Be Your True Self – What Does that Mean?

your true self

I recently posted an article called, Designing a Personal Transformation, on Facebook. I was pleased that several people were motivated to comment on this article, but there was one comment in particular that got my attention. Here’s the comment, “change nothing, just be yourself and experience peace.”

How do you feel about that statement?

The more I thought about it, the more thought-provoking it became. It is very true that to experience peace we must live in harmony with our true self. Striving to be something we are not only creates internal conflict and disharmony. So on this level I completely agree with the statement, “just be yourself.”

But which part of ourselves should we be?

Within each of us is the capacity to be generous or selfish, understanding or harsh, loving or unloving. It is up to each of us as individuals to choose what aspects of our character we want to nurture and develop. Clearly, if we want to maximize our potential, we need to make wise choices about the kind of person we will allow ourselves to become.

Prisons are full of people who were just being themselves. The problem is that the aspects of their personality that they chose to express had a negative effect on the world around them. So the philosophy of “just be yourself and everything will turn out fine” seems a little simplistic, don’t you think?

Who else could we be?

While it is true that everything we are, or will ever become, is already part of our true self. It is also true that most people do not know how to make the most of their incredible potential because they do not understand their true self. This is where learning advanced life skills can open the door to self-discovery and personal growth.

But no matter what kind of personal change we experience, we don’t grow into someone else, we develop into the best possible version of ourselves. Regardless of how it is expressed, we will always be ourselves. Think about it, who else could we possibly be?

We get to decide who we will become

Finding the best expression of our true self can involve any number of choices and challenges. Sometimes we need to learn to let go of those stealthy, little, self-imposed obstacles that can block our ability to realize who we really are. Other times, it’s about finding our passions or adjusting our focus to harmonize with our true nature.

Self-expression can be the vehicle by which we achieve our dreams, or it can land us behind bars. If we operated solely on instinct, the way animals do, there would be no room for choices and no basis for accountability. As humans though, we have the ability to exercise freedom of choice, and like it or not, with that freedom comes accountability.

Why accountability is a good thing

Accountability is a two-sided coin. If we use our freedom of choice in an unwise fashion, then we may experience undesirable consequences. On the other hand, if we make wise choices concerning the person we allow ourselves to become, life can be extremely rewarding.

Every single day of our life will present us with choices. Big or small, those choices represent opportunities. Do we use our freedom of choice to encourage our personal growth and development in a positive direction? Will we embrace the reality that the person we become is the culmination of the choices we make day in and day out, year after year?

When we accept personal responsibility for who we are, and how we impact the world around us, we grow. When we choose to be accountable to ourselves for our thoughts, our conduct, and our contribution, we add value to the world around us. Accepting the concept of accountability always creates opportunity.

Two voices

Have you ever seen one of those cartoons where somebody has a little angel whispering in one ear, and a little devil on the opposite side, whispering in the other ear? One is saying, “Do the right thing,” while the other one is saying, “Never mind that, do what you want.”

In reality, those voices don’t come from any outside source. Those voices come from inside, and they are both a part of our nature. That is precisely why we need to make wise choices about which inner voice we will listen to. Nobody is all good or all bad, it’s not that cut and dried. Not one of us is always motivated to do the right thing, anymore than we are helpless against our wrong inclinations.

There is ALWAYS a choice

We listen to the voice we want to listen to, because ultimately, most people do what they want to do. What do you want to do? Which voice do you allow to guide your thoughts and actions?

Once we have an answer to those questions, it becomes a matter of developing the habit of consistently making choices that will support our decisions.

How to be yourself and be at peace

One of the best ways to develop a strong sense of inner peace is to take the time to discover your deepest personal values and passions. These two aspects of your true self define the person that you truly want to be. If you structure your self-expression around these core elements, you will create a deep sense of internal harmony.

Internal harmony is something that very few people ever realize because almost everyone is, to some degree, out of balance with their deepest values and passions. They are out of touch or insulated from their true self. When I work with others one-on-one, this is where we start. When I created Find Your TRUE SELF, this was the focus of the very first step. If you want a deep sense of inner peace, you need to discover what is at your very core, and build from there. You must discover your true self.

The true self discovery process

To be yourself, and be at peace with yourself, you must truly know yourself. Getting in touch with your true self is not usually as straightforward as we might like. The reason for this is because the real you likes to play hide and seek with your conscious mind. Our ego has a way of disguising our true self, so it requires some effort to unveil it.

We also have an emotional maze of pain and pleasure paradigms that will attempt to steer our efforts in the most comfortable direction. This is a built in safety mechanism that is designed to protect us emotionally, but it also tends to thwart our attempts at core discovery. If we are acting out of harmony with our true self we may subconsciously avoid facing that realization.

Not as difficult as it sounds

In spite of the psychological detours, the process is not as difficult as it might sound. By using a series of specially targeted questions, we can easily convince our deepest values and passions to come out of hiding and reveal themselves. Once that happens, the ability to “just be our true self, and be at peace,” tends to unfold naturally.

So, here we are back at that thought provoking facebook comment, “just be yourself and experience peace.” Do I agree with that statement? Yes, as long as that person you call yourself is in reality your true self.

How about you –
Do you feel that just being yourself will lead to inner peace?
Do you feel truly aware of and connected to your true self?
The lines are open!

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  1. xuan May 10, 2010 Reply


    Thank you, this is exactly the answer that I was looking for!

    • Jonathan May 11, 2010 Reply

      Hey Xuan, so happy to be of service.

  2. Lance May 11, 2010 Reply

    For me, I think the big part of this is – am I honestly living in that space of my real and true self? For one – I think it’s easy for us to mask that “true self”, and I know I have been guilty of this. And then – I believe very much that it’s a journey for each of us….this life we are living. And as such – I think there are tweaks along the way, on this life journey – in keeping us true to who we are (and really – who we desire to be).

    So – I too believe it to be true. It’s just that I don’t think I’m there – honestly. And I wonder….how many of us are truly all the way to this place of complete self-discovery? Perhaps there is always room for us to continue on this path….

    • Jonathan May 11, 2010 Reply

      Hi Lance, I am glad you brought up these points. I think that It is impossible to be in a place of complete self-discovery. Here’s why?

      We are complex critters and we discover ourselves one thin layer at a time. What we learn about our inner self today makes it possible to learn more tomorrow.

      Add to this the regular input we all receive from a multitude of sources and it’s easy to see that life is a journey of discovery on every level.

      One of the best ways we facilitate personal growth and development is by using a few self-discovery life tools that can keep us updated (aware) of where we are at any given time. It is much easier to keep moving in the desired direction when we know our current location along the path. That’s how we know when we need to make those “tweaks along the way.”

      So Lance, the condensed version of all this is, I totally agree with you my friend. Thanks!

  3. Robin Easton May 11, 2010 Reply

    This is beautiful, Jonathan. And so important, because without a sense of our true selves, we are indeed lost. We usually are destructive to ourselves and others. But it’s more than that. We never get to really experience the greatness of Life, the greatness that we are born with.

    Once we can embrace who we REALLY are, there is such peace in being our most authentic selves. It’s almost as if we have nothing to defend, to hide, to hang onto, etc. We just ARE. It is a clean state of being. It can sometimes feel daunting or even alone, but it is true, clean and solid. It’s like going home.

    Sometimes it can be a balancing act, but I think the key thing is “awareness”. If we consciously choose to be/do something that isn’t fully us, we need to be aware that we are CHOOSING (for the moment) to do so, and explore why.

    Sadly many people have never even experienced their authentic selves. And hence have no sense of who they are. But Life has a way of throwing endless opportunities at us–some maybe challenging or painful–that make us grow, IF we choose to embrace them as opportunities.

    Thank you my friend. This is a post that I resonate with very much because I think it is the thrust of my life, always seeking out the ways I can be more fully myself, my true self….and who IS that true self? What does she really want and need to reach her full potential and then go beyond. I think I ask myself that every day. Sometimes the answers are scary (and yet I know they are true), sometimes they are peaceful and joyous and enlightening, but I try to embrace and act upon them all.


    • Jonathan May 12, 2010 Reply

      Hi Robin,

      You are one of the most authentic people I know, and we can learn a lot from your example and how others respond to you.

      The people around us can sense when we are able to be honest with ourselves and they a usually drawn to that quality. Finding our true self means letting go of ego and defenses. It means not being afraid to see ourselves emotionally naked and exposed. That can be very challenging. And yet, it is incredibly liberating at the same time.

      There is a inner peace that can only be accomplished by stripping away all the masks, and learning to accept and approve of who we really are. That doesn’t mean we don’t see room for improvement. It just means we are okay with that for now.

      People are very attracted to you Robin, and this is one of the main reasons (among many others). You don’t hide and that is very refreshing. I know that some feel that if they “just be themselves” that nobody will like them. The only way that is true is if we don’t like ourselves.

      I’ll leave with one final thought for our readers to ponder: “Lack of pretense is the key to presence.” If we don’t feel like we are really living our life, it might be because we haven’t yet learned to be honest with ourselves.

      • Jonathan May 12, 2010 Reply

        Dear Jonathan, this reply of yours touched me deeply. It’s is such a huge gift when we go along just being ourselves and then someone (you) sees that and can openly reflect that back to us (me). You are very good at doing that with your readers. I think it strengthens us all and helps us claim parts of ourselves that we might just take for granted.

        I’m sure you can appreciate that with age, we either get our act together or we don’t, but regardless, if we’ve been open to Life as a teacher, then by our age there comes a peace and self confidence just from having lived so fully. I love that part of being 56. Although my life wasn’t always easy, because I chose to use it ALL to grow, I LOVE who I am today in terms of knowing who I am and feeling really comfortable/at peace with myself.

        As you say, that doesn’t mean that I don’t continue to grow and learn. It just means that I’ve made deep enduring peace with myself and Life. And THAT is a really good feeling. Thank you my friend. I enjoyed my time here immensely.

  4. Mars Dorian May 11, 2010 Reply

    That’s awesome, Jonathan,

    I found my true self about a year ago, the moment when I stopped listening to what other people had to say. It can be an exciting journey – you just have to have the guts to approach yourself deep within – and I never hear two voices anymore ;) it’s just one now.

    • Jonathan May 11, 2010 Reply

      Excellent Mars, thanks for mentioning how the two voices became one. Like your blog!

  5. Parker Lee May 12, 2010 Reply

    Wow. Good stuff Jonathon! Robin is right in many ways, sometimes I loose faith in humanity, that majority of people aren’t true to themselves. I feel that I have to always take the “higher” moral stand, hold my tongue and not even try to make sense of most “potential” confrontations because most people can’t handle the truth. It’s a sad thing, maybe I should have more faith in people…then again, I’ve tried that..and the majority people out there can’t handle what they need to hear.

    Thanks for the post, Jonathan

    • Jonathan May 20, 2010 Reply

      Hi Parker, just think how many fine character traits you have developed because of these situations. Adjusting our response to outside input is a big part of personal development. We learn a lot from other people, this is a perfect example.

  6. Amit Sodha May 13, 2010 Reply

    This is a very poignant piece Jonathan. I’ve often though about how to explain to people the part about growth Vs loving yourself as your are and I came the same conclusions. Where I was I wasn’t happy and growth for me is essentially closer to the core of who am I, my values and my purpose.

    • Jonathan May 20, 2010 Reply

      Hi Amit, if we violate our core values it puts us in a state of internal conflict. We will never be truly at peace until we realign our life with our principles. Many people are living in a constant state disharmony with themselves because they don’t understand this core truth.

  7. Jonathan, good articulation of a complex topic here. You ended by “Yes, as long as that person you call yourself is in reality your true self.”…I want to add ….” and as long as you are an accountable and responsible human being” – and it touches on the same conditions as accountability that you discussed.
    Also I see virtue in selfishness. I think it’s hard for people to admit but if we don’t love yourself first and foremost and put our own passion and interests and dreams forward, and live just for others, I swear that is no happiness at all and sooner or later, it will show up. Selfishness can have such good benefits and it gets such a bad rap. When I take care of me first, I increase my love and support for others by multitudes. Anyway, just my thoughts…..!!

    • Jonathan May 20, 2010 Reply

      Nice points Farnoosh, I think of it more as self-love. If we don’t fill ourselves up first, we won’t have the abundance needed to make a meaningful contribution to others. We will be looking to outside sources for the love we never gave ourselves.

      I think that much of the time people confuse the kind of selfishness you are speaking of with being self-centered. Looking after our own needs does not mean that we think that the universe revolves around us. Really, it’s not that much different than taking care of our physical health. We have a responsibility to care for our emotional health also.

  8. Phil May 13, 2010 Reply

    Jonathan –

    I really like your take on this. The first place that I go with every client that I work with is values. These are the fundamental rules that we live our life by. If we get clear on our values and act with accountability to ourselves and the world around us, inner peace is possible and happiness too. Negative emotions are signposts that we’re stamping on our values. Thanks for the wise thoughts here.


    • Jonathan May 20, 2010 Reply

      Hi Phil, that’s the first place I went in my book also. If you don’t get that right, nothing else really matters.

  9. Jonathan, I spoke with a management consultant. What does this have to due with being ourselves? Like you said, there are aspects of our selves that are great, but there are probably ideal selves that we would like to be. The key questions to ask are: What do I need to continue doing/being? What do I need to stop doing/being? And, What do I need to start doing/being?

    • Jonathan May 20, 2010 Reply

      Hey Steve, there is so much power in those questions. As soon as you ask them your mind will go out and find the answers for you. Asking the right questions will change a life faster than almost anything else.

  10. Sandra Hendricks June 12, 2010 Reply

    I am beginning to understand that self-improvement is a lifelong commitment. I believe that we start to find ourselves when we get onto a learning path.

    I went through most of my life not even really hearing myself think, (voices one for or two). I know they existed and I reacted or responded, but I was utterly unaware. Learning to listen and get in-tune with our true selves is the key. Easier said than done, as with EVERYTHING with the area of self-help.

    “So the philosophy of “just be yourself and everything will turn out fine” seems a little simplistic, don’t you think?”

    There are a lot of simplistic sounding answers out there, that sound too cliche. That is why it is nice to have a site like yours to add some depth and thought to the subjects.

    Thanks Jonathan!

  11. cynthia salinas August 27, 2011 Reply

    really like your article .. it is so true and helpful not just for my english essay (where you are going to be quoted) … but also for myself improvement and undersandment :)

  12. Mike Westergard July 1, 2012 Reply

    Very good reading. I have been on a search to live my highest potential for several years now. I do pretty good for a while, then I seem to get into my ego. Living through the examples you have given here has led me to a unique approach that I can see myself succeeding more with.


  13. Farid K September 12, 2012 Reply

    Jonathan I picked up your book, True Self, and I enjoy the direction of the book ; title alone had me ;).

    I came here to your website, because I am a little stuck on chapter 2, Personal Values. I’m having difficulty finding my core values, standards, and ethics. I’m 22 and having thoughts that maybe I never had any core values or standards. That would describe my constant battle with low self-esteem and confidence. It’s only the first day chewing the thoughts of chapter 2, so I’m not super worried.

    Another few questions slash thoughts I had:
    (1) do we “look” deep withing ourselves for our core values, OR, can we create the values/standards we want?

    (2) Are we born with certain values and standards? What if I disagree with a value that resonates with myself, and I seek to replace it with a different value; will that lead to internal conflict?

    p.s. looking forward to uncovering the “false” layers that I’ve compounded on myself over the years. =)

    • Jonathan September 13, 2012 Reply

      Hi Farid,

      Those are great questions. I can tell you are giving this some careful consideration and that is commendable. Don’t worry if you aren’t sure about your core values at this point. If they were never something you gave attention to prior to now, then it is totally natural that identifying them would be challenging.

      For question #1 the answer is yes to both parts. You can look deep within yourself to help you identify whether you feel certain values are right or wrong. Start with obvious one (both positive and negative) like murder on the negative side and loyalty or honesty on the positive side. This will help you recognize the inner feeling that represent right or wrong to your nervous system. Then move on to values that you are not so sure about and see which of those feelings seem dominate. This will also give you an opportunity to logically decide to adopt (create) or reject certain values that will either raise or lower your overall standards. Always choose the high road if you want a life of exceptional quality.

      For question #2 the answer is yes, we do have an innate sense of right and wrong that is hard wired into us, but environmental and life experiences can influence and alter our wiring one way or the other. If you disagree with a value that resonates with you on some level, then you need to ask yourself why? Why does it resonate and why do you disagree with it. Make a list of reasons (pros and cons) and then weigh them against each other. Once you understand the issues involved, make a conscious choice one way or another and then stick to it. The internal conflict already exists because you have mixed feelings about this particular value. Careful examination followed by a total commitment for or against will eliminate the conflict and restore harmony.

      Hope this helps, Jonathan

  14. Anne September 28, 2012 Reply

    I do think that finding my true self will lead to inner peace. This is something I’m working on as we speak. I’m trying to be more relaxed and really find the things that help me become one with the person I am on the inside.

    I agree that we have a choice to listen to our inner voice. Learned experience (for me it’s scripture mainly) can really guide us towards doing the right thing when our mind is at crossroads.

  15. Beryl September 29, 2012 Reply

    As soon as I realised that life is an ‘inside job’ EVERYTHING shifted for me.

  16. Trudy December 7, 2012 Reply

    I loved this article! Thanks so much for sharing it. I agree with the statement “just be yourself and experience peace”.

    However, for me, I have to take it a step further. I not only have to discover who I am, but also I have to love and accept myself for who I am in order to feel peace. I have to accept the person God has made me to be.

    For example, I’m a very straightforward person in my actions and words. In a woman, this is often seen as a “bad” trait, but I’ve come to see the value of it. Because of this new insight, I’m more peaceful in my demeanor and actually come across to people as a little softer and more empathetic. When I’m more peaceful and accepting of myself, others are, too.

  17. Karen January 4, 2014 Reply

    I loved your article. I believe that committing to self (is not being selfish) but it’s a continuous process of being and living the authentic and true YOU. So, I do agree that if you are TRUE to YOU, you can then begin to experience you. Being true to you means a commitment to accepting your true self and loving and nurturing your authentic/true you.

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