Use This Time to Let Go of Your Pseudo-Self
A therapist explains how to ditch other people’s values, and find your own
Lately, I’ve noticed an interesting trend: The longer we’re all stuck at home, the more honest we’re becoming. Even my therapy clients who were previously slow to open up in our sessions now come fully ready to talk about how they’re doing.
It’s a pattern that’s playing out more broadly, too: Right now, we’re all revealing much more than our natural hair color. Stir-crazy in quarantine, with the chaos of our homes revealed on Zoom for all our co-workers and friends to see, we’re newly willing to admit that our lives aren’t as put-together as we used to pretend.
A funny thing happens when you stop acting like you have it together: When you accept that your moody toddler is going to interrupt some work calls, or that the only way to survive is to be honest about your mental health, you begin to shake off some of the values you’ve subconsciously absorbed. You start to consider what honoring your own values — what I call living from the inside-out — might look like.
Here’s what happens when we live from the inside-out:
We stop relying on praise and attention
We’re wired to crave praise. There’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting others’ approval, but we have an unfortunate tendency to tie that approval to our sense of self-worth. We allow our moods to rise or fall based on outside attention.
When you borrow confidence from others’ approval, this strengthens the pseudo-self: the persona you project onto the world. Your pseudo-self helps you appear more confident, capable, or calm than you actually are. It’s not an accurate measure of your actual ability to function in stressful times.
For many, this prolonged absence of attention — a lack of fuel for the pseudo-self — has been deeply uncomfortable. In quarantine, we’re either alone all the time, or stuck with the people who know us best, who aren’t fooled by our pseudo-selves. They know what we look like when we’re freaking out but putting on a brave face. So we are forced to think about how we construct a stronger sense of self, one that doesn’t rely as much on our ability to…