Our Multiple Authentic Selves

Invoking the right one at the right time is key to connection.

Posted May 16, 2020

Jesse Millan, Flickr, CC 2.0
Source: Jesse Millan, Flickr, CC 2.0

A client today said that she doesn't want to be a phony and has a hard time being her authentic self. I explained that we have multiple authentic selves; each is a different part of ourselves. Using a particular persona in an interaction isn't phony, it's flexible, the opposite of narcissistic. She found that concept liberating.

I explained that, for example, I use my authentic assertive self with friends and clients with whom that seems wise; my quieter, facilitator self with people better served by that. I reveal my authentic intellectual self with some people and reveal my authentic feeling-centered persona with others. I reveal my authentic New York Jewish fast, sarcastic self with some people, my more assimilated authentic self if I feel that would help us connect.

I gave her another example. I have a client who I've come to sense needs a few minutes of joking before we start the session. So I invoke my jocular persona and switch to my more sober persona when I sense he's ready for that.

The message is to realize you can be authentic without needing to be the same with everyone. And rather than shifting personas unconsciously, you’ll better connect if you consciously invoke the persona that's appropriate to that interaction.

To help do that, during our Skype session, I messaged her the following master list of personas and asked her to write each one she thinks she could, as appropriate, invoke:

  • Fun self
  • Serious self
  • Intellectual self
  • Feeling self
  • Fast-paced self
  • Slow-paced self
  • Assertive self
  • Passive self
  • Risk-taking self
  • Cautious self
  • Conventional self
  • Unconventional self
  • Liberal self
  • Conservative self
  • Generous self
  • Self-serving self
  • Materialistic self
  • Simple-living self
  • Ambitious self
  • Accepting self
  • Competitive self
  • Collaborative self
  • Physically active self
  • Sedentary self
  • Kind self
  • Just self
  • Angry self
  • Unflappable self
  • Driven self
  • Relaxed self
  • Time-conscious self
  • Time-indifferent self

The takeaway

Consider putting a list of your top few authentic personas in your wallet. Especially before starting a new or important relationship, review the list. That will remind you to invoke the one or two that are most appropriate to the situation.

I read this aloud on YouTube.