Why Your ‘True Self’ Is An Illusion - Deepstash
A psychological idea called the "true self"

Most people believe deep down that they have a true self that is morally good.

In an experiment, people were asked that if they could enter another body, which traits would most likely come with them. They consistently mentioned that they would retain traits related to their morality.


  • The self is made up of a combination of your physical appearance, intelligence, memories, and habits.
  • The true self is what people will call their essence. It is what makes you you.

When people are asked which actions are in alignment with their true self and which not, they consistently say their true self consists of the parts that are morally good.



What we know from neuroscience and psychology, the true self doesn't exist. There is no evidence for a separate morally good true self deep within a person.

But the ides of a morally good true self still plays an important role, such as how we understand others' behaviour, assess our own lives and how we think it influences our behaviour.


One of the most common messages in college commencement speeches is, "Be true to yourself." Morals traits are continually shown to be the deep-down part of a person that makes them unique.

A study revealed that when people make positive changes in their lives, they are viewed as showing what was always deep inside them. When they partake in negative behaviours, they are viewed as moving away from their true selves.



One reason is that it's beneficial for well-being and helps us to cooperate with and trust others.

Another reason is that we tend to reflect on our positive traits. When describing the essence of something, we tend to say the essence of these things is good. When we describe the essence of a table, we describe the traits of a good table, not of a broken table.


  • If we believe in a morally good true self, it does not explain political strife, hate crimes and online nastiness. A possible explanation can be that our definition of "morally good" is based on our own values, which can vary.
  • Thinking that others have a moral good true self doesn't seem to be supported by the criminal justice system based on punishment and retribution.


People that believe that they have a morally good true self care about morality as core to their identity. If they then behave immorally, it threatens the sense of their identity.

People might respond to the threat by denying that they're acting immorally or get defensive. Others might do a good deed to reestablish their goodness.


A belief in the morally good self is a powerful idea that can help a person to keep trying. But it can also fuel an existential crisis if your life doesn't match up to your "true self."

The idea of a true self deep down can mean there is a real you to be found - that there are happiness and fulfilment in doing it. However, it's good to be aware of the bias of a morally true self.


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