If you find yourself continuing to act out old patterns and roles that no longer serve you, this is more than likely interfering with your ability to create mutually rewarding, respectful, and reciprocal relationships. Below are my ten strategies for getting in touch with your true self so as to create an integrity-based and emotionally rewarding life.
The True Self Lost in Childhood
Although living as one’s true self in an emotionally honest manner might seem like a natural and easy thing to do, those of us who grew up in a family system that did not support our uninhibited and natural expressions may have gradually disconnected from the truth of who we were, i.e., our core essence, so as to be accepted by those we were dependent upon to meet our most basic and fundamental needs.
It is often the case that children who grew up in these types of chaotic, unstable environments find some semblance of identity and emotional security by taking on one or more family roles, such as the hero, the scapegoat, the rebel, the caretaker, or the clown. But in unconsciously disconnecting from our true self in order to emotionally survive, we may later find ourselves as adults people-pleasing others and hiding behind a facade, with no idea how to express and live our truth.
How to Live and Speak Your Truth
If I were to ask you right now, “In what situations, or around which people, do you feel most yourself, and most creative, spontaneous, and alive?”, how might you respond? Alternatively, if I were to ask you, “In what situations, or around which people, do you feel uncomfortable, restrained, and inhibited?,” how might you reply? Contemplating these questions can be provocative, to say the least, and there may be no obvious or easy answers at first.
If you feel ready to shed anything about yourself that feels false and fearlessly live from a place of emotional honesty, personal integrity (inspired by your principles and values), and a direct knowledge of self, the 10 strategies I designed to assist my psychotherapy and coaching clients will aid you in this courageous quest. If you are not already seeing a competent therapist, counselor, or coach who can support you in your efforts, you might consider engaging such services before implementing the strategies listed below.
10 Strategies for Discovering and Being Your True Self
- Recognize You Have a True Self Nature: Each of us enters the world possessing an innate, core, true self. Each one of us is an “original model”, and as such we all have unique gifts to offer to the world.
- Remember and Reflect on When You Felt Happiest as a Child: Think back to when you were young. When did you feel most free, happy, and alive? Take a few minutes after reflecting on what caused you to feel joyful in your youth, going back to your earliest conscious memory. Then write about the people, places, things, and activities that brought you the greatest joy while you were growing up. This simple “remembering and reflection” exercise can put us deeply in touch with the innocent purity of our original true self nature.
- Make a Commitment to Recover and Reconnect with the Joyful, Innately Pure, Authentic Essence Within: In a certain sense, recognizing and consciously reclaiming our own unique, true self nature is a paradoxical process of finding and embracing what we never really lost. It is an excavation project, of sorts, i.e., it is a process of uncovering, discovering, recovering, and consciously reclaiming who (and what) we in fact have always been, and will always be — That which is most true, honest, expansive, and alive within ourselves, yet constant and unchanging.
- Make a Decision to Release All that Feels False and No Longer Serves You: Becoming authentic and emotionally honest requires that we be willing to release the parts of ourselves that we were conditioned to become by the various social systems we have been immersed in like a fish swimming in the sea, from our family-of-origin to the cultural and social systems we currently identify with, and everything in between. Ask yourself if you feel ready to begin doing that. If not, I encourage you to explore what might be inhibiting you from living an emotionally honest and authentic life. Change is never easy. It’s never too late to “get real”!
- The Process Of Letting Go: I often ask my clients who are engaged in a process of true self recovery and reclamation, “Is this (person, place, thing, behavior, situation) serving you at the highest level today?” Whatever is not serving us at the highest level is more than likely not serving others in our life at the highest level either, regardless of how it may seem. It ultimately serves no one when we allow ourselves to remain small, diminish our internal light, and hide our truth from others (and perhaps even from ourselves.)
- The Only Way Out Is Through: It is often during this process of letting go of all that now feels false that long-buried emotions unconsciously repressed in childhood may surface, resulting in our possibly becoming sad, anxious, angry, and even genuinely depressed. At times such as this it is imperative that a person feels he or she is not alone in the valiant task of facing any painful feelings and memories that may arise head on, versus avoiding the challenging, difficult work of genuine transformational growth; therefore, this is a time when the help of a trusted therapist, counselor, transformational life coach, and/or a psychoeducational peer-support group can prove to be invaluable to a person engaged in the task of reclaiming and authentically embodying his or her true self.
- It’s Okay to Experience and Release Old, Pent-Up Feelings from Childhood: It is also not uncommon for a person whose true self nature was shamed and dismissed in childhood to find they are experiencing feelings of intense anger, even rage, during this critical transformational time of inner self-exploration and excavation. This can especially surprise those who strived to be “nice” their entire lives to avoid upsetting others and risking conflict. I like to remind my clients during such times that the word “courage” includes the word “rage”, and successful passage through the dark night of the soul is ultimately brought about by processing these more difficult feelings and emotions that society labels as “negative”. Those who were victims of neglect and/or other forms of abuse in childhood are especially prone to finding themselves overwhelmed with these darker, extremely intense feelings; thus, working with a licensed psychotherapeutic professional and/or abuse recovery network such as Adult Survivors of Child Abuse can be especially critical during this phase of recovery, healing, and growth.
- Pay Attention To Your Dreams: I have also learned from both personal and professional experience that this is a time to pay attention to one’s active imagination, dreams, and fantasies, as suggested by the great Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, for these signs and symbols emanating from deep within our unconscious invariably reveal important keys to a given individual’s growth, including acting as an inner wise guide, when one understands how to begin to interpret the personal and universal symbols contained therein. A book that I often recommend to clients for such creative dream work is Jeremy Taylor’s Dream Work: Techniques for Discovering the Creative Power in Dreams.
- Release The Limiting Views Of Others: This is also a time when a person might report to their therapist, transformational life coach, or support network that they are feeling increasingly uncomfortable around family members, colleagues, and friends if those relationships were dependent on their being a certain way – A way that now no longer feels authentic, embodied, or emotionally true. This is especially the case when one has knowingly or unknowingly been playing out a particular role within a given relationship and/or system (e.g., hero, rescuer, ‘black sheep’, enabler) and/or been an unwitting recipient of another’s psychological projections (a process whereby humans defend themselves against their own unpleasant impulses by denying their existence while attributing them to others). At some point you may have no choice other than to make it clear that you are no longer willing to distort or hide your true self in order to protect the feelings of others, and that you simply will not accept being manipulated into living out old, familiar role(s) in the dysfunctional system’s “script” (typically one’s family-of-origin) so that the status quo can be maintained.
- You’re Not Obligated To Play By Other People’s Rules: If it wasn’t clear before, once you commit to live your life authentically it will quickly become evident that every system has its “rules”, be it a family system, a work system, a political system, etc. This is a good time to remember that whatever the system can’t change, control, and/or accept, it will attempt to diminish, label, reject, and even (in extreme cases) “eject”. And this is why I see each and every person who is engaged in a sincere process of true self recovery and reclamation as being heroic, for it is no easy task to realize the truth of who and what one is while attempting to maintain relationships with others who may be demanding we “change back” (whether overtly or covertly) so that they might feel more comfortable, in control, and secure.
Living as Your True Self
As illustrated in the above 10 strategies, remaining committed to an ongoing transformational process designed to further our personal and professional growth, enhance our relationships, and increase our overall sense of confidence and well being is not always a simple or enjoyable task, especially in the beginning. And yet, those who decide to do what it takes to live from a place of emotional integrity and fearless honesty invariably discover that it is worth the effort required, for it is by courageously committing to recovering the lost child’ within that we are able to become the true self we were always destined to be. And what could be better than that?