Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

True or False Self?

We all have many roles that we take on in our daily lives.  Each role taps into a specific part of our being and requires us to present to the world in specific ways, the ways people expect us to act.  The problem is that when you get into putting on a persona for the world how authentic are you?  Is it a chore to take on the role and play it to the hilt?  What would it mean to let everything go and just be you?

I know that following the diagnosis of a chronic or life-threatening illness the world only gives you two choices of patient roles.  You either are expected to a be a total invalid, helpless and dependent or you’re expected to show a stiff upper life and be the stoic individual who is unphased by anything that is happening to you.  Is the world of health challenges really black and white? 

Thomas Merton, one of the great spiritual minds of the twentieth century talked about the “false self” and the “true self”.  The ” false self” is who we present to the world based on everyone’s expectations.  It’s the self that we think we be liked by others and appeals to the masses.  The “true self” is the person you are before God.  Bill Hybels, a noted author, wrote a book called, Who You Are When No One’s Looking.  We all have those moments where the only relationship is between you and a supreme being (however you define that for yourself).  Those are the moments of the greatest truth, the least pretense, and the most connected to self and others.

Ask yourself what you need to do to present your “true self” to the world.  What would happen to your relationships if others saw the “true self”.  Then ask yourself, “Why are we so afraid to allow others to see us in our most vulnerable and most honest state…the state that God hopes we hold on to tightly.

It’s your choice how you walk in the world, but the “false self” can be exhausting and I don’t know about you, but I’d rather conserve my energy for health and healing.


I've lived my life in service to others. I'm focused on mental health and how it impacts our relationships, culture, and society. Through creative expression and narrative I believe we can impact change.

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