During a few points in my life I have taken a look in the mirror and wondered to myself “who are you?” Now this wasn’t some self-deprecating activity designed to tear myself down, after most major events in my life I would honestly take a good look in the mirror and try to decide who that person was staring back at me. I didn’t realize it at the time but throughout my life I would find myself looking at my own reflection and wondering is that truly the person I wanted to be? Today I am not ashamed to say more often than not; I haven’t been happy with the image I saw in the mirror. I would gaze back at my reflection and tell myself the things I heard were true:
Children like you are too loud and obnoxious, take these pills and shut the Hell up
Nobody wants to be in your family and that is why your parents are divorced
You’re just an object used for sex
You’re too skinny
You are the ugliest human being that has ever lived
You’re a weirdo because you’re so different from other people
Only losers have adopted families
You’re too poor and nobody wants you to live with them because you’re a burden
You’re too uneducated and you don’t know what you’re talking about
You left the coast Dom, nobody even remembers you or thinks you matter
You spend too much time at work and in school
Who are you kidding, you’re nobody important and you never will be
You’ve changed, Dom. You’re just… different now
Dominick that is the stupidest thing anyone has ever said. People like you should be locked up in a mental hospital
Your head is scarred up and EVERYBODY is looking and whispering and they’re laughing RIGHT NOW
You are no longer combat effective
Erin and Devlin would be better off if you would just kill yourself like you guys always seem to do
You’re an alcoholic and a pain pill addict
You’re a terrible husband, a Disneyland Dad and you’re always off “playing house“
You are NOT permitted to defy your out-of-control in-laws ruining your marriage and harming your son
These are all negative and untrue beliefs of the false self that come from what is known as self-talk. Self-talk is essentially an inner voice within our heads that often reinforces the negative things we hear from from others and integrate into our belief system. The concept of self is a defense mechanism and is part of our biological processes. It is often our loudest cheerleader and our greatest critic. For myself, it is the voice I imagine narrating my life in a strange sit-com kind of way. For others perhaps their inner monologue might take on the personality of a wise old man or an action superhero? The nice thing about self-talk is we have the option to choose what frame that voice will take when we inevitably continue the conversation after an event takes place in our lives. It took me a while to realize I could actually take on a level of control of my self-talk and when I finally did, I concluded the negative circumstances in my life were only permanent if I decided to make them that way. In time I would make adjustments to my life in an effort to chase after what I would one day come to know as my “true self.”
The false self is essentially made up of negative past reference experiences and an exaggerated view of future potential. As quoted in Jon Simons ed. Contemporary Critical Theorists (2006) p. 196, “we have to create ourselves as a work of art.” Well, what do we want that art to look like? How do we want our true selves to appear?
Imagine for a moment, you were watching a movie and it was literally being shot a moment before you watched it? Not only that, but since you’re sitting there in the Director’s chair you have the power to change the upcoming plot, scenery and even the romantic story? Recognizing our true self and realizing it is full of positive and forward-directing internal dialogue is an important step in the process of self actualization.
Self actualization is essentially the process by which an individual reaches his or her full potential. It is literally what we all strive for more than anything as it is the process we are able to undergo when we are doing something we are good at and genuinely enjoy. Self actualization is the process which commonly puts us into the flow state.
STOP giving a fuck what other people think about you
Realizing our true self (who we are, based on reality) is important so we can get a better picture of who it is we truly want to be when we look into that mirror (who we are right now). Understanding the sources of the false self and false identity are as equally important, as these are our primary limiting factors preventing us from overcoming shortfalls. I’d really like to hear what your experiences are so please comment below.
- What are some of your limiting factors?
- What are some of the ways you have let others define you or how have you defined yourself based on the opinions of others?
- How were you able to overcome those limiting factors and become a better version of yourself?
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“Narcissistic parent,” in Wikipedia.com, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narcissistic_parent (accessed 13 July, 2019).
N., Pam M.S., “TRUE SELF,” in PsychologyDictionary.org, April 29, 2013, https://psychologydictionary.org/true-self/ (accessed July 14, 2019).
S., Sullivan, “Self Actualization,” in Britannica.com, https://www.britannica.com/science/self-actualization (accessed 13 July 2019).
“True self and false self,” in Wikipedia.com, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/True_self_and_false_self (accessed 13 July, 2019).