Discover Your True Self

Discovering your true self is a crucial stage in your personal development

Just think of this: how well do you know your true self? And what is it exactly that you know? How many personal facts or character features do you know? What do you think of your true self? Is this the ultimate pride you’re feeling, or maybe shame or even fear? Your self-growth and the success of personal development efforts are entirely dependent on how well you know yourself and how you feel about your personality.

I hope you will forgive me for starting my entry with questions yet again. It seems to me that I quite enjoy starting some of my personal development articles this way. Probably, because no matter how much further I progress in my self-growth, I always get to some next level of self-understanding only to ask the next round of questions. It seems impossible for me to reach a point where I’m going to run out of all the questions and just sit there not knowing what should be done next, feeling that the quest for personal growth is over. I’m always full of questions. I’m always keen on learning something new. And sometimes it’s not clear at all whether it’s my questioning that makes me learn more or it’s my learning which makes me question everything.

My true what?

Yes, you’ve read it correctly. Your true self! And if you think you don’t know what I’m talking about, think again. Your true self is how you feel yourself when nobody’s watching. It is where your deepest thoughts live. It is what you ultimately think of yourself, how you treat yourself and what you fear others might see inside you. It is your most native and real personality.

Strangely enough, up until some quite recent point, I honestly believed that your true self is something you’re always aiming for as a person. It is the much better you which lives in your dreams – a successful guy or a beautiful girl which you always wish you could become one day. I thought becoming your true self is only about improving or gaining something about yourself. Turns out, I was wrong.

Your worst fears

Have you ever done something you wish no one could ever find out about? Chances are, you have. Do you still remember what exactly it was, and why you didn’t (and maybe still don’t) want anyone to find out about it?

Quite often, we do something and then try and justify our behaviour using things, events and people we see around us. A little bit less common but still very popular is to go through this process the other way around – justifying our actions, and then actually making them.

We do something only to realise how stupid it was, and this is when you can easily hear the inner voice of yours. That’s your true self talking there right now. This is the voice which, depending on your character, will either encourage you to take even more actions or discourage yourself as much as possible. This is the inner voice which easily controls a great part of your self-esteem. And like it or not, your true self is absolutely right in most cases.

So what happens then? We hear ourselves thinking about some events and we hear quite reasonable explanations inside our heads on the subject. We get to hear all the truth on the topic, and nothing but the truth. And if we’ve just made a mistake, most likely this is the moment when we feel ashamed. We look at what we’ve just done again and again and we simply can’t comprehend how something so stupid could be so easily done.

What’s the next usual step you take? Honestly now? Most of us will try and cover the tracks. We’ll pretend we didn’t notice something, or we’ll make it look like we don’t feel so good and we can’t possibly be held responsible for whatever just happened. Sometimes we won’t even bother with inventing or showing anything, we’ll just try running and hiding away. And we succeed at this, too! So quite often after doing something, it is really only ourselves who know what really happened and have the power to explain or fix the things done. But we very rarely do.

Why? Because that’s the human nature. We always have this fear. The fear of showing our real self, the fear of being exposed, the fear of being rejected for what we really are. This is because on top of our true selves, we’ve always got some layers of our personality – and as we go through our lives, these layers just keep adding up unless we do something about them.

Layers of personality and your personal growth

I personally don’t think it’s very important to know how many layers your personality has. As long as you’re conscious about having SOME layers, you’re fine. This means there is still hope that you can try and lift these layers, slowly and carefully peel them off and see (and maybe even show, if you’re adventurous enough) your true self.

You see, your true self is always right about everything. But our personality layers make us hide this truth, disguise it and then explain why we did it in such a way that we can live with it.

For instance, if you’re at work and you’ve got some task on your to-do list which you hate even thinking about, you’ll definitely try reasoning with yourself and explaining why it is very important that today you’re busy doing something quite different. Anything, in fact, except this one task you hate thinking about. It takes some training to finally find the courage to accept and explain things the way they really are. To absolutely agree with your true self and to accept what your course of actions should be.

We all have layers of personality for various reasons. Not all the layers serve the only purpose of making you look better in someone else’s eyes. Sometimes you need these layers to feel (to appear) less vulnerable to others. Quite often people add negative layers simply to hide how really weak or fragile they are. But it’s important to stay conscious about having few sides to your personality, and even more important to learn how to skip some of these layers and avoid their demonstration. You will make a great progress in your self-growth as soon as you master dealing with your personality layers. You don’t want to be hiding them. Instead, you should probably make it one of your personal development goals to ensure you take a closer look at every side of this personality of yours, and to analyze how much of a benefit it is to maintain or cultivate it, and to decide what parts of your personality are better for you to show and to hide.

Rediscover yourself

You can still probably remember the times where you could speak or act freely, without any fears regarding the impact your behaviour may have. Do you remember how good you felt back then? And can you spot what exactly have changed since then?

While I’m sure you have your reasons for changing over the past years, not all the changes you’ve gone through were really that necessary. And luckily for you, there is still time to revert some of these changes. And here are just a few steps which will help you rediscover yourself:

  • Listen to your heart
    You still get these moments in your life where you face some difficult situation and you even when you see the next logical step to the resolution, there is some resistance which makes you stop and think more before taking the action. I’m talking about the moments where your true self suggests you should do something, yet you know you can’t do just that due to some reasons imposed by the environment or the situation you’re in. A good example of this is any difficult argument with your better half or a true friend, especially when somewhere deep inside you know and you feel you’re not right.

    How many times did you have to force yourself into such an argument and you couldn’t let yourself get out of this simply because you were thinking that if you give in, this would show you’re a weak person? There are many other reasons of the same kind, and if you actually take some time and go through them after the argument, many of them would make no sense whatsoever. They seemed to be important to you at the time of an argument, but they’re suddenly not anymore. This is exactly the situation I’m talking about.

    When your heart tells you to stop arguing because what your opponent feels is much more important to you that what this person thinks, trust your feelings and stop. You’ll be amazed how many times such an act of yours will be greatly appreciated by the person you were arguing with.

  • Focus on giving value
    No matter what you’re working on, focus on giving value, and not on what impression you’re going to make. There are many prejudiced people around – no matter what you do, they will not change their opinion about you. As long as they have the slightest suspicion you’re doing something for you, and not for them, they’re not going to change their point of view.But what if you could just forget about the impression? Forget about people who might find your questions or actions silly. Focus on the value you’re going to give my taking some actions. Focus on the people who will benefit from your actions, and how exactly they’re going to appreciate the value.

    This is true for many aspects of our life. If you forget about yourself, and concentrate on giving value to others, you’re bound to improve their attitude. People like getting value, and they appreciate it even if they don’t openly tell you.

  • Maintain your integrity
    There are many situations when doing something conflicts with your inner feelings or thoughts. Get into the habit of analyzing such situations.Quite often we conflict with our principles for the sake of looking good or making some progress. That’s why it is very important to always make sure you know if such a sacrifice is really necessary. If it’s something not important, you should never conflict with yourself, because in many situations you’re acting in a certain way simply because of the situation you’re in. What happens then is that the situation will change, while you will be left on your own with your thoughts and conflicts.

    Maintain your integrity – many problems are not worth the self-conflicts you’re getting into.

  • Respect your goals and values
    This is probably the most important aspect of staying in peace with yourself. If you don’t respect what’s important for you in long term, you’re putting yourself under a risk of becoming a slave to other situations and people who will manipulate you.Yes, it’s always good for you to give value to others, but you should avoid doing it at your own goals and values expense. If you know that helping someone else make things worse from your own goals and values point of view, take some time and reconsider.

    In many cases, the little value you’re going to force yourself give to someone else will not be worth the personal goals of yours which you may not meet as the result.

That’s it for now. These are the principles I live by, and they really help me feel better about myself. Thanks to my better knowledge of my own personality, it’s easier for me to achieve my personal development goals and to progress with my self-growth. Now that you know these principles, please consider applying this knowledge in your personal growth and telling me what your principles are. I’m always interested to learn, so if you have time to post a comment or even simply share a useful link – please do so. Thanks!

Update from 05/06/2006: Welcome, dear StumbleUpon visitors! I’m really glad someone thought this entry was worthy of your attention, and I hope you like it here!

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  1. says

    I don’t see the reason for “your worst fears” being the first (and most important?) topic, but the article points out / reminds several important things for everyone of us.

  2. says

    Privet, Methodik!

    The worst fears section is neither the first nor the most important one in this article, it just happened this way when I was working on this post.

    You’re absolutely right, there are far more important points highlighted in this article.

    Thanks for letting me know! Hope to see you again!

    pS: you’ve got a great shop, and a very impressive list of 1000+ gigs. All the best!

  3. says

    In my personal opinion, discovering your own self is important, but what is even more important is to see how you can improve it. Another thing to realize is that our own self is nothing but a layer by itself. It is a layer sitting on top of our most basic human nature. The human nature that is actually evil. If there was no personal self, people would go back to the stone age, started killing their own kind etc. So, by treating personal self as a layer, one can find out how to alter it best to supress the evilness of our basic human nature. That’s why I think “listen to your heart” section is somewhat ambiguous. Don’t listen to anything, just think well before you do anything and when you are doing something. Think about your actions and reactions that will follow. Never get your human nature take control, but instead try to control it.

    P.S. I enjoyed this article. great explanations.

  4. says

    Great article. I must say that I do believe that I do have multiple layers to my personality that I definitely need to evaluate and improve. Thank you for bring this to my attention.

  5. Edvardas says

    Not bad. But somehow this concept is not full.
    And the reason of my thinking is this:
    by giving somebody value you still feed a desire to be approved by others. So it is very simular to trying to impress others, because the aim is the same.
    Trying to get others approval is like slavery. And that is, obviously, no good.

  6. says

    Privet, Edvardas!

    I know what you mean, but suggest just the opposite: focusing on value is about your common sense knowledge of
    what others will find useful and valuable. If someone don’t, this isn’t a reason for you to feel bad or think
    there’s something wrong with you.

    Like I said, some people are harder to impress than others, and trying to impress anyone isn’t helping your
    goals and values.

    So there is a difference: making a good impression implies gaining a benefit – looking good or looking better than you really are, while
    focusing on providing value is about giving without gaining anything in return.

  7. says

    Does your true self really have anything to do with your personality or your emotions? Emotions are transient and chaotic; and the personality is such a superficial thing that it doesn’t feel right to equate either of these things with the deepest part of one’s self. One’s personality is merely the “face,” the mask, he presents to the world. It’s what acts behind this mask that must constitute one’s real self.

    Even in back of the dialogue that goes on inside your mind, there is something still deep within each of us. That deeper something is our inner witness. That part of us which is aware, that part of which is the voyeur of our life experience is beyond personality, beyond emotion. This is our true self. Not to imply that that our true self is something separate from these very tangible aspects of ourselves that we call our personality or our emotions, merely that our true self is something that eclipses these things.

  8. says

    Hi, There is much discussion here about true self which poses questions in my mind about what is truth? and who or what is self? I feel that the answers are less important than the journey that we all take in exploring these quetions. I came across this site when I browsed self discovery. I believe that our journey is one of discovery, coming home to that which we are rather than trying to improve ourselves. Contrary to some beliefs I believe that we are in truth beautiful beings. If it takes a life time to uncover and live that truth then what a hell of a journey.

  9. says

    Phil, thanks so much for a wonderful comment!

    I think correctly set positive beliefs will always help to make most interesting findings on our way to self-discovery.

  10. Angelica says

    Hello) Gleb, spasibo za tvoi blog. It helped me out. I’m 24 and seeking truth and defining my true own self. Started my journey long ago. I like and feel what you wrote.

  11. says

    But how do you discover your true thoughts and feelings.
    How do you discover what you really wanna do in life.

    How do u no that you will stick to what your good at~?

  12. Colleen says

    The last 3 questions are questions I have about myself also. I don’t think we know the answer to these questions because we don’t feel free to be who we truley are. We “act” like the person we think we should be perceived as because we fear exposing our true self. Why do we go to such great lengths to cover up our true self? Perhaps throughout our lives when we did expose our true self the reaction from others was not well received, so then we don’t bring that part of us back, we then act in a more acceptable way. After a lifetime of acting in an acceptable way (conforming to others) we forget who we are.

    I think if we take babysteps and go with that natural instinct, you know that natural reaction that you stop yourself from doing; do it. Overtime, noticing our natural instincts and going with them I think (hope) we’ll eventually find our true selves.

    Also, to go with our natural instincts we have to let go of what people think of us and how they will react to us. I think if we are at a point in our lives that we are asking these questons, we really need to stop living for them and live for ourselves. When there is a burning desire to know who we are we’ve allowed other peoples perceptions of us go too far. If you truly want answers to “your” life stop letting them live it.

  13. says

    Hi Coleen, “a lifetime of acting in an acceptable way” pretty much sums its up. Before you know it, most people can’t tell this acting apart from being themselves.

  14. Andy says

    I enjoyed your information and advice about being your true self. I understand why being your true self is important, it is one aspect of going through life. My question is: How can I take your advice if there are hundreds of tips like yours around the net, in books, in conversations from friends. From the negative perspective I could say: In the beginning it would be great, I could follow your tips and life would be fantastic, but as life goes on I forget about these tips and go back to my old bad self of acting in opposite to these tips. What if I find persuasion to change my life the same way as these tips tell me to do, but in another blog, then I spend all of my effort pursuing that plan, and your plan goes out the door. Thus continues the cycle of the tip junkie or the customer attracted to the next consumer product. How should one go about making changes in their life?

  15. says

    Hi Andy,
    You’re quite right – nobody will teach you how to live your life in the best way.

    That’s the whole beauty of self-discovery and self-improvement – we can only interest or motivate each other to change, but the real changes always have to originate from within.

  16. Andy says

    I agree that you ultimately decide how to live your life. We are constantly being bombarding with interest and motivation to change ourselves, and even our inner voices can be hard upon ourselves.

  17. says

    Good blog, Gleb.

    The inner voice of which you speak must be your conscience, I think. If you think something is right – do it. If you are doing it to please other people – forget it.

    Whatever we do, we will know at some stage if it was the right thing anyway. I don’t think the real you takes us back to the stone age. I think by adulthood we have enough experience to know what is the correct action.

    Perhaps the big issue is we don’t spend enough time alone with ourselves. Too many people use loud music and television, for example, so they don’t have to spend time with themselves. Contemplation, if you will, helps you see the real you. Trying something new also helps and there is no failure, just finding a way that does not work. So-called failures are the best education (that makes me VERY educated!).

    Yup, that was well worth reading.

  18. Albert says

    Thanks..This article really explains the act of self discovery.
    A couple of times in life, we tend to conflict with ourselves.
    I have learnt alot from this…tnks.

  19. says


    You provide some crucial and truthful information on the importance of self-discovery. It is greatly appreciated.

    I would like to comment on these quotes of yours:

    “Your true self is how you feel yourself when nobody’s watching.”
    This is incorrect. how you feel yourself is just another way of seeing the image of yourself. It is not a describing to a person to themselves in a way without “imaging”.”

    “I always get to some next level of self-understanding only to ask the next round of questions.”
    That is because your true-self is not content with your own explanation.

    “Strangely enough, up until some quite recent point, I honestly believed that your true self is something you’re always aiming for as a person.”
    Here you admit a mistake. It is my pleasure to inform you can go forward now, correctly, if you want.

    The answer to this question is very simple and must be stated simple! It should be taught in every elementary school.

    You are what you give. Nothing more and nothing less. This alone is the embodiment and extents of your consciousness. You ARE what you give.

    You are doing really good and if you get that now, the sky’s the limit for you.
    Have a Great Life.


  20. says

    How do we know who our true-self is? Certainly, anything of truth is provable.

    Can we agree that our true-self is always our true-self? Therefore, no one can change that, other than our self. We are who we are. If you see others as only the fullness of their giving (giving to one self and others equally and healthy), and that the parts of them that do wrong and that are not good will “eventually” cease to exist, and see that with fact, then you are left with only the giving goodness of that person. That part lives. Why does it live? Because “you” are alive, you are recognizing yourself, with your living being. If you believe you are alive, then you must accept that you have a consciousness. The measure of it is directly proportional to the amount of your giving. Exactly, as if it is a^2 + b^2 = c^2. You get a true reflected image when you see what you truly give freely. Nothing else matters, because it has no true affect on anyone else, even yourself. You only grow through giving. Yet giving for the purpose of self growing can be misrepresented, even to oneself. If you are doing it for yourself alone, then it is not giving and no growth occurs. Giving to yourself is good, but it must be balanced with the giving to others.

    Let’s face it. We agree, “You” are be responsible for your own happiness.
    “You” is the key word, not “responsible”. Many people miss this basic fact.

    If you acknowledge and accept that anything that makes you happy will almost always be a bigger happiness when shared with another person, then “you” must accept the fact that you are responsible for your own happiness and “you” having the greatest happiness depends on being able to share it with others. You need others to realize your greatest happiness. As soon as you put yourself in front of them, being selfish and more important, you basically cut out your own legs right out from under yourself. Because eventually, if your plan is allowed to come to its fruition, you will be alone. You will have taken it all and not left enough for others to be truly whole.

  21. jw says

    This article has encouraged me immensely. However i I am affraid to set goals because I never achieve it. Then I end up hating myself. There is some part of me that is self defeating. Would you please give me any comments or help you may provds.


  22. says

    Great post! To, me finding your true self means discovering the infinite potential resident within. The fear of exposing what most people call the real self is the self they truly fear they are, but this is a false self built on layers of learned limited beliefs. The layers of protection and facade come up to protect anyone and everyone from seeing this, even ourselves. But, underneath this ‘real self’ there is an infinite self that is greater than we can imagine. This is who we really are. If this sounds too good to be true then know that is coming from the limited self you fear you are. Your infinite self is saying yes because a greater part of you knows who you are! We are not our fears, our thoughts, our minds and our bodies, we are one with the universe.


  1. […] I found Gleb Reys' latest post over at his Personal Development Ideas blog, Discover Your True Self, very thought-provoking. The idea of having one true self intrigues me (possibly to the extent of me being impertinently curious when I ask people about it!), because it's so very different to my own experience of consciousness. I think Jonathon Nolan does a good job of describing the kind of self-ness I tend to experience, in his short story Memento Mori: People, even regular people, are never just any one person with one set of attributes. It's not that simple. We're all at the mercy of the limbic system, clouds of electricity drifting through the brain. Every man is broken into twenty-four-hour fractions, and then again within those twenty-four hours. It's a daily pantomime, one man yielding control to the next: a backstage crowded with old hacks clamoring for their turn in the spotlight. Every week, every day. The angry man hands the baton over to the sulking man, and in turn to the sex addict, the introvert, the conversationalist. Every man is a mob, a chain gang of idiots. This is the tragedy of life. Because for a few minutes of every day, every man becomes a genius. Moments of clarity, insight, whatever you want to call them. The clouds part, the planets get in a neat little line, and everything becomes obvious. I should quit smoking, maybe, or here's how I could make a fast million, or such and such is the key to eternal happiness. That's the miserable truth. For a few moments, the secrets of the universe are opened to us. Life is a cheap parlor trick. […]

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