Who You Are Versus Who They Want You to Be

Updated: Jan 16



Every person has a true, actual self at the core of their being. However, a lot of your time is spent presenting a version of yourself that doesn’t align with who you really are. Your “public self” is the one you show when you’re trying to please the people around you. This version is the boxed version of you. Have you ever done or said something and then immediately thought “that was so unlike me”? Sure you have, we all have at one point or another in our lives, and it’s usually done unintentionally.


Why do people have both an actual self and a public self?


The concept of a public self explains the phenomenon of acting out of character, such as making a choice you wouldn’t normally make, or speaking differently when in the presence of other folks. It’s logical that we have both an actual self and a public self –when you behave in a way that is out of character for your actual self, it isn’t necessarily a reflection of who you truly are. So why does it happen then?


Well, let’s say you’re at a work meeting. Your boss comes in with a couple of boxes of doughnuts and other breakfast pastries for everyone before starting the meeting. You are trying out a new healthier lifestyle and have cut back on the sugar in your diet. But you still eat a pastry or two while talking with your coworkers.



So, if you are eating healthier then why did you eat the pastries anyway? This is a perfect example of you presenting your public. You chose to eat them for a few different reasons.


● You wanted to feel included in what everyone else were doing

● Wanting to let your boss know you appreciated the gesture

● You were more focused on the conversation with your coworkers rather than listening to your body


…. although it’s a simple example, there are many reasons why you ate the sweets! Your true self knows you are trying a healthier lifestyle, but your public self decided to focus more on other people’s expectations at this moment.


What are the key differences between your actual self and public self?


It can sometimes be hard to distinguish the differences between your actual self and your public self. Even when you put on your public self mask, you will see bits of the real you are shining through! The actual self is the truest most genuine form, of you, and parts of your personality, values, and beliefs will come through, even when you’re presenting your public self at the forefront. Here are some of the common differences between your actual self and your public self:


Your actual self….

● Is directly related to your intuition

● Reflects your core values

● Feels natural

● Focuses on you, your feelings, your internal conflicts, etc.

● Shows your true self through your own eyes


Your public self….

● Is highly self aware, to the point of becoming self-conscious

● Feels forced, you have planned your moves

● Is more aware of your surroundings and other people’s reactions than your own comfort level

● Focuses on conflict with other people and their feelings

● Views yourself through the eyes of others



When both of yourselves begin intermingling, it can be tough to distinguish which is which–however, one is always more dominant than the other.


The Bottom Line


Having an actual self and a public self is normal for some and not so normal for others, either way it’s something that needs to be acknowledged and addressed. Acting differently when around other people, is usually the result of feeling uncomfortable with being yourself. You may feel as if who you really are is not good enough for those around you. Or you might be trying to please people by shrinking and dimming your light to make them feel comfortable. In any case it has to stop, you have to figure out why you have those feelings and change the narrative of the story you are telling. You know, the one where you think you have to do what it takes to be liked, loved, and accepted.


When you understand the differences between your actual self (who you really are) and your public self (who they want you to be), is the key to ensure that you’re strongly connected with your true, actual self.



About Angela M Mitchell


Greetings, and thank you for reading my blog! I am Angie Mitchell AKA "The Mindset Maven”. I am a mental health advocate, author, blogger, speaker, master life coach, and the founder and CEO of Back to Her.


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