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True or False?

A good life is one in which we feel safe enough to show our 'true self' and do not mind too much occasionally having to wear the mask of a 'false self.' For this to be possible, however, we need a certain sort of childhood - as British psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott helped to explain in his theory of the true and the false self, outlined here.

The false self is the "you" that you have projected into society, the "you" who interacts with the expectations you perceive others having of you. The false self has adapted in order to thrive. This encompasses the doubts, inhibitions and complacencies you have adopted to integrate into the society you want to be a part of. Most people would probably fall somewhere between their true self and a wholly adapted false self. You act how you want, within the boundaries that are necessary for you to be a part of society. The true self sets your self-identity and helps establish what you want from society, while the false self enables you to compromise and accept others in society even though their motives and morals may conflict with yours.

FURTHER READING “One of the most surprising but powerful explanations for why we may, as adults, be in trouble mentally is that we were, in our earliest years, denied the opportunity to be fully ourselves, that is, we were not allowed to be wilful and difficult, we could not be as demanding, aggressive, intolerant, and unrestrictedly selfish as we needed to be. Because our caregivers were preoccupied or fragile, we had to be preternaturally attuned to their demands, sensing that we had to comply in order to be loved and tolerated; we had to be false before we had the chance to feel properly alive. And as a result, many years later, without quite understanding the process, we risk feeling unanchored, inwardly dead and somehow not entirely present…” You can read more on this and other subjects on The School of Life's blog.

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