes: creative, emotional, intellectual, physical, etc. We all have these different aspects of ourselves hidden somewhere inside of us, but we don't always exploit them. It is up to us to dig a little deeper and use them wisely. In other words, if you want to get to know yourself better, you might want to learn how to balance them out.
5. Ditch the Inner Critic
There’s no reason to deny it, we all carry a great amount of negative and limiting thoughts that cross our minds on a regular basis and affect our day-to-day activities. The thing we don't realize is that most of these intrusive thoughts are not our own. They are our parents', grandparents', siblings', friends', teachers', bosses' or whatever it may be that we think society judges us by. Such debilitating thoughts usually convey feelings of fear, shame or guilt and keep us from being ourselves or doing what we truly want to do. Start identifying them and learn to push them back progressively until your confidence and assertiveness can override and negate them for good. It takes both time and practice, that I won’t deny. When you have trouble knowing what is right, ask yourself what is good or best for you. Don't be afraid to put yourself first, to speak your mind or do what you want. The better you become at controlling your inner critic, the easier and faster you will be capable of owning your righteous place in this world.
6. Assess Your Relationships
When we aren't our true selves, and more notably when we aren’t living for our true selves, we tend to live for others, and especially by other people's standards. It’s as if other people were our mirror and we’ve built an image of ourselves based on the reflection they convey. In other words, it's important you realize who you truly are, not who you want to be, and certainly not what someone else wants you to be. In order for you to identify and become your true self, you’re going to have to express it and not everyone around you may be capable of accepting and understanding it. For others, it will take a certain time to adapt to the changes you’re putting in place. You’re going to want to surround yourself with genuine people who are loving, accepting and supportive of who you really are. Only with authentic relationships is safe to ask for feedback, at least in my opinion. Asking for feedback is also key, because we all need an idea of how we come across or how we are perceived by others. Just be careful that peoples’ opinions of you don't come to dictate your personality.
7. Educate Yourself
The best way to evolve is by learning, and therefore, you want to do everything in your power to learn new things on a regular basis. There is a lot of information out there, and no universal rule to what is right or wrong. Again, take whatever information feels good and right for you. There are tons of books, articles, videos, and documentaries on topics such as wellbeing, identity construction, self-actualization, personal development, mental health, psychology and much, much more. Whatever interests you, whatever you’re working on at the moment, you’ll find information in it. Don’t hesitate to educate yourself on the topics that speak loudly to you, the ones you identify directly with. You are the best person to know and understand what you need. All I can say is: Follow your intuition. Remember, like earlier mentioned, you can also rely on professional therapists, counselors or coaches for orientation. Like in any sphere, don't simply give up if you have a bad experience - try new methods and you'll find what works for you over time. There are professional ways of testing yourself in many different areas, whether it be personality, professional orientation, IQ/intelligence, DNA/origins, mental disorders, physical illnesses, etc. Because we are part mind, part body, all of these examples can shed light on who you are and help you in your journey of self-discovery. It will be up to you to choose what defines you and what doesn't.
8. Be Quiet
This one is difficult for a lot of people, especially in today's fast-paced lifestyle. Most of us are always doing something, or thinking about several things at a time. Even when we’re taking a break, sitting down or relaxing, we’re often on our phones, scrolling on Facebook, letting our eyes graze over and read constant threads of information. Instead, take a moment to calm down, breathe, soothe yourself, and do nothing at all once in a while. In fact, engage in this activity at least a few minutes a day. Stop doing, stop thinking. Just be. Sit somewhere by yourself in silence, turn off all electronics, all blue lights and screens, turn the world around you off. Empty your mind, close your eyes, and focus on your breathing. Meditation can be very hard at the beginning, but so rewarding in the way it helps cancel out that constant noise and external stimulus of our everyday lives. Give yourself a few minutes a day, just you, and yourself, connected in a moment of deep relaxation and introspection.
9. Simply Love YOU
This might sound corny to many who aren't used to being loved, and especially so to those who aren't used to loving themselves. Know that you are worthy of love and entitled to loving yourself. On the other hand, you might know what it feels like to profoundly love a partner, unconditionally loving a baby or caring for an animal. Well, divert a bit of that empathy, patience, understanding and love to your own self. You ARE just as deserving as the ones you're providing to. In a way, the self is like a plant that needs watering. If you don't love yourself, your true self simply won't be able to flourish. Pamper your body, treat yourself to that nice restaurant you've been wanting to go to, buy yourself flowers, be grateful for all that you have accomplished today, appreciate the positive things about yourself, forgive yourself any mistakes, and nurture yourself as you would nurture someone else. This is especially important if you haven't received or aren't receiving any of this from other people. Everyone needs love to grow into confident balanced individuals. It’s incredibly important to make a point to actively love yourself on a daily basis.
10. Finding Yourself through Passion
One undeniable thing that has helped me discover myself was traveling, so much so in fact, that it's the entire concept of my blog (if you haven’t noticed yet, haha). Clearly, I'm a firm believer that traveling can really provide perspective on the greater world around us and our personal, individual place in it. That said, other types of activities can also encourage the emergence of our true self, such as but not limited to: yoga, nature walks, gardening, spending time with animals, balneotherapy, arts, acting/performing, sports.
In all, finding yourself is an ongoing process because, as humans, we continually evolve with age, as well as according to our environment and experiences. We don't stay the same, the human rarely stagnates in this way. Hence, keep it simple and don't beat yourself up. Each transition is a process and will require time and energy. I have to add that becoming aware of our false-self is a powerful life changing experience. Embarking this journey, to discover who we truly are and to honor our deep sense of self-worth, isn’t something you have to do, per say, but it is something that you, as a person, truly deserve. Every step of the way is exciting because you realize you were living beside yourself this entire time, a self that you actually knew very little about!
Sarah The Digital GypSea
United Kingdom, June 2020 be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson