In a day and age when we closely monitor our online persona to create exactly what we want others to think of us, it is often quite easy for us to forget our true selves. We are constantly bombarded by impossibly perfect opinions and images of "the right way to be" and "the right thing to do." It's therefore not surprising that we prefer hiding behind avatars that only share the highlight reels of our lives on social media.
But the side effect of all this hiding is that we are lonely. Our true self is just aching to be called out into the open and to have a meaningful conversation with another true self. We are alone in a sea of people who are just as shallow as we are, as they're hiding their true selves, too.
I started to hide my true self when I launched my coaching business. I had to create a persona showing the world that I had my life together, so I hated going to networking meetings or public engagements because it was exhausting and emotionally draining. I soon blamed it on being an introvert only to realize, after some close self-examination, that I was using introversion as a form of protection from being vulnerable and authentically myself in public.
The other problem with hiding our true selves is that we can't differentiate between who we really are and what we really want and our negative inner critic. You know that voice that constantly drones on in our minds about how we don't measure up and how messy our lives are, and asks questions such as "If you fail, what will people think?" Your true self is not that inner critic. In fact, it's the opposite -- your true self is your wisest self and the best antidote to that nagging voice.
The solution is simple, but it's not easy. Get to know yourself.
Like, really know yourself. What are you passionate about? What are your non-negotiable core values? What is your life's purpose? At the end of your life, what do you need to have accomplished to feel satisfied that you've made a contribution and lived a good life?
You see? These are not easy questions. And then the harder part is to actually stay connected with your true self, and call on him or her whenever you are faced with struggles and decisions to make. People often ask me: "What is life coaching all about?" This is the core of what I do with my clients, and what we return to over and over again in our sessions.
I challenge you to get to know the real you today. Here are a few ways:
1. Alone Time
Take some time to be alone with your thoughts. Create a bit of distance between yourself and your thoughts and become an observer of your thoughts. Are these thoughts kind and helpful or critical and judgmental? Are they what you truly believe or a byproduct of others' thoughts and beliefs?
Take some time to actually answer those tough questions I posted above. Create your own manifesto including who you really are, what you stand for, and what you want. And go back and refer to that entry over and over again.
Dare to be real. Start with those you trust most in the beginning, and then expand your range. Evaluate what is honestly at stake if you show your true self... will you really be forever alone if your friends know that sometimes you're less than perfect? Really?
What's missing in this world is real and messy interactions with real and messy people. We are all craving it and none of us are brave enough to show our ugly bits. Well, I'll show you mine, if you show me yours.