Last time we looked at the nature of our false self. In every person there is a true identity which is a gift from God when we were created and not something that we have to create, and a false identity which we have learned to become by our lifestyle, upbringing, and circumstances.
Our sense of identity is built up over the years as we grow. It begins as we discover that our behaviors create responses in others that if worked correctly will get us what we desire. These behaviors are added to by the early realization that we can create ourselves so that we are seen in a positive light and helps us maintain our self-esteem. And so our identity becomes something that we create around ourselves.
“Our basic style is often built around the things that were reinforced for us as children. It usually starts with the things we do well. Over time our repertoire of competencies grows, and we learn to live in a way that we think will work for us. This becomes “our way,” or what we simply think of as who we are.” David G. Benner Our abilities or lack of abilities form our sense of identity. Those around us challenged us to achieve, or made us feel we could never be good enough, or we were told we were a failure. These and many other things created in us our sense of identity early in life, and have become the basis and foundation for our current behaviors.
Identifying our false self can be difficult if we are not willing to see ourselves differently than we currently do. Because the false self is a facsimile and is not a secure state it can be very uncomfortable to look inside ourselves. Our false self and the sense of security it brings us can be hard to let go of. But the reality of who we are, and the great blessing that comes as we discover ourselves and the resulting sense of peace and security completely outweigh the risks of looking inside.
There are some trustworthy clues to discovering our false self if we are willing to look. One of the first clues is a sense of defensiveness. “Because of its fundamental unreality, the false self needs constant bolstering. Touchiness dependably points us to false ways of being. And the more prickly a person you are, the more you are investing in the defense of a false self.
Some people bristle easily if they are not taken seriously, thus betraying a need for others to see the self-importance that is so obvious to them. Others take themselves too seriously, perhaps being unable to laugh at themselves. Both reactions suggest ego inflation. Others have learned to mask these outward displays of defensiveness, but inner reactions of annoyance or irritation still point toward the presence of a false self.”
Touchiness and pettiness are fundamental characteristics of a false identity. And the things that bother us most about others, our pet peeves, point to the falseness in our own identity. “If laziness in others is what really bothers me, there is a good chance that discipline and performance form a core part of the false self that I embrace with tenacity. If it is playfulness and spontaneity in others that I find most annoying, then seriousness may be a central part of the self I protect and seek to project. If it is moral disregard that is particularly irritating in others, my false self is probably built around moral rectitude and self-righteousness. And if emotionality in others is what I most despise, emotional control is probably central to the script I have chosen to live.”
Compulsive behaviors are also an indicator of a false identity. Our false identity is rooted in the perception that our value is dependent on external things like owning the latest and greatest things, or being the best at something. As a result we compulsively pursue the things we see create value and security for us and preserve our sense of identity.
The constant pursuit of a false identity is the root of our unhappiness. As we discover and grow into our true identity we find fulfillment, meaning and happiness because we are living life as we were meant to live. And our value comes not from external things but on the value that we have as people. As we begin to value and understand ourselves it opens the door to us valuing and understanding the people we come in contact with each and every day.
But it begins by being willing to take an honest look at ourselves even if we may not like what we see, and being willing to see some of the ways we live as actually supporting a false identity and not who we really are after all. “The bondage in any false self is the bondage of having to keep up the illusion.” David G. Benner