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The False Self Phenomenon (And How It Destroys)

woman mask photoDo you feel like you’re moving through life wearing a mask? Like you’re trying to be or do or create something (a relationship, a business, a career, a life) that isn’t really truly you?

If you answered yes to either or both questions, you’re not alone.

The truth is, everyone does this to some degree. It’s social etiquette to be polite, nice, and claim that, “Everything is fine,” even when everything is falling apart. A little bit of social etiquette can help lubricate conversations and situations. Too much of it and the mask grows thicker and more rigid which creates separation and disconnection from ourselves and everyone else. This can lead to depression, anxiety and other issues.

If you’ve ever experienced abuse, this false self phenomenon gets amplified.

If you’ve ever been abused, you’ve (mistakenly) learned that it’s not safe to be you. You may walk around with the thoughts, “You’re not okay. You’re not safe. Get away from me. I’m not okay. I’m not safe. I better get out of here.”

In your attempt to keep yourself safe and protected you resist everything: “No, I don’t like that. No, I don’t want to talk about that. No, I don’t want to do that. No, no, no, no, no…”

This resistance gets turned against yourself. You mistakenly believe you are not okay and that something is wrong with you. You resist against the truth of you, the lie of you, the everything of you, as that pushing energy is familiar, and you’d rather be pushing and resisting than open and susceptible to someone else’s push that you don’t want.

So you create a false self to hide the wrongness of you; to protect the truth of you; and to try and fit in and be loved and be liked and at the very least not be rejected.

You may also look to food, alcohol, drugs, sex, television, or other means to cope with this intense sense of separation from yourself. None of which will ever truly help you.

I know that up until now this has felt like all you know and all you can do. I also know that living like this is not really living: it’s being a zombie. It’s being the walking dead. It’s destroying yourself and your life rather than creating it.

It can feel scary to take the mask off, to feel so vulnerable, to feel out of control. You’re used to being in control and even hypervigilant. Yet what’s the cost of continuing to be the walking dead? Is that really what you choose?

I also know how difficult it can feel to change this, to take off the mask and live your true self; for after all this time you may wonder who is your true self? Will you see and know her after all this time of living the false self?

Although you may feel absolutely disconnected from yourself, and not know your true self, you actually really do. There is a whisper of your real self behind the mask and when you remove the mask and listen, you will be able to hear and be the truth of you.

Ultimately, it is your choice. And if you choose to take off the mask and live as you, what else is possible then? Imagine the energy, the enthusiasm, the joy, the pleasure that you could experience being truly you, not trying to be something you’re not. What a relief!

It is possible to live without the mask and I will show you how.

So if you’re ready to say goodbye to the false self and hello to the true you I invite you to check out the recording of one of my radio show, where I share the steps you can take and questions you can ask yourself to remove the mask and step into being the real you. Click here for more details


The False Self Phenomenon (And How It Destroys)

Dr. Lisa Cooney

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APA Reference
Cooney, D. (2016). The False Self Phenomenon (And How It Destroys). Psych Central. Retrieved on July 14, 2020, from


Last updated: 27 May 2016
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