All around me I hear people talking about finding your “True Self.” I hear it in podcasts, coffee shops, in magazines and even books.
What the hell was everyone talking about and if there is such thing, how does one find it?
What is meant by “True Self?”
First, apparently, it depends on who you ask. If you ask a therapist you get a vastly different answer than if you ask a spiritual guide. Honestly, even from one person to the next your answers will vary.
These are all synonyms of this mysterious phrase. After looking at countless websites, I like what the Huffington Post said in the article, “What does it mean to be your Authentic Self by Judith Johnson.” “Living in a place of profound authenticity involves being rooted in your deepest beliefs, values, and truth and living a life that is a true reflection of them. It is about being true to yourself through your thoughts, words, and actions.”
So from what I gather, the true self is something that is within us. Is it nature or nurture? Or is it something in between (the damn gray area that surrounds our lives)? I don’t have an answer for this, but from what I read and what I have experienced, it is a real thing. It’s ingrained deep in our heart and soul.
Why do I care about this?
When I was younger, I was working at a camp in Ensenada for the summer. It was one of the best summers of my life and I felt that I was becoming the best version of myself. That same summer I met a girl (yes, you can roll your eyes now). I fell head over heels for her and we ended up getting married. We were together for fifteen years, and often I would look back and wondered what happened to the man I was becoming and why wasn’t I feeling any closer to being a better version of myself? I felt that I was slipping away and losing myself.
I wrestled with why. Did I fool myself that summer? Did that woman I fell in love with strip me of my manhood? What happened?
The marriage didn’t go. I decided I wanted a divorce, which happened to be one of the first real decisions I had made for myself since I met her. Pain of the failed marriage filled me, but I also felt the emergence of the boy 15 years earlier. My “true self” surface and that I didn’t have to look back in remembrance of that person. I decided that I was going to become the man I had always desired (I do not blame my ex for the hindering of this man, but blame myself. More on this in another post).
I care about the true self because I struggled for years to step on the road and begin the journey. Guilt, shame, and fear were around every corner. This trifecta left me questioning everything I did (and I still struggle with it at times). Being in that dark place is hard, and I want to help others know there is a better way. It’s not the easy way, but it’s the better way. Or as my friend, Major Lewis would say, “The hard right over the easy wrong.”
How do you find your “True Self?”
The easy answer is to be real with yourself. The hard answer is that I only know how I did and it might differ from person to person.
In my first marriage, I was a fraud and could become whomever the person I was talking to wanted me to be. I was like Julia Roberts in, “The Runaway Bride.” Depending on what guy she was with, she liked a different type of egg. Poached with one man. Scrambled with another man. I morphed myself into someone in order to be liked. Sadly this left my true self-hiding behind layers of falsehood. I pushed away those close to me in shame. My unconscious was wreaking havoc on me. I was messed up.
Be true to yourself. Look in the mirror, and know who you are. It takes time and won’t happen overnight. The first time I went to the shoe store to buy shoes after my separation I ran out in a panic because I didn’t even know what shoe I liked.
I started by giving myself permission to experiment. I would try things and then evaluate if I liked it. Slowly, month after month, year after year, I began to understand what I liked. Then I would do more of that. The small steps of trying something new and being honest with yourself will start to open your heart up to seeing deeper questions.
Self-care Tip: Take a chance on yourself. Try something new. If you hate it, great! If you loved it, great! Either way, you are opening yourself up to new opportunities and trying to ignite the flame of your true self.
Brandon Fries lives in Southern California with his lovely wife and daughter. It was through his life struggles that he found a path towards happiness.