When the version of ourselves people love isn’t who we truly are
Getting back in sync with our true selves
Every so often you read something or listen to something and it, quite literally, stops you in your tracks. It’s so profound, or so moving, or so challenging that you have to do something about what you’ve just read or heard.
I was listening to the latest episode of the Typology podcast that had Father Richard Rohr on as the guest. They were talking about the Enneagram and, in the process, Richard said something that felt like it triggered an explosion inside me.
I immediately pressed pause. And then went straight back to listen to it again. Then a third time so I could write it in my notes app on my phone.
Here’s what he said:
“The very thing people love you for is killing you from the inside.”
— Richard Rohr
Going through life, usually well into our twenties and thirties, we create a false (or floating or provisional) self. It’s the personality we forge to help us find our feet in the world and get established in life. But, in may ways, it’s a mask. It’s not who we truly are. It’s who we’ve created, mostly subconsciously, in order to get along in the world. This is normal. And it’s not all bad. But — and it’s a big but — it’s not our true, anchored self.
Sooner or later this reality will hit us hard. This is what mid-life crises are all about. Who we thought we are, who we thought we wanted to be, is out of sync with this sense, this longing, within us about this other, truer version of ourselves.
And that’s what brings me to this quote. The people around us have gotten to know this floating or provisional version of us. That’s who they know and love. But eventually we reach the point where this false self that people love is actually eating away at us, holding us back from becoming our true self.
This recognition, to be clear, is not the end of a journey, but the beginning. Many of you reading this will already have switched off. That’s okay. The timing isn’t right for you. But for others, it will have hit a nerve. You’ll find yourself wondering: Who am I?Who is the real me? You’ll have a sense of resonance with the idea that the version of you that people know and love is not in harmony with who you are on a deeper, truer level. And it’ll provoke doubt, fear, uncertainty, and a host of other emotions.
It’ll be tempting to shut these thoughts down. To drown them out. Truthfully, I think most people do. But if we want to keep growing, we’ll have to allow ourselves to sit with these questions, wrestle with the doubts, and do the hard, often painful inner work of discovering our true selves.
We need to think of it as an adventure. There will be ups and downs, fun times and painful times; moments where you’re not sure if you’ll make it, times when you feel lost. That’s normal. The only way forward though, to resist a life of stagnation, is to embrace the adventure, even if you have no idea where you’ll end up.