Finding My “Authentic” Self

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(Warning: another long post. This also contains information taken directly from an existing book. If, by some weird chance, the owners find this & don’t approve of the text I’ve ripped straight out of the book please tell me & I’ll remove it)

I decided to reread a book from back in late high school, “Change Your Life in 7 Days” by Paul McKenna. I’m only on day 1 at the moment &… I’m stuck on something crucial.

Day 1 of this book looks at your self-image & “the Three Selves”. The three selves are the “pretend self” (the image you project to the world), which is layered on top of the “negative self-image” (who you are afraid you are) developed during the process of growing up, which is layered on top of the “authentic self” (who you truly are).

The main lesson of day 1 states, “the reason you are not living the life of your dreams is that you are wasting so much of your time & energy hiding your negative self-image from the world.” This made me stop. I do see that being true (my days consist of living in my room & only leaving the flat for essentials & helping out my flatmates). At the same time, I feel that I’m doing the exact opposite. I’m not hiding all the things I’m afraid I am behind a persona but instead accepted that I am those things. I guess, I’m not hiding aspects of myself but, outright, hiding myself.

Anyway, he poses several questions to ask yourself to unveil each persona. The questions used to uncover the “pretend self”:

  • How do you like to be seen?
  • Which aspects of your personality do you hope people notice first?
  • What is it most important that everyone knows about you? (this is actually the way its written in the book. I think he’s asking “What is most important for everyone to know about you?”)
  • If your life were trying to prove something about you what would it be?

To these I can only think of things I would associate with my negative self, which might suggest that my pretend & negative selves have merged together.

The questions for revealing the negative self-image:

  • What’s the opposite of each of the traits of your pretend self? (I came up with oddly non-negative answers)
  • Which of your secrets will only be discovered after your die?
  • Who is your least favourite person & why? (it states below in brackets “most perception is projection – what we most dislike in others what we fear can be found in ourselves!” The only person I could think of was my prime minister John Key 😛 )

Then there’s the part I’m having trouble with. The guidelines for differentiating authentic traits from traits of your negative self-image:

  • Who you really are always feels like coming home.
  • Who are you when nobody’s watching?
  • If you felt totally safe, what would you do differently?
  • Who would you be if you lived beyond fear?

Honestly, the only thing I came up with is being “fruitier” than usual.

Later it talks about reprogramming your self-image. This is an outline of the technique, taken straight from the book:

  1. Take a few moments to relax & breathe deeply. As your muscles relax, it becomes easier & easier to unleash your imagination.
  2. Now, imagine another you standing in front of you. This is the most magnificent you that you can imagine – your authentic self.
  3. Take a moment to feel totally happy with your authentic self. Look at the way that the authentic you stands, breathes, smiles, walks & talks. Look at how the authentic you speaks to others. Notice how the authentic you handles problems & goes for goals.
  4. Now, step into & synthesize with your authentic self. See through the eyes of your authentic self, hear through the ears of your authentic self, & feel how it feels so good to live life as your authentic self!
  5. Finish your programming session by taking a minute to daydream about how your life will be different as you live more & more from your authentic self. You can imagine yourself living authentically in any number of real situations from your past, present & future.

I’m stuck on step 2/3. Whenever I imagine an “authentic” me I don’t feel happy. It can be argued that I simply haven’t found the real authentic me &… perhaps that’s correct. At the same time, I cannot help but wonder, is there such a thing as an “authentic self” or is it simply a positive construct; a mixture of what we like about ourselves & what we want to be?

In many of these self-help books many of the foundational techniques rely on you generating a positive feeling but typically they don’t explain how to do that, or if they do I always find it feels “fake”. When I compared it to what I really felt about myself, it was always stronger & easier to generate a negative feeling then a positive one.

I’m not saying this is a bad book. It does contain useful information (like the technique & questions above which I feel are worth sharing) & I feel it has helped me in the past (which is why I’m reading it again). In fact, I highly recommend it if you feel you need to change aspects of yourself, as it explains how & why we psychologically do what we do. Problem is I’ve encountered something that the book doesn’t seem to touch on.


After leaving it for a day I returned to it. I started to ask myself different questions & came up with better answers. I also googled something like “finding my authentic self” & got some useful questions from various websites:

  • How do I naturally approach things
    • I like to analyse things
    • I like coming up with unique, creative, ways of doing things; but I also like to go with ways that simply work
    • I like to figure things out for myself, which I realize can make things harder than they need to be
    • I prefer to solve “problems” as soon as possible
  • What do I like about who I am?
    • I like being nerdy
    • I like that I’m interested in anything creative, arty, weird, spiritual or paranormal, sciencey (I don’t think that’s an actual word), fantasy-ish, & psychology things, but I also prefer things that are more “mature” or in-depth.
    • I like to joke & be weird
    • I like to dream & imagine things
    • I like that I want to live a unique life
  • What is part of my nature (that isn’t necessarily negative)
    • I’m determined, I don’t want to let go of important things
    • I think people are important
  • What are my values?
    • I’ve already talked about this in another post.
    • I’d like to add ‘free-will’
  • What did I love to do as a child?
    • The main thing I recall is playing. Playing games (video, board, whatever the hell I could use), playing pretend, playing stories, playing with others.
    • I liked to draw & sketch things
    • After emailing my parents about my childhood:
      • I liked to observe
      • I liked having a small group of close friends
      • I liked to construct things (Lego, Bionicle, etc)
      • I liked cats
      • I liked jumping on the trampoline
      • I was happy & content

I could probably go on & on about this but it already looks much better than what I had before. Perhaps now I can figure out what my “authentic” self is, give the technique a proper go, end this ramble, & finally stop applying bullshit to myself.

Farewell

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