Are you living a life that is more in tune with your "authentic" self (who you were created to be) or your "fictional" self (who the world has told you to be)?
You probably weren't even aware that these versions of your "self" existed! Dr. Phil explains the difference between the authentic and fictional self:
When you're asked, "Who are you?" what is your answer? "I'm a mom." "I'm a doctor." "I live in Ohio." Often the answer is not who you are, but what you do, what your social station is, or how you see your function in life. You can't answer who you are, because you don't know.
There is another level of existence that is the real, true, genuine substance of who you are. It's what Dr. Phil defines as the authentic self.
The authentic self is the you that can be found at your absolute core. It is the part of you not defined by your job, function or role. It is the composite of all your skills, talents and wisdom. It is all of the things that are uniquely yours and need expression, rather than what you believe you are supposed to be and do.
When you're not living faithfully to your authentic self, you find yourself feeling incomplete, as if there is a hole in your soul. You may have found that it's easier to fill the roles your family and friends expect of you, rather than becoming who you really want to be. Living this way drains you of the critical life energy you need to pursue the things you truly value.
When you live a life that has you ignoring your true gifts and talents while performing assigned or inherited roles instead, you are living as your fictional self.
The fictional self sends you false information about who you are and what you should be doing with your life. It blocks the information you need in order to maintain the connection with your authentic identity. Relying on information from the fictional self means you're putting your trust in a broken compass.
Are You Ready?
Find out if you are ready to find your authentic self and begin to live by design. Respond to these questions honestly and thoroughly. There are no right or wrong answers; rather, these questions are designed to get you thinking about your authentic self. After you've completed this exercise, save your answers. They'll be helpful as you continue the Self Matters process.
1. Did you at one time listen carefully to your innermost voice? Describe this moment. When was it and what was the circumstance? Do you suspect that somehow, somewhere along the way, you have lost contact with it?
2. Is your behavioral life, your public persona, at odds with the values, beliefs, desires, passions and visions that define your authentic self? If so, how?
3. Do you know, today, in vivid detail, who the authentic you is? Or are you living a compromised existence?
Self Matters Action PlanYou can't change what you don't acknowledge. You can stop being passively shaped by the internal and external forces in your life. It's time to move your self-concept away from a world-defined, fictional self toward a self-defined, authentic self that is grounded in the here and now.
Here is an overview of Dr. Phil's Five-Step Action Plan:
Step 1: Isolate a Target Event
Decide which of your key external events has turned out to be the most toxic experience of your life. This will be either one of your 10 defining moments, seven critical choices or five pivotal people. Then write a short description of the target event. When you're done, read it over to make sure you are being honest in your account.
Step 2: Audit Your Internal Responses to That Triggering Event
Ask yourself the following questions about the event you described in Step 1:
a) Where do you place a responsibility or blame for that event, your locus of control? Who was responsible? Did you have any control over the situation? Were you even old enough to have a say?
b) What has been the tone and content of your internal dialogue since that event? Do you find your real-time, "normal speed" conversations in your daily life reflecting the changes that occurred within you and are associated with that event? When you reflect on this event, what do you say to yourself? Even when you're not reflecting directly on the event, but experience feelings of guilt and shame, what do you say to yourself?
c) What labels have you generated for yourself as a result of your event? What have you told yourself about you as a consequence of what happened?
d) What tapes has this event generated or contributed to? Has this event caused you to develop an automatic, unthinking response that "predicts" the outcome of any given situation?
e) What are the fixed beliefs and resulting life script that you have constructed as a result of your event? Do you suspect you are living from a "script" that was written as a result of this event?
Step 3: Test Your Internal Responses for Authenticity
You can test everything you are saying to yourself and find out whether it is fictional or authentic by asking these four questions:
a) Is it a true fact?
b) Does holding onto the thought or attitude serve your best interest?
c) Are your thoughts and attitudes advancing and protecting your health?
d) Do your thoughts and beliefs get you what you want?
Step 4: Come up with an "Authentically Accurate Alternative" Response
When you test your negative internal dialogue and it fails (as it should because it isn't true), you need to do what Dr. Phil calls "Triple-A Thinking." This means replacing your fictional responses with ones that are an Authentically Accurate Alternative. How do you know your new responses are AAA? Because they meet the authenticity standards outlined in Step 3.
Start by dividing a page into two columns. On the left, list your present fictional beliefs ("I am worthless"). On the right, list as many alternative beliefs as you can. ("I am a worthy human being with valuable qualities" "I deserve to be treated with respect" "I have things to contribute to the world").
Now it's time to test your alternative beliefs.
a) Is the alternative true?
b) Is it in your best interest to hold these beliefs?
c) Do the alternatives advance and protect your health?
d) Do the alternatives get you what you truly want?
Circle all of the alternative beliefs that have passed the test. Now you can choose to adopt as many of these authentic alternative beliefs as you like.
Step 5: Identify and Execute Your Minimal Effective Response (MER)
The goal of Step 5 is emotional closure. You want to be able to close the book on the life event that caused you so much pain with a minimal amount of effort. Consider your alternatives for action and ask yourself these four questions:
a) What action can you take to resolve the pain?
b) If you were successful and achieved this action, how would you feel?
c) Does the feeling you will have match the feeling you want to have?
d) Remember the word "minimal." Could there be some other, more emotionally or behaviorally economical action that would give you the emotional resolve you want to feel?
Whatever your MER is, you need to identify it and do it so that you can achieve emotional closure and move on to a more authentic, fulfilling life.