Find yourself vs reveal yourself

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It can be hard to be yourself. In fact, what does it actually mean?

It can mean a lot of things to different people. We sometimes think we need to ‘find’ ourselves in order to ‘be’ ourselves. But finding yourself can actually feel stressful to some people because it conjures up the idea of a long and challenging journey, one beset with obstacles along the way to test your mettle and commitment to the journey.

One of the things I’ve discovered is that an important part of being ourselves is actually a lot about removing the masks of who you are not; like stopping pretending that you are always positive or happy, or that you always have the answers, that you have everything figured out, or letting go of the pretence that you don’t get scared even, or that people’s comments don’t hurt you … etc … and there are many more.

We pretend because we want to be liked, accepted, to belong. We are prone to hide our ‘wobbly bits’ from others because we want to present our best side to the world. We want the world to see us as what we consider to be our most desirable, most talented, most intelligent, strongest, wisest, funniest, (etc, etc) self.

This is because, deep in the human psyche, not being liked by others feels like a threat to our very survival. You see, millions of years of evolution have ingrained in the human psyche (and biology) the need to form connections with others because these connections are what created community that ultimately helped our species thrive. The need for connection has become as much part of our biology and psychology as has the need for air to breathe.

It’s why connection stimulates the production of growth hormones and oxytocin, both which play key roles in the growth and repair of the human body. An infant deprived of connection grows at a slower rate than an infant shown an abundance of connection, mostly due to lower levels of growth hormones and oxytocin.

It’s also why a lack of connection is associated with depression in adults as well as a weaker immune system and poorer function of the cardiovascular system.

In centuries past, one of the worst punishments was banishment, where a person could never again return to their community. It was not uncommon for those banished to make multiple (and eventually fatal) attempts to get back into the village or town again. They simply could not live without connection.

In the modern world, the need for connection creates, for many, an inbuilt, unconscious desire to please people, to need them to like us, because we believe that being liked will help us bond and form connections. That’s why we try to show our best bits and hide our seeming weaknesses. We fear that if we show our weaknesses, vulnerabilities, insecurities, that people won’t like us and thus we won’t be able to form connections. Of course, this is mostly going on unconsciously.

But we have it a bit back to front. In holding back our real selves, in only showing up as part of ourselves (the shiny bits and not the wobbly bits), we don’t really form the quality of connections our biology and psyches need. We erect artificial barriers, built upon the fear of people seeing our seeming shortcomings, barriers that actually block authentic connection.

On the other hand, having the courage to show our wobbly bits – our vulnerabilities, our insecurities, our seeming weaknesses – actually makes authentic connection more likely. It helps us forge deeper connections because we let go of pretences.

We give up the idea of being who we are not. We knock down these internal barriers. We show up as we are. We move away from wanting specific people to like us, give us approval, love us, even, and move towards knowing that if people don’t like us as we are then they will simply drift out of our lives, making space for people who like, approve, love us for who we are. In effect, we become more comfortable in our own skin.

So perhaps, rather than try to find yourself, have a go at ditching who you are not. And as you let go of these false ideas of yourself, who knows … you might just find the person you were looking for.

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  1. haya on February 15, 2016 at 1:50 pm

    Today happened somthing to me that can be exactly described by this lovely article,i felt i need approval and acceptance of people around me even of am not comfortable, then i read this ..
    Thanx david

  2. Yvonne Bostock on February 15, 2016 at 2:34 pm

    “The need for connection has become as much part of our biology and psychology as has the need for air to breathe”.

    Just very well put!! As is the rest of it.

    Thanks for this valuable/succinct piece.

    Much appreciated,

    Yvonne Bostock

    • David R. Hamilton PhD on February 15, 2016 at 6:43 pm

      Thanks for your kind words Yvonne. 🙂

  3. Maureen Kelly on February 15, 2016 at 9:50 pm

    Just beautiful, David. One of the reasons it really hit home for me is that, as a teacher/practitioner of yoga, meditation, and various healing modalities, I find that I sometimes feel drawn to only share what is upbeat and positive. Adhering to the principle that ‘like attracts like’ why would we do otherwise? BUT in truth, I know that not allowing ourselves to feel and express the ‘darker side’ if that is where we are currently positioned, will just stuff the emotion rather than dissipate it. And how beautiful we actually are when we allow our vulnerability to shine through… So anyhow, a wonderful reminder. Many blessings to you. Maureen

  4. Lisa Miners on February 15, 2016 at 10:36 pm

    Thank You David for a really inspiring piece about allowing yourself to be who you really are. I am on the self discovery journey and although it’s a little scary letting go of some of the many facades I’ve used to get me through my life until now. I feel I’m finally ready to let them go and be who I really am…… And I’m liking what I see in the mirror for the first time EVER! So thanks your a ⭐️!

  5. Collette McCourt on February 16, 2016 at 12:49 am

    It takes strength to show your vunerabilities and it can be easier said than done alot of the time, but the connections that are made when you are being your true self, are the connections that will flourish. Taking it one day at a time.
    I am enough.
    Thanks Dr Dave.

  6. Therese on February 16, 2016 at 1:27 am

    Loved this article, David….wonderful insights and information. Thank you!!

  7. Yvonne Davey-Croft on February 16, 2016 at 6:39 am

    Thanks David, a nice reminder x

  8. Randy Dyke on February 17, 2016 at 4:52 pm

    Your article resonates with me so much, Thanks

  9. URSULA O'BRIEN on February 18, 2016 at 1:12 pm

    Thank you for your thoughts and how true your insight is ; as an added bonus I am liked more when I am honest to my self than if I hide behind a mask. Ursula

  10. Christine Beaty on February 22, 2016 at 9:09 am

    Thanks David, Always enjoy your wisdom,, and made me smile! I am constantly working on my “wobbly bits”! xx

  11. Linsey on February 22, 2016 at 9:10 am

    A great reminder, David! We get so wrapped up in trying to be shiny all the time. Maybe we don’t want to “burden” loved ones or friends with our worries, when in fact, they are only too happy to share and help! I have to keep reminding myself that it’s OK to let others help and to admit that help would be appreciated. We miss the sense of community of the clan type living.

  12. Pamela Justina on February 22, 2016 at 5:12 pm

    I am 88 years and I am still trying. Love to you.

  13. bernie petrie on February 22, 2016 at 10:54 pm

    Hi David
    this is a beautiful piece thank you. i resonate with it totally. as someone who is a natural connector, for years I wore masks that made me feel totally unconnected, until i realised it didn’t have to be that way if i just allowed all parts of me to be! letting go of who you are not is definitely easier than just trying to be who you are, because in the masking process, we actually forget who we are. love it!! Thank you for the work you do Bernie x

  14. Dr Rohini Sathish MRCVS on February 25, 2016 at 3:57 pm

    Hi Dr Hamilton! We met at the HH talk and spoke about your wonderful dog. Absolutely love this blog of yours. Makes one think. Most of us worry about burdening others with our ‘ not so happy side’ and prefer to be our real selves only with a select few. I like your idea of letting go of our pretend selves so the real self can emerge. Thanks.

  15. Telkom University on December 24, 2023 at 7:52 am

    How do the concepts of “finding yourself” and “revealing yourself” differ in the context of self-discovery?

  16. Telkom University on January 16, 2024 at 11:55 am

    What is the difference between “finding yourself” and “revealing yourself” in terms of personal growth and self-discovery?

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