August 29, 2013 at 2:44 am #41377
Hello everyone, my name is Chris and this is my first post here.
I have been reading articles from this website for while now and I have found some really great information. I have reached a point in my life, though. A point in which I have no idea where my false personality ends and my true self begins. As if I am stuck in limbo between the two.
A short background. I grew up in a home with good parents that cared for me, showed me the basics of right and wrong and put a roof over my head through my childhood but that’s really it. They never talked about emotions or feelings, I never got to know my mother on any level deeper than what she did at work that day. We never talked about anything serious and therefore I never learned how to connect with anyone or be my true self. The first time she told me she loved me was when I left for military basic training.
I lived my whole life with a false personality that conformed to what everyone else wanted to see and hear. I was heavily made fun of in school and this was my defense. I never put myself out there out of fear of rejection and not being approved or validated by others. My false personality was rejected all the time but I rationalized that as being okay because it wasn’t the real me that no one liked. They were just making fun of the false me and girls were rejecting my false self, not my real self. On the contrary, any friends I did make never lasted long because they weren’t friends with the real me.
After getting over a 3 year long eating disorder last year, I decided to work on myself and figure out the real me. It has been a very tough road but I have been successful in breaking myself down and learning that I have strong anxiety and social anxiety, I don’t know how to be myself because I don’t know who I am and vulnerability has always been seen as a weakness in my eyes (which I know is wrong). I have studies vulnerability extensively and I know the benefits of practicing it but I still have yet to apply it.
My journal entry this morning: “I have no idea who I am. I have never acted like my true self in any situation and even if I had, i didn’t know it because I didn’t know what it looked like to be my true self. All my life i have created a false image of Christopher Gransbury out of fear that the real me would be rejected. I created my false self because it was safe and if my false self were rejected, that was okay because no one was rejecting the “real me,” just the false me. My next steps in life need to be:
-Find out who the real Christopher Gransbury is.
-Be the real Christopher Gransbury, always.
-Do not seek approval and validation of myself from others. Be myself and disregard what others think of it.
-Stop telling people what they want to hear.
-Put my guard down. If someone wants to poke fun at me, that’s their problem because they are uncomfortable with who I am.
-My wants, needs and desires are just as important as anyone else’s.”
I could really use some advise on moving forward from here. How do I find out who I really am and apply it? I have taken up meditation over the past year and it has helped. I have read countless books on the subject but I am still struggling in practice. I don’t even own a TV anymore because of how unproductive watching TV makes me feel.
I feel like I have broken myself down to the point of completely removing my old false self. I just need to put the pieces back together the way I want them.
Can anyone help me find the right pieces for the right places?
ChrisAugust 29, 2013 at 3:40 am #41379
Hi Chris,I appreciate you sharing your story, I recognize a lot of the struggling and juggling and looking and searching.. I feel the book / or the training “self- compassion” by Kirstin Neff could be very helpful to you.
KimAugust 29, 2013 at 6:14 am #41381
Your story really resonates with me because I felt like although I was loved as a child, I did not receive the important lessons about loving and accepting yourself. It’s hindsight that makes you realize how detrimental that can be to your self-confidence, which determines how your perceive the world.
This false personality that you portrayed when you were younger was the barrier that allowed you to hide your true desires–and it hindered your ability to felt truly loved. If you had put yourself out there–yes, that’s called being vulnerable– then you would have reaped the rewards. The rewards may not have been acceptance by others. But you would have had confidence knowing that you are who you are…If they don’t like you (and let’s be real it was grade-school, everyone has something to say about everyone) then that’s just their opinion.
It’s not that simple though. To assume it to be that way would be undermining your very feelings right now. And your feelings are justified.
You said that vulnerability is weakness. That’s what so many people grow up to believe. If you expose your true self and you have imperfections (the universal caveats that everyone hides), then you are seen as weak, less than, and not enough. Unfortunately, that idea leads men and women unstable and insecure. In fact, many people turn those insecurities into hate. Hate towards others that are weak, and hate towards themselves for ever feeling that way. You haven’t turned to hate, though. You aren’t at that point. Instead, you have decided to recognize this trait in you (the fear of vulnerability) is something that you can overcome. How do you get past it? By being vulnerable. Daring Greatly by Brene Brown is a fantastic book about this. You can also watch some Ted Talks by her to get the ideas flowing. Vulnerability is tough, Chris. It’s okay to be where you are.
You’ve battled an eating disorder. You’re a survivor. You mentally and physically worked through something that is easy to give into. Have confidence in knowing that you are on your way to a healthier you. And that’s enough.
Okay — So how do you find out who you really are?
Michael Singer (author of the Untethered Soul–please read this enlightening book) wrote:
“There is nothing more important to true growth than realizing that you are not the voice of the mind – you are the one who hears it.”
How many voices have you heard in your mind telling you that you are inadequate, not enough, misunderstood, unproductive, struggling, rejected,and unloved. Then you have the other voices that says that it’s okay, that you’re working towards something, that you need to stop worrying about others perceptions of you. There are a million different voices in your mind, and you interpret those voices are who you are.
Those voices aren’t you because of the simple fact that you hear them. You can tell yourself anything right now. It’s not the voices that matters.
“People go through many changes in the name of “trying to find myself.” They want to discover which of these voices, which one of those aspects of their personality, is who they really are. The answer is simple: none of them.”
There is no need to resist that voices that are negative or demeaning. If you try to push it away, you are just giving it more energy –and inviting it to stay. So, then the way to live your life is by developing a perspective. That is, to be aware. Yoga and meditation take you there.
Singer writes that “the day you decide to be more interested in being aware of your thoughts than you are in the thoughts themselves – that is the day you will find your way out.”
I think you’re on your way. We all are.August 29, 2013 at 8:37 am #41390
I relate to your story. All my life I have defined myself by what others saw me as. Good daughter, good friend, good and sometimes bad girlfriend, clingy, needy..etc..you get the drift.
All I can tell u is that you have done amazing work here. You have actually taken the time and outlined what everyone in this world dreams of having. True love for themselves. I am working on it. What I have found out is that in addition to meditation, exercise, therapy and truly self nuturing, taking long walks and talking to myself has really helped me. Sometimes we need to let things be and just observe. Just observe yourself and see what u like and what u don’t. Like for instant, just lately I have noticed that drinking too much makes me feel like shit emotionally. I feelthat sorrow when i eat badly too. So I have taken actions to not do those things anymore. See who you are is always evolving. With every passing moment, you are growing and changing. U cant put yourself in a box and say this is who Christopher is…that will be unfair to u and the world because u seem to be pretty amazing person. Just observe and let yourself be. Set your boundaries. There is a great book by pia mellody about codependence which u will relate to. Its about upbringing and how parents behaviours shape our personality.
Check it out.
Be true brother. We are all cheering for you…
SAugust 29, 2013 at 8:06 pm #41416
Now is your time to go explore! Try out different hobbies, events, meet new people. When you start doing, you kind of start feeling what resonates/feels right for you. That’s what self-discovery is all about. Trust in yourself, you’ll find your way. 🙂
LuciaAugust 30, 2013 at 2:52 pm #41456
This is such an amazing reply to my post. You really understand where I am coming from and where I’m trying to go. I could go on about my parents but you are completely right. They were loving parents and did the best that they knew how because of the way they were raised as well. It’s amazing how far down these issues can go in a family, generation to generation. My only dream for when I have kids is to change that and give them what I never got. I suppose that’s how most parents feel but I really want to follow through with it.
The false personality I used to protect myself wore off on me and changed the real me which is why I think I’ve been struggling to just be myself. I still get really anxious around people that I really want to make a good impression on and end up doing things I wouldn’t normally do. I’ve been trying to observe myself around people that I am comfortable with and therefore don’t heavily care what they think of me. I feel as though monitoring myself around these people will help me to better observe who I am when I am comfortable.
Brene Brown is an amazing woman. I have actually read her books already and thoroughly enjoyed them. The Gifts of Imperfection was actually one of the first books I read when I started this journey of finding myself and I just recently finished Daring Greatly. I’m very glad you recommend her books though. She sends a great message. One that I think everyone should hear.
I will definitely look into Michael Singer. I think I have heard the title and it may even be on my Amazon wish list. These are very thought provoking and inspirational quotes and I think I would very much enjoy reading his book. (I want to read everything, my wish list grows everyday!)
I want to thank you for this reply because it gives me hope that everything I am doing and everything I have done is for a greater good; for myself and those who I will interact with and love in my life. It’s also nice to know that I am not alone in my struggles. People seem to hide these struggles very well and this is a hard area to connect with people on because it’s uncomfortable to talk about. I am working on letting people into my life and enjoying time spent with friends and loved ones. I am learning just now at the age of 23 how to be a true friend to someone and how to keep a friendship.
Thanks again, Katie. I will come back to this reply when I need some words of inspiration.August 30, 2013 at 3:39 pm #41461
Thank you for your kind words. I have always found talking to myself rather uncomfortable. As if I don’t like the sound of my voice when there is no one to hear but myself. However, being uncomfortable is pretty much inevitable when doing any soul searching and I’ve began to embrace it. I’ll have to give it another try.
I’ve gotten quite good at being aware in most everything I do but I catch myself coasting quite frequently, even for days. It doesn’t help that in my job we work long hours every week on erratic schedules with no extra pay. I work night shift right now and it feels like I don’t have anyone to spend my spare time with because our schedules are always changing and I never know when anyone is working or not. I can’t even make plans any more than a week or two from now because I don’t know what shift I’ll have to go to or what days I’ll have off. So you can kinda see how easy it is to just give in and coast through the days because sometimes they can feel quite meaningless.
You’re absolutely right that who we are is always changing. I constantly hear people make the excuse “well that’s just how I am” when they are doing something ridiculous like throwing trash on the ground or smoking. You are who you choose to be and making the excuse that it’s not your fault because it “how you are” is just a way of passing the blame to a superficial you.
I agree with you about the drinking, I hate that feeling of waking up the next morning in regret and confusion of the night before. I am very familiar with it. Today actually was one of the worst cases of regret I’ve had in quite a while after staying out until 9am and walking 3 miles to find my friends house. The same friend who I had left at the bar for trying to start a fight with me. I knew what shame was when I woke up this afternoon at 4pm. I really want this part of my life to change.
You seem to be quite an amazing person yourself. It takes one to know one 🙂
I’ll check out that book and get back to you when I finish it. Thanks again!August 30, 2013 at 3:52 pm #41463
You’re definitely spot on. I suppose it’s difficult to find my true self when I’m doing all the same thing as my old self. It’s just so hard to get out there and try all these new things on my own. I have a very limited number of friends that would enjoy anything outside of a bar or their gaming chair. I’m quite an independent person but I’m finding that the real me enjoys good company and being around people. It really makes me happy but it’s so different from how I’ve always been, making it hard to be social because I don’t really know how. Getting out there and doing it though will go further than worrying about how it will play out.
Some simple but great advice. Thanks, Lucia.
🙂August 30, 2013 at 5:30 pm #41464
As I read and digested your words, at first it seemed the heartfelt and skillful words of the others was enough. However, after reading a little more of your art, a few things came to heart that may help.
It seems part of the identity crisis you’re experiencing is this notion of “false self”. There isn’t such a thing. Sure, there are veils and personality traits that come forward when you meet up with experiences where you are uncomfortable, but that isn’t “not you” that is still really you, just uncomfortable and trying to adapt. When we don’t like ourselves sometimes we try to deny our actions, attributing it to some phantom being or “false” being.
The major setback of this is it sets us looking for a “real self” that also exists only as a phantom. Neither exist. Buddha (or perhaps a Buddhist teacher since, I don’t remember) said that we exist as our actions. “Christopher” as a momentum of actions sort of exists, but is also constantly changing. “Real self Christopher” only exists as a notion of the difference between who you have been and who you wish you have been.
Letting the pieces crumble is really beneficial for a few reasons. First, as you accept how all of us are born fundamentally ignorant of how to work with our mind and body, “mistakes”… or times when we act unskillfully because of delusion or painful emotion simply evaporate. Oooops, so what, we all do/have done the exact same thing as you, learning and struggling, waking to how to work and what to do next. Second, instead of seeking the idealized you, you can look at what was really there. “OK, so I was afraid that what I wanted to say would be rejected, so I was deceptive.” From that vantage, we can pull apart the cycles we have been stuck in by acting differently.
One of the Buddhist teachers said that we have tons of “selfs” inside our mind. Most of them lead to ensnarement in patterns of suffering. When we follow the eight fold path, it is like using the voice of self that clings to a raft which crosses the river, or clings to the door of the cage. After awhile, the door opens and we can step through, where we live and breathe from a heartfelt spontaneous vibration… or “living our dharma”. Then this notion of “who am I” just doesn’t arise in the mind… and neither does regret or confusion or whatever the patterns of behavior that lead to the veils and masks you donned, which left you feeling false and uncomfortable. He described that as “leaving no footprints in the mind.”
MattAugust 31, 2013 at 4:17 am #41474
You hit some really excellent points here. It makes very much sense to me what you are saying because you are right, I was always there with my own thoughts and actions no matter how much I tried to hide myself from everything. I really enjoyed what you said about looking at all of those instances where I was acting in my “false” self and seeing what was really there. As I was reading this, I sat back and thought about a couple moments in my life where I know I was altering my actions to be what I thought others would want and I really noticed what was actually going on. Instead of seeing it as acting in my false character, I saw myself for who I was and saw the motives behind my actions. Those motives are the real issue at hand and what I should focus on moving past, not the actions. The actions were basically meaningless because they changed with every person I interacted with. This is truly groundbreaking for me; it really clicks. You have opened my mind greatly! You also wrote this extremely well.
I read, Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn a while back and this really clears up a few things that were in that book.
Do you know of any material that expands into this? I would love to keep learning about this.
ChrisAugust 31, 2013 at 4:51 am #41476
Thank you for sharing. I’m 24 and recently finished my master’s degree in a different country. My experiences there, with the ‘real’ world forced me into withdrawing within myself. I found myself so hurt by the lack of sensitivity in people that I cannot bring myself to connect with people anymore. What this lead to, was introspection into who I really am. I also noticed how my behaviour changed with other people and I acquired this different personality around them.
When I initially started reflecting on my behaviour, I noticed that every time I was not being myself, I would feel drained, empty, demotivated. As Sapnap and you said, the bit about drinking: I don’t enjoy alcohol too but whenever a friend rings up, I find myself planning nights out. Once I’ve kept the phone, I realize that I don’t really want to do this. It makes you feel like crap knowing that you are being someone who makes others happy and that with every action you are, in a way, denying your true self.
This is a process I’ve undertaken over the last few months and what helped me was creating a space where I could be genuine and true with myself. It involved spending quite some time isolated and in peace with myself. I’m trying to bring this person into all my conversations with others: it is not easy. I’m still making mistakes, but with every step I am being more and more genuine and vulnerable with others.
I finally realized that it is not my job to make others happy. Sure, I should be good but I don’t have to please everyone. I’ve loosened my hold on my relationships and now I let things take their course. This has changed my relationship with almost everyone around me; fewer people are around but I am happier and more peaceful. Now, when I have important work-related meetings, I find that I am not afraid as such. I don’t feel the pressure to please them or make them happy or to put on a false face. As I am comfortable and genuine and present, they start to feel the same.
Sorry I don’t have any media recommendations, just sharing my own ongoing experience 🙂 It takes great courage to be true to oneself. I’m still working on it too… Good luck!
PS: Matt, thank you for sharing some profound wisdom. What you said is true, that the self is constantly evolving. In this context, it has helped me look at my struggle in new light. I guess, with the ‘false’ and ‘real’ self debate, it is really just essential to be honest with yourself in the present moment and nothing more. I don’t think we’re seeking an Ideal self as much as honesty with our self, whoever we are in the present moment.August 31, 2013 at 4:58 am #41477
There are lots of books, but Christopher is the interesting study, don’t you think? “Mindfulness in Plain English” is a pretty good book, though, it may strike you well. A few things came to heart as I read your response.
Consider that when we engage with a moment and do not feel the inner warmth of self love, we naturally move toward seeking love. Like when we are hungry, we naturally seek food. As you engaged with others, you told them whatever it is you thought they wanted to hear. Said differently, you told them the words that you thought would make them love you. That’s normal, usual, and no biggie.
Except there is a consequence. The food doesn’t go in… because you might have given them a few words, but they were not generous, they were selfish. Said differently, when we have self love, we are generous to others without needing to say pleasing things. We are free to say whatever it is that seems helpful, rather than what seems pleasing to them. Our hearts wish to be helpful… our compassion is actually nature working to heal itself. That is what gives us actual food. Said differently, love is never earned… love is shared. This includes telling a Chris when he’s been a doofus, or telling a Matt when he’s been a doofus. It might be unpleasant, it might be pleasant, but when we are sharing our abundance, it is beautiful… nature restoring itself.
Buddha taught that to do this, we connect to that abundance directly. This frees us from scrambling for it when we are taking action (such as communication). For this, books might help, but it is your butt on a cushion that does the actual work. Really its any self nurturing activities, such as walking in nature, taking a bath, eating healthy, etc. Things you do that show your body that its little piece of nature is important, sacred, special. Meditation is just one, but a potent one. Consider giving this a go:
It is both a method and a teaching. Following along can not only provide the fuel, but also the why. Namaste!