false self: the greatest accomplishment is to be yourself
You lose resolution when you make copies. Are you being yourself or a 2nd class version of someone else?
The moment you think you can please everybody is the moment you guarantee yourself a life of burnout and constant frustration trying to live up to everyone's expectations. If you do live up to everyone’s expectations, you have more than likely crafted a false self. The false self is the gradual gathering of all the internalized messages and voices from people who want you to conform to their ideas of how you should be and what you should do. It causes you to lose touch with your true self. The false self is the personality you construct that lives in response to what the outside world says instead of what naturally draws you. Being who you are is probably one of the hardest things you'll ever have to do in life because there will always be some conflict between an internal knowledge and social expectation. Far too many people have their souls locked into someone's tyrannical hold on their desires and wishes. They may have come from homes where their ideas were routinely dismissed or simply never validated. Things were said like "shut up". "That's the dumbest thing I ever heard." "What do you mean you don't want to go to _____ or to be _____ or do _____. Of course you do.” You need tremendous discipline to be your true self. The true self represents values and desires that come from your unique temperament, personality, and perspective.
No two lives are the same, but often it seems that many lives are the same because people give in to the social pressure to conform. Too many people nowadays are following the pack and looking to emulate other people to help them determine what they should think, feel, and how they should behave. We are not conditioned to be our true selves. When we don't fit in, we either withdraw from social settings or are forced to see the world from many different points of view. I am a firm believer that each person is unique in his or her unique way of thinking, feeling, and seeing the world. To minimize that uniqueness to fit in is to waste potential and a unique contribution to the world.
Below is an exercise to use to get a sense of where you are on the journey to being your authentic self. We all project different versions of ourselves based on the environment we’re in, but sometimes we just put on a mask of inauthenticity and settle for being fake. We put on a mask and hide behind a persona because oftentimes we just don’t know who we are or we’re afraid to rock the boat by exposing who we truly are. Have you been putting on a mask so that the people accept you? Let’s take an assessment to determine if there is a part of you that has a false self. Take your time when reviewing this questionnaire. Don’t feel rushed to complete this process. This process is not one you want to rush through but one that you want to engage with reflection.
False Self Assessment[i]
1. I often need to be approved by others to feel good about myself.
2. I often remain silent in order to avoid conflict.
3. When I make mistakes, I feel like a failure.
4. At times, I compromise my own values and principles to avoid looking weak or foolish.
5. My self-image soars with compliments and is crushed by criticism.
6. I do for others, at times, what they can and should do for themselves.
7. I am fearful and reluctant to take risks or my fears often cause me to play it safe “just in case.”
8. I often go along with what others want rather than “rock the boat.”
9. I compare myself a lot to others.
10. My body is more often in a state of tension and stress than relaxed.
11. I have difficulty speaking up when I disagree or prefer something different.
This assessment is very telling of where you are in living out your true or false self. I think we are all guilty at one point or another of not living out what we believe or being who we are. Otherwise, we would be perfect. Since that’s not the case, we can all breathe easy knowing that we are not alone in wanting to be perfect but knowing that we fall short. The point of this assessment is to make you aware of ways that you may not have been keeping it real with yourself and with others. Part of the journey isn't so much about becoming anything. It's about unbecoming everything that isn't you so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place.
Becoming aware of something can sometimes be enough to make you want to change but not always. If you’ve identified that there are things that you are guilty of on this list, decide to do something about it today. This does not mean that you should break out in rants about how you don’t want to be controlled by anyone any more or make major life-altering decisions capriciously and impulsively. It is meant to be a healthy self-reflection tool that will help you transition into the person that you truly are. A word of caution: GO SLOWLY AND THINK IT THROUGH BEFORE MAKING MAJOR DECISIONS! As a rule of thumb, anything that’s done too fast is not good. Desire without knowledge is not good-- how much more will hasty feet miss the way! (Proverbs 19:2, NIV) It took time to form your personality traits. It’s going to take time to change the way you think, behave, and operate. Be patient, but be intentionally patient. Review this list periodically as you go through life. One of the saddest things I’ve seen is someone who has built their lives on portraying a certain image only to find out they were being fake. The saddest part is that so much time has passed that they will never get back to discover who they really were. Don’t let that be you. Decide today that you will choose to walk as your true self and live authentically. You will find that you will be able to follow dreams and goals determined from within, state your beliefs calmly without putting anyone down, and you can stay close to people without insisting that they see the world the same way you do. There are things that you are losing when you’re not being you. Be unique because when you are not, you are robbing everyone of yourself.
Most people don’t live the life they were called to live because they are too busy living everyone else’s. To live your life the way someone else wants and never do what you believe you are called to do is a tragedy. True freedom comes when our acts proceed from our entire personality. Your decision to pursue a course of life should be based on a careful understanding of your strengths, deepest inclinations and desires, and your vision of the future. This takes a lot of work and is uncovered over time. It’s possible to live authentically, but it’s also possible to live inauthentically, and we all have at one point or another participated in that inauthenticity. It's hard to confront one's own hypocrisy, but it’s necessary to get back on the right road to the practice of living authentically.
Unfortunately, so many people end up living inauthentic lives. It usually starts out with small compromises of your integrity but ends up with huge implications like a derailed life. There’s a popular saying that says, “Be yourself because people who mind, don't matter, and the people who matter don't mind.” BUT what happens when the people who matter do mind? People like your parents and friends and even mentors. This is a real issue that I want to expose so that we can begin to be empowered to step away from being defined by people’s opinions – even those close to us. To go against the dominant thinking of your friends and family is one of the most difficult things to do but probably the most liberating. Do your best to avoid the pressure to do anything that goes against what you know innately is not compatible with how you're wired. You cannot live a brave life without disappointing some people. The people who get disappointed ultimately don’t matter because they have their own agenda for your life that they forgot to tell you about.
Three Powerful Temptations
There are three powerful temptations that plague us as a culture that help to fortify the false self and determine our value and worth. Fighting these temptations is like swimming upstream. It's tough, but we have to do it.
1. Performance - I am what I do.
The devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread." Luke 4:3, NIV
Our culture very often wants people to be concerned with resumes and titles. When people are introduced for the first time, the first question usually is – what do you do? The underlying messages here often are – what are you worth? How are you useful? If someone can’t answer sufficiently enough, there is often a feeling of being unvalued and worthless. The danger of this type of thinking is that one’s intrinsic value becomes determined by external success. That’s unhealthy. Being productive and fruitful in one’s career is great, but it should not be a determining factor of who you are and what you’re worth. You are not what you do. You are who you are and have value before you accomplish anything. Once you know truly possess that belief, you can pursue your goals with less stress and anxiety because your self-worth isn’t attached to the work but simply by the fact that you are a child of God.
2. Possessions - I am what I have.
The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.”
Luke 4:5-7, NIV
If your identity is rooted in what you have, it is inevitable that your destiny will be off track. You can have things but don’t let things have you. Our culture measures success and security by what we own and who we’re connected to. One of my measures of success is who I am apart from those things. I am not validated by wealth, social access, or prestige. God validates me.
3. Popularity - I am what others think of me.
The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ Luke 4:9-11, NIV
Maya Angelou had a saying – Don’t pick it up and don’t put it down. In other words, if you live for people’s acceptance, you will die from their rejection. So don’t pick up the praises because you have to pick up the criticism too. One person said to me, “I’ve tried so hard to be who others wanted to be that I've forgotten who I am.” You will be free when you can be relaxed around anyone because you know you are a child of God. What people think of you is none of your business. What we believe other people are thinking is often a reflection of our state of mind in that moment - confidence or insecurity. Your business is to do the best that you can do, learn from your mistakes, and stay anchored in your values.
Resisting these cultural temptations will be tremendously hard for folks. I know it’s hard for me. I can hear people saying, if I became myself, some people would be mad at me. If I become myself, I might lose money or even opportunities. My answer is that any opportunity presented that tells you to not be yourself or betray who God made you to be isn’t for you. Never do anything that requires you to be someone you’re not and resist the desire to be understood by everyone.
Ways to Fortify Your True Self
1. Find places that allow you to be authentic and the best version of that authentic self. When are you your best self? By best self, I mean the most confident, self-assured, most equipped and centered. For some people, it’s in some type of athletic arena. For others, it’s in a classroom. For some people, it’s in an office. For me, I’m my best self when I’m working with people in the role of a coach or workshop facilitator. I get to hold space with people to clarify their situations and circumstances in order to find solutions for their problems and pursue their goals.
2. Every day, express a preference and find something that nurtures you. When you express preferences and do things that nurture you, you express and support a significant part of your true self.
3. Ask yourself this self-reflection question. Who is putting the pressure on you to be someone you’re not? Your answer will depend on what you believe will be impacted by not having certain things, not being perceived a certain way, or not performing a certain way. Are you okay with just being you or are you letting your performance, possessions, or popularity validate you?
[i] Scazzero, Pete, “The False Self”, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, 23 May 2014, http://www.emotionallyhealthy.org/the-false-self-2/