It is not uncommon for patients to express feelings of self-isolation in therapy. They may say things like, “I don’t feel like my true self” or “Sometimes I don’t even recognize who I am.”
In such cases, it is important to reflect on yourself A sense of authenticity. Acting authentically (ie, being true to yourself, standing up for what you believe in, and sticking to your core principles) can be a powerful antidote to self-isolation.
Here are three signs you need to rekindle your relationship with the ‘real you’.
#1. You are keeping a secret that you no longer want to keep
There is something attractive about secrets and keeping secrets. We all want to be ‘in the know’. We want to be privy to information that other people don’t have. We want to be in the inner circle rather than on the edge.
Much of it is based on our need to feel connected to others. This in itself is not a bad thing. However, there are some consequences of keeping secrets that can cause psychological harm.
Some secrets can make us weak. They affect our ability to interact and relate to others. The more we try to suppress the secret, the more we find it popping into our consciousness.
People who disclose big secrets often describe the experience as a “weight off their shoulders,” where the revelation can damage their close relationships.
Much of this can be explained from an authenticity perspective. When we keep secrets that prey on our sense of authenticity, we lead ourselves down a harmful path. We can deal with these feelings in unhealthy ways, such as drowning out our thoughts with alcohol or detaching from previously enjoyable experiences.
Often, the only way to rebalance our psychological state is to share the secrets that make us feel inauthentic. Therapy is a safe place to explore such possibilities.
#2. You are a different person at work than you are at home
For many of us, our work can make us feel disconnected from our true selves. We are forced to wear a thick skin and are told to behave in ways that we don’t feel completely comfortable with. Many employees are reluctant to reveal their true selves for fear of how their colleagues will perceive them.
In some work environments, conformity has a strong undertone, such that everyone acts more or less the same way (perhaps taking on the personality traits of the organization’s leader(s)). Any defiance of the status quo of work may be viewed by superiors as an attack on the organization itself.
If you find yourself feeling this way, it may be affecting your authenticity. You may feel conflicted about the ‘real you’. Is this ‘home you’ the authentic or ‘work you’ really the real you?
Over time, our psychology has a way of resolving such cognitive dissonance in one direction or another. The problem is that without actively working through such thoughts and feelings we do not always control the direction of the resolution. We may eventually become strangers to ourselves.
#3. You’re living a double (or triple) life
Most people equate living a double life with having an affair or hiding something of great importance from their immediate family. While that is one definition of a double life, it is important to know that there are other, less serious forms of living a double or triple life that can also lead to feelings of inauthenticity. Most of them originate from simply trying to do too much.
Consider the following scenario. Imagine a mother who is simultaneously trying to take care of young children, succeed in her career, and be a good daughter to her aging parents. While these are all noble goals, it is unlikely that anyone will be able to excel at all of these duties simultaneously. Often, this leads to feelings of inauthenticity and self-blame (ie, “I should have taken my parents to lunch last week” or “I can’t miss another PTA meeting”).
In these situations, it is necessary to practice self-compassion, realizing that you do not have time to be everything to everyone. Backing up the number of things you expect to accomplish each week can help restore your sense of authenticity.
Feeling a strong sense of authenticity is the cornerstone of a happy and healthy life. The next time you feel disconnected from yourself, take a moment to consider whether you’re (1) holding on to unnecessary secrets, (2) struggling with your work identity, or (3) constantly feeling overextended. .