From Masks to Mastery: Navigating Your Midlife Journey to Self-Rediscovery

Have you ever felt like there’s a version of yourself hidden beneath the surface, waiting to be rediscovered? The journey towards uncovering our true selves is a powerful one, and it’s a concept I first encountered a few years ago. Let’s quickly survey the realms of the true self, false self, and the neuroscience that supports this fascinating journey.

Have you ever heard the terms “true self” and “false self”?

I first learned the concept a few years ago when I listened to a lecture by Francican priest Richard Rohr by the same name: True Self, False Self. Since that time, I’ve heard the terms in a different settings from different teachers.

The proposition is that every human is born with a soul, their true self, their essence—who they are meant to be in the world. But then in childhood, adolescence, and even early adulthood, the true self is buried under a false self.

The false self is a persona or protective casing that is developed in order to survive various situations including family of origin, neighboorhood bullies, school, etc. It’s actually super helpful for getting a vulnerable human through the early years, but after that, it’s more of a hinderance than a help.

Part of maturing into adulthood is learning to recognize the false self, shedding it, and getting back in touch with your true essence.

Actually, there’s some neuroscience to back up this concept.

The Neuroscience of the True Self

Positive Intelligence Graphic
Image © Positive Intelligence, LLC

Dr. Shirzad Chamine, NYT best-selling author of Positive Intelligence and Stanford professor, has identified ten negative voices in our heads which live in the survivor —fight, flight, or freeze—part of the brain. He calls these “saboteurs,” and there’s one we all have: The Judge (a.k.a. inner critic).

Chamine also identified five positive modalities that promote wellness and healthy relationships. He calls these “sage powers,” and we each have all five: empathize, explore, innovate, navigate, and activate.

As we age, our goal is to strengthen the sage and weaken the saboteurs. To shed the false self and embrace the true self. To rediscover our essence and share it with the world.

Rediscovering Your Essence

One of the ways you can find your essence is to find a childhood photo (before age 13)—or if you don’t have a childhood photo, a happy memory. Even adults who had traumatic childhoods are usually able to access one memory of when they were happy.

When you look at the photo of yourself as a child—before you started believing the lies of the saboteurs and “armoring up” with the false self to get through life—you will see your essence shining through.

I think the above photo of me around age 10 captures my true essence: kind, authentic, deep. If you recognize me in that photo, it’s only because I’ve been working on rediscovering and revealing my true self for the past 10 years.

Trust me on this. It’s hard work. 

My “Judge” is mean and loud. And its accomplice saboteur, Hyper-Rational, is a perfectionist critic. When my saboteurs are so loud they drown out everything else, it’s easy for me to forget how capable and compassionate I really am.

The concepts of true self and false self, sage and saboteur, and becoming who we were always meant to be are a big part of my new T.A.P.E.S.T.R.Y.™ program.

You're Invited to Join Me

On September 13, 2023 at 1pm Eastern, I’m hosting a FREE webinar where I’ll be talking about the four biggest problems nonprofit leaders are opting into and how to stop the self-sabotage. I’m also introducing the My Living T.A.P.E.S.T.R.Y.™ model for leaders who want to be around for the long haul. The webinar is free, and you can get tickets here: https://bitly/mlt-091323

This transformational approach empowers leaders to embrace their individuality, lead from a place of values-aligned strength and authenticity. It’s a way to conquer imposter syndrome for good. 🙌