At some point in our lives, we’ve all been told to “be your true self”, but what does that actually mean? What is your true self, and how do you learn to embrace it?
The concept of true self versus false self was introduced in the 1960s by psychologist Dr. Donald Winnicott. Dr. Winnicott theorized that deep within each of us, there exists a true self and a false self. The true self is our purest form, it’s the most authentic, human version of who we are. The false self, on the other hand, is a protective layer or shell that we create to shield the vulnerable true self from harsh external realities.
True Self vs. False Self
The pure, true self represents the most genuine version of who we are. It’s who we were born to be. Consider a baby who wholeheartedly expresses itself authentically regardless of the thoughts, needs, or desires of others. The baby is simply being. This is where the true self is most present.
At the other end of the scale, we have the false self. It’s a defense mechanism developed to shield our true selves from negative thoughts and emotions. This false version of us can manifest in a variety of ways ranging from mild feelings of dissatisfaction to more serious psychological disorders like addiction or schizophrenia.
How The False Self Is Developed
Dr. Winnicott’s theory states that this false self is created during the first stages of life and depends largely on the relationship between an infant and her mother. According to Winnicott, a healthy balance of meeting the infant’s needs while allowing them space to develop their own sense of self is crucial. If the mother is absent, or experiencing negative feelings like anxiety or depression, those emotions can transfer to the child. The false self begins to form when the child starts putting the expectations or needs of others before her own.
Children raised in chaotic or unhealthy environments often adopt different personas. For example, they may take on the identity of a caretaker, scapegoat, or clown, to protect their more vulnerable authentic selves. These personas can easily become entangled in their core identity making it difficult to distinguish between the true and false self.
The Impact Of The False Self
The false self is not inherently bad, in fact, there is a healthy level of the false self that allows us to navigate social situations and follow the rules of civilized society. This falseness is necessary.
When the false self is overpowering the true self, that’s when it becomes unhealthy. The false self is driven by uncertainty, anxiety, and a focus on external achievements and validation. This perspective can lead to a sense of emptiness, feelings of inadequacy, or people-pleasing behaviors. In extreme cases, it can manifest as narcissism, addiction, schizophrenia, or other psychological disorders.
Signs Of A Disconnection With Your True Self
• Feelings of inadequacy or emptiness
• Low self-esteem
• Emotional numbness or apathy
• Social anxiety
• Difficulty maintaining relationships
• Fear of intimacy
• Imposter Syndrome
• Trouble regulating emotions
Defining Your True Self
Your true self emerges when you feel secure, confident, or at peace. To identify your true self, think about the times when you feel most creative, fulfilled, or alive – these moments likely connect you to your authentic way of being.
This works in reverse as well, in times of stress, anxiety, or insecurity, the true self tends to hide in the background, leaving space for the false self to take over. By becoming more aware of these triggers you can begin to shed the false self in favor of embracing your truest nature.
Connecting With Your True Self
Often, the false self and the true self can become so intertwined that it can be hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. But there are ways to unravel them. The most important thing you can do is to become more present in your life, letting go of things that aren’t aligned with the true version of who you are.
Start by releasing yourself from the expectations of others and becoming aware of patterns in your life that cause stress or anxiety. These negative feelings are likely stemming from situations that don’t support the inner needs and desires of your true self. Give yourself space to feel your emotions fully and reflect on the things that brought you joy or freedom in your childhood. By being present and aware, you can learn to distinguish between the true and false versions of yourself, ultimately leading to a more authentic and fulfilling life.
Where To Turn For Guidance To Discover Your True Self
If you’re looking for guidance on your path to reconnecting with your true self, talk therapy, life coaching, and hypnotherapy can all be extremely helpful.
• Talk Therapy – By giving you a safe space to explore your feelings openly and without judgment, talk therapy allows your vulnerable true self to come to the surface.
• Life Coaching – A life coach will give you tools and exercises to untangle the knots that exist between your true and false selves. It’s a more structured approach than talk therapy but follows similar principles allowing you to consciously move toward a deeper understanding of your innate needs and desires.
• Hypnotherapy – Hypnotherapy is the unconscious approach to shedding your false self. By returning subconsciously to a time before the false self was formed and creating new neural pathways you can begin to live as your truest self.
Benefits Of Connecting With Your True Self
Embracing your true self can open up endless opportunities for personal growth and fulfillment. By listening to the voice of your most authentic being, you can gain an understanding of your innermost needs and desires, laying the foundation for more informed and aligned life choices.
This journey towards authenticity offers a variety of benefits. You’ll find yourself becoming more creative and optimistic, and experiencing higher levels of satisfaction in life. As you learn to honor your own values, beliefs, and desires rather than seeking the external validation of others you’ll gain self-respect, confidence, and increased resilience in difficult situations.
The Transformative Journey
Shedding the false self and embracing your true self is a transformative journey that can ultimately lead to a more authentic and fulfilling life. By giving yourself space to acknowledge your feelings, understand your needs, and become more present, you can begin to uncover your truest way of being.
If you’re ready to embark on this journey, I offer Life coaching, or Hypnotherapy services. Get in touch today to unearth your true self and become the woman you were always meant to be.