You’ve heard the slogan, “Be true to yourself.” Combine that with a picture of a beautiful person gazing into a magnificent nature scene and you have a great poster.
It sounds like good advice, too. I mean, you’d hardly advise someone to “be false to yourself,” would you?
Let’s examine it more carefully, though. What does being true to yourself mean? Is it effective advice for someone who wants to live a satisfying life?
First, what do you see when you visualize yourself? Maybe you see a loyal friend, an excellent parent, an outstanding worker, a creative artist, a community contributor, and so on. You may be any or all those selves and more.
When you see yourself as a positive contributor, you likely choose to act accordingly. For example, if you identify as a loyal friend, it’s not hard for you to decide how to respond when a friend asks for help. When you view yourself as a responsible person, you’ll likely choose differently when car-shopping than if you see yourself as not good with money. If you know in your heart that you are a creative artist, you’ll continue to create, regardless of whether fame and fortune come to you. That’s just who you are.
But what if your self-view is not so positive? Perhaps you see yourself as someone who lacks courage. Or maybe you lose your temper easily and “let it fly.” Maybe you hold deep resentments, cynicisms or suspicions. You may even view yourself as not very smart or identify as “an unhappy person.”
Is there any point in trying to change your “self”?
The title of Dr. Glasser’s book, “Take Charge of Your Life” is an encouragement to recognize where we have control.
For example, if you see yourself as someone with a quick temper, you may lash out quickly and viciously when challenged and then be sorry and apologetic later. If you believe that’s your personality and that you can’t help it, then you are surrendering control over your own life.
If our actions are defined by our genes, such that we have no control over them, then the whole idea of choice becomes moot, doesn’t it? So, I’m going with the idea that we do have choice; we are not completely determined by nature and nurture. We have some level of free will.
While we have traits and talents and aptitudes, we also have a self that we can change, develop and improve. We can develop our personality—develop our “self”—to bring us closer to being the person we would like to be.
If you want to have a true self that’s respectful, or courageous, or calm or whatever qualities you value, then a way to achieve it would be to practice those qualities, even though they may not feel natural.
You may be thinking, isn’t it inauthentic for me to deliberately change myself? I don’t want to be a fake!
I don’t see change as inauthentic. By choosing your behaviour, you are still being true to yourself. The difference is that now you are being true to your chosen, best self rather than to your automatic self.
What does your best self look like? Are you acting it? If so, how’s that working for you?
Welcome to Reality Check:
articles and observations inspired by the work of Dr. William Glasser
- Choosing Behaviour
- Choosing Perspective
- Control and Choice
- Develop Understanding
- Doing, Thinking, Feeling, Physiology
- How it is sometimes
- Love & Belonging
- Perception & Reality
- Personal Freedom