How to Discover Your “real” Self and Live the Life You Really Want

Being yourself seems a matter of course: just wake up and do what you want, without following the crowd, without fear of judgment. However, this is not how the world works. We tend to suppress our true selves in order to adapt to it without even realizing it. And it stifles our creativity, resourcefulness, and self-awareness.

We all have variations of ourselves that we represent in different situations. You can act one way in front of your parents, another in front of clients, and another way in front of your significant other. These “made-up selves” are okay, and we all do it to one degree or another.

This makes it difficult to define your true self, especially these days, when the term is used by social media gurus and other fashion models as a means of positively presenting oneself on the Internet. Worse, “being yourself” is often portrayed in the media as a loud chatterbox, a dumb stereotype of an alternative child or an outsider with a fancy wardrobe and a tendency toward manic hysteria. But that’s not the point. This is not about constantly expressing your opinion without filters, but about knowing with confidence what those opinions are.

Fancy term or not, philosophers like Rousseau, Camus, Sartre, Kierkegaard, Maslow, May, Bugenthal, and many others have struggled for decades with what it means to be authentic. Philosophy Now summarizes the general idea:

Becoming authentic is an individual mission, as each person has a different way of being human and therefore what is authentic will be different for each person. Moreover, personal authenticity is highly dependent on context and various social, political, religious and cultural characteristics. But the unique nature of each person is best manifested not in who they are, but in who they are becoming, and becoming authentic is an ongoing process, not an event. This includes not only knowing oneself, but also recognizing others and mutual influence between people. If the search for personal authenticity is only about self-realization, then it is individualistic and ego-based; but if it is accompanied by an awareness of others and the wider world, then it may be a worthwhile goal.

In short, to root out your true self is not only about being honest, but also about being aware of yourself , becoming more humble, and getting feedback from others. This is a difficult, endless process because your personality is constantly evolving. But payback is a happier and more creative self. According to some psychologists , authenticity can also lead to better coping strategies, a stronger sense of self-worth, more confidence, and a greater likelihood of achieving your goals.

Study your biography

You probably know your own story well, but when was the last time you took a close look at your back story? Chances are, you haven’t given much thought to the events, values, and experiences that have shaped you today.

The Harvard Business Review suggests taking a closer look at your background to determine who you are. Think back to your life and think about your upbringing, how you dealt with new situations, experiences that tested your comfort zone, and when you were forced to reflect on your values.

You can do this as a mental exercise or in a journal , but the idea is to look as objectively as possible at your own story. Take time to criticize the decisions you made and analyze why you made them. Think about the feedback you’ve received from friends and colleagues . Most importantly, be hard on yourself and deal with your failures . As you study this bio, think about how selfish, awful, or rude you were. Think about why you were like that. The ultimate goal is to better understand yourself, so try to root out your past as much as possible. When you have this bio, you might be surprised at how much you didn’t know about yourself before you started.

Train yourself to think critically

In various essays, the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard describes authenticity as the goal with which a person faces reality, makes decisions, sticks to them, and takes responsibility for those decisions. According to Kierkegaard, authenticity comes from a view of reality and the formation of one’s own opinion.

Learning to think critically is a determining factor in finding your true self. Basically, it’s about paying attention to details and asking the right questions so that you can form your own opinion instead of accepting the truth that is being told to you. When you form your own opinion about the world, you are deciphering reality for yourself, instead of letting others do it for you. This, in turn, raises your self-awareness because you are looking at the biases that define your worldview .

Critical thinking is a grueling process. As you begin to explore both your reality and your preconceived notions of the world, you will notice many inconsistencies that you will need to address. You may have lived your life with the idea that you need to have a home and family by the age of 30, but when you look closely, you will notice that this is not something that you personally feel, but something that is ingrained in your life. … since childhood.

You need to reevaluate not only how you view the world now, but also your core principles. We are all raised with a basic set of beliefs, and many of them may conflict with what you believe today. Perhaps your parents taught you how to wear a skirt at work, and although you always did, you never thought that you hated it. This is a lighthearted example, but others may be dealing with important issues such as race, religion, sexuality, and so on. Think about these long-standing habits and worldviews to see if they have changed. Long-standing beliefs are ones that we no longer look closely at, and the more you challenge those beliefs, the better you will know yourself.

Redefine your goals

Of course, who you are is important, but who you want to be defines you just as much. To be yourself fearlessly every day, you need to know what you want to be in. It is often argued that who we want to be is the best indicator of who we are. In a New York Times article, Associate Professor Joshua Knobe explains :

If we turn to the philosophical tradition, we will find a relatively simple answer to this question. This answer, supported in different ways by many philosophers, states that the most characteristic and important thing for a person is the ability to reason rationally. A person may have different urges, whims, or fleeting emotions, but that is not what they are. If you want to know who she really is, you should pay attention to the moments when she stops reflecting and thinking about her innermost values. Take a heroin addict. She may have a constant desire for another solution, but if she simply succumbs to this desire, it would be absurd to say that she thereby “remains true to herself” or “expresses the personality that she really is.” On the contrary, she betrays herself and refuses what she values ​​most.

It is not easy to know what you want, but the better you understand what you want in the future, the better you will get an idea of ​​your true self. In this case, it is about your goals and your values. Do you want to retire someday? Marry? Living alone on an island? To be rich? When was the last time you thought about your goals really long and hard? Are these goals the same as five years ago? Probably no. Your values ​​and goals change over the years, and your behavior should be consistent with theirs.

If you’re not sure how you feel about your goals or your desires, we’ve looked at countless ways to find out what you want out of life . In this case, I’m a fan of the personal manifesto . To write a personal manifesto, just sit down and select a few topics in which you want to define your values. Don’t let anyone or anything define these values ​​and dig deeper. Think about how you feel about ethics, personality, and anything else that you consider important. Then write down your beliefs, motivation, and intentions. It may seem obvious, and it may seem silly to sit and write it down, but your beliefs may take on a form you didn’t expect when you actually put your pen to paper (or your finger to the keyboard).

Act in the real world

As you get a better understanding of who you are, you still need to navigate the world. For many, this means coming to terms with a corporate job or other institution that requires you to take a certain path. At first glance, this is difficult to do.In at least one study, hiding one’s social identity at work leads to job dissatisfaction.

Being yourself does not mean that you are expressing your opinion without filters. We all live in a society where honesty is valued, but we don’t constantly attack each other. This is a good thing. It’s the same in the workplace. Say and say what you mean at work , but always remember who your audience is. For example, if you’re in the boardroom at a bank with strangers, it’s probably best to keep a self-disclosure about yesterday’s walk in the strip club with you, at least for the first meeting. This does not mean that you need to hide your social identity, but share selectively and take care of how you distribute information from the beginning.

It’s the same with any other relationship, friendly or romantic. Be honest, truthful and be yourself. Share your thoughts and ideas, no matter how strange they may seem. You may be surprised at how openness makes others do the same, and how much more you end up learning about yourself in the process.


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