I just want to be me - a guide to finding your true self
Inside you is your true self. Something that feels innate, just you. Connecting with this brings a sense of ease, empowerment, stability and meaning, as you flow through the unpredictability of life. But what is it, and how do you find it?
Before you begin to explore, there are four qualities to cultivate, which will hold and support you throughout the process:
- Openness and curiosity - believe anything is possible.
- Compassion - the search is not about your true self being perfect, or being perfect at being your true self, it’s about accepting that’s who you truly are.
- Forgiveness - there’s a chance to accept our deepest wounds and heal them. That may require forgiveness of self, and others.
- Patience - it may require effort, you’ll likely make mistakes - that’s okay!
Now you’re ready to go.
Step one: Accept who you are right now.
You are a complex mix of ingredients:
Start with some genetics, add experiences from the womb and the trauma of your birth. Insert a measure of how safe and unconditionally loved you felt as a baby, you're developing self-awareness as a child. Stir in adolescence years, a striving to fit in. Toss in relationship beginnings and endings, a dollop of fearful experiences. All the time your brain, body and mind, kneading this into an identity that wants to keep you safe, satisfied and connected. An identity you can stretch into your different roles: Family member, friend, worker, lover, and the ‘you’ when no one else is around.
This is who you are, right now, much of it outside your control. So let’s add one other missing ingredient - acceptance - that this is okay.
Step two: Bring awareness to that which obscures your true self.
Over time, your true self becomes enmeshed within this tangle of past experience. Obscured by the story of - I’m supposed to be this way. To begin disentangling, take a pause for a moment and make notes on the following:
- Is something calling my attention - am I experiencing a sense of grinding against the flow, a struggle, disconnected, a feeling of not belonging.
- These judgements and beliefs about who I should be - do they belong to me, or are they echoes of expectations collected from family, society, teacher, friends.
- What scares me, what would I prefer to avoid - not all fear needs to be explored, much of it is useful, just that which holds us back from living the life we want.
Step three: Identify what you stand for and how you want to live your life.
As you acknowledge your fears, and peel back the layer of beliefs collected from others, some space appears. From here you need a guide to get you looking in the right direction - values.
Values are process oriented qualities and behaviours. They give direction and meaning; who, and how, you want to be in the world.
Here are three questions to stoke up thoughts about what yours might be:
- You find your values in your pain, and your pain in your values - what would you do if you weren’t scared or fearful?
- What are you passionate about - when do you feel in the flow, so absorbed in something you lose track of time?
- Imagine it’s your 90th birthday - a speech is made about what you stand for and how you impacted people’s lives; what would you want to be said?
Step four: Follow the path.
Once you have your values you can make a commitment to your direction. This isn’t about making a promise, prediction, stapling yourself to an outcome. It’s about unshackling yourself from expectations and trusting in where your true self takes you.
To get you going, consider the following:
- Watch out for the mind's inner critic - it most likely wants to keep you safe and away from the unfamiliar, using those fears and judgements you noted earlier. Thank the critic, and remember your values and why this is important to you.
- Set your intentions - write them down, say them, repeat over and over, visualise and really feel what it’s like to just be yourself and live a life which gives you meaning.
- If you feel out of your comfort zone – great! Keep going. This will help you progress as you learn to access different resources inside yourself.
- And always support yourself by cultivating those qualities – be open, compassionate, patient and forgiving.
You may wish to use this guide by yourself, or with a counsellor or psychotherapist. They can help you understand your conditioning, learn to be with your fears, uncover your values and support you with exploring who you are and how you want to be in the world.
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About Ben Douch
I'm a mindfulness-based psychotherapist, with a private practice in east London which includes a number of online therapy services too.
I'm particularly passionate about helping people develop a sense of self-worth, through acceptance and self-compassion.