When I write about a “false” self, what I mean is the layers of armor we have all picked up along our journey to create safety in our mind and our body. This false sense of security serves a purpose, however it is important to begin learning how to differentiate from the false self and true, authentic you. The “true” you is who you were before that miscarriage, divorce, abuse, pain, disappointment, trauma, etc. got it’s hands on you.
Before I list out the main “skills” of a false self, I want to remind you of an important concept. None of these skills are to be blamed or judged. In order to release them for good, we must approach them with a sense of gratitude. They served you the best they could and while they may be causing you pain now, they did their job in the past by providing a sense of safety and control when you needed it most. When we release an old skill, we make room for new ones. Ones that add value to our lives and create a real safety without harming ourselves and others.
Some of the most common FALSE self survival skills are:
Lack of Boundaries
Fear of Commitment or Conflict
and many more.
These survival patterns can be misleading, simply because when we learn to do something a certain way for so long, doing anything different than that feels foreign and uncomfortable. Even when we “know” something is harmful to us and others, we tend to lean into it because it feels safe and familiar. It reminds us of a home long ago, (maybe a painful one we seek to forget), but can’t ever seem to. We get stuck in a cycle that we don’t know how to get out of. The shame and confusion can be too much to bear at times.
It’s also important to note that some of these skills are harder to set down than others. For example, your false self may work to do “everything” for everyone, people pleasing and extending yourself beyond your limit to feel included, needed and accepted. If this is a trait you were taught as a child, it is especially hard because on the outside, this may not look harmful. However when you are unable to set boundaries for yourself (and on yourself), you cause conflict internally which wreaks havoc on your nervous system and ultimately blocks your ability to function from a higher, true self.
You can’t live this life without difficulty, hurt and setback. You will experience heartache, loss and pain. We will all do things that we aren’t proud of to manufacture a sense of security and freedom. However when you live in the past, your body will continue to use old skills to cope, even when the environment is no longer filled with threat. Here, people experience difficulty connecting on a deeper level, trusting others, and often describe experiencing shortness of breath, un explainable anxiety or anger, or complete shut down, withdrawal, and “feeling nothing.”
In order to reconnect with your TRUE self, you must become aware of these skills you carry that are no longer serving you. As you heal, slowly you will rebuild trust in yourself and the process, peeling back the layers that have buried the authentic you.
A few thoughts to help you reconnect (can be used during your daily journaling or breathwork):
Visceral Intake: What is my body feeling right now? Sensations of increased heart rate? Stomach ache? Headache? Shallow breath? Where am I holding tension?
Set it Down: What is ONE false self skill I am going to work to set down today with gratitude and without judgement or shame? (gossip, alcohol, angry outburst, self sabotaging my success, a loud inner critic, fear of saying “no,” etc)
Embrace + Rebuild: What is ONE true self skill I am going to let shine today? (responding with awareness and patience, saying “no” without guilt, moving my body, giving myself grace, waking early to meditate, challenging my inner critic, etc).
What helps me MOST is to think of it this way:
My FALSE self asks me to put on old armor.
My TRUE self asks me to set it down.
Healing is about reconnecting the mind and the body. It’s about becoming more aware and not simply reacting to life. It’s a daily practice of reminding your nervous system that you are safe and are to be trusted. It is a commitment that requires specific intention, but the benefits are worth the work, I promise.
If you are interested in breath-work, but aren’t sure where to start, I am creating a Beginners Breath-work Meditation. Stay tuned.
Yours in healing,