In a digital world full of curated profiles and face filters, people are now trying to emphasize their authenticity—meaning that outward actions and behavior reflect your true internal feelings. The conclusion is that you must always embrace your natural inclinations and express your “true self” unless you want to risk being found out as a “fraud.”
This attitude, however, hinders and limits the perception that you have about yourself, and ultimately denies the possibility of expanding beyond who you believe yourself to be and become something even more. Believing that there exists a “fixed” or “true” self can interfere with growth and is linked with depression.
Having a fixed sense of self can affect well-being.
We all have stories that we tell ourselves about our lives and identities. You may tell yourself that your younger sister is your parent’s favorite, or that your first relationship was the love of your life, or that your family isn’t supportive.
You can tell and re-tell these narratives so many times that you end up basing your sense of self-worth and identity on these beliefs, which too often oversimplify events and disregard nuance and detail. If you allow yourself to let go of these established stories, you permit yourself to decide who you want to be instead of letting the past dictate who you are today, and who you might become in the future.
Your own limited self-perception can get in the way of personal growth. Instead of trying to adhere to the narrow perspective of who your “true self” is, which tends to promote rigidity, psychiatrist Samantha Boardman, M.D., suggests expanding how you think about yourselves by behaving in a way that is “out of character.”
For example, one of Boardman’s patients claimed that she was a “nice” person and that she was known by friends and family to be agreeable and accommodating. This reputation sometimes caused her to feel used, but she continued to tell herself: “being nice is who I am,” even though deep down she believed that her “niceness” was the only likable quality about her.
To help her push past these limiting beliefs about herself, Boardman asked the patient to consider the difference between “nice” and “kind.” Together they discussed how sometimes being “nice” means being a pushover and doing what other people want you to do even if you don’t necessarily want to do it. Being “kind” was more about staying true to your values and gracefully but powerfully expressing yourself.
After that session, the patient was able to act out of character more often, which enabled her to break free of her own limiting beliefs, find her voice, and become a more confident, better version of herself.
Why you should act like your “un-self.”
While initially, acting out of character may feel inauthentic, it will actually help you get to know yourself better. Your broken-in habits may be comfortable, but they can leave you feeling stagnant or stifled. Sometimes, acting as your “un-self” will improve how you feel about yourself, boost your wellbeing, and reaffirm existing values while challenging others that you may have outgrown.