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Essential Self vs. Social Self

Essential self vs social self

In my last post I wrote about what it is like to masquerade as a normal person. Masquerading is living in a way that is not aligned with who you really are, following a script that isn’t yours, doing things that you think are important because they are valued by others.

Why do we do these things?

Let’s start by looking at two parts of who we are.

There is a you that has existed since the day you were born; it is who you are – the part that knows what you love, what lights you up, what your right life is. This is the essential self.

Then there is the part of you that developed as you grew up in response to your environment. It internalized the rules and expectations about what it means to be









and on and on

that came from parents, families, friends, institutions, media – everyone around us – to gain social approval.

We begin to internalize these rules at a young age when we are dependent on others for our survival. The rules may be explicitly explained to us or we absorb them from our perception of how the culture around us operates. Either way, we figure out what we need to do to feel safe and loved and secure and then we learn the skills to do it. So much of this can be unconscious, we may not even realize that we have this internal code of conduct. This is the social self.

When the social self is in alignment with the essential self, life feels pretty good. You are moving in the right direction. The social self works in support of the essential self – like choosing what to wear, practicing a new skill, or getting through college. Because your essential self is leading your social self, you are taking action based on what is important to you.

This is living a life you love.

It’s when the social self is not aligned with the essential self that you start to feel like your life is going in the wrong direction. You may get along for a while, especially if you are receiving approval and recognition for what you are doing.

But your essential self knows your truth. You can’t fool this part of you. Tapping into the wisdom of the essential self connects you to an inner guidance system that is always available. This is the beginning of the end of the masquerade because when you connect with your essential self you can begin to chart your own direction, the one that’s right and real for you.

“Let yourself be drawn by the stronger pull of that which you truly love.” ― Rumi

(Martha Beck describes essential self and social self in her book, “Finding Your Own North Star”)

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