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The "True Self" vs. the "False Self" in Eating Disorder Recovery

Do you know who you really are? You might think you do -- but if you have experienced an eating disorder, you may have lost touch with your "true self." The EDIT method depends on the assumption that eating disorders create a "false self" identity that is separate from who we truly are and what we believe.

As an EDIT™-certified recovery coach, I've helped many people reclaim their true selves from the "false selves" created by their eating disorders. Because of these experiences, I know that recovery allows us to reclaim our "true selves," rediscovering who we really are -- and living a life that better aligns with our goals. Here's how it works.

"True Self" vs. "False Self"

The idea of a "true self" vs. a "false self" arises from a psychological theory developed by D.W. Winnicott (1965). According to Winnicott, we are all born with a "true self," but often develop "false self" identities later in life.

What is the "True Self?"

The "true self" can be defined as the essence of who you really are. Psychologist Sigmund Freud might have considered the "true self" to consist of the id, or our primal instincts, and the superego, our moral consciences. Depending upon your spiritual beliefs, you might also describe it as your "soul."

Your true self comes from within, viewing the outer body as an extension of your inner intuition and self-compassion. In other words, your true self is who you are when the world is not telling you how to act or who you should be. It's the purest version of yourself, untouched by the influence of loved ones or society around us.

What is the "False Self?"

However, many of us develop a "false self," or a facade we show to the world to protect our true selves from getting hurt. The "false self" -- or what Freud called the ego -- tells our true self how to act based on the lessons we've learned and the beliefs we've developed about the world around us, in order to win the approval of others.

While the true self acts from the inside out, the false self aims to control our outward actions and appearance, keeping our true selves concealed from others around us. Although we may believe that this will help us gain social capital (i.e. beauty, popularity), it often results in a lack of awareness of our bodies and emotions that prevents us from authentically bonding with others.

What Do They Have To Do With Eating Disorder Recovery?

The EDIT™ method operates on two core assumptions: firstly, that eating disorders are a "false self" identity -- and secondly, that ED recovery requires you to give up the "false self" in favor of rediscovering your "true self."

1. Eating disorders arise from the "false self."

The ED mind is a "false self" identity: rather than looking toward our inner intuition to guide our behavior, it looks to society's standards and opinions of others in order to determine how our bodies should look and the way we should act.

Research shows that eating disorders like anorexia nervosa disrupt the formation of a healthy identity. Instead of allowing us to live authentically, the ED mind ignores feedback from the body and avoids awareness of our emotions.

It imposes ED behaviors as a means of controlling and shaping the physical body to meet worldly standards -- and to cope with the sense of incongruence that arises from experiencing trauma and/or living out of sync with our "true selves."

2. The EDIT coach recovers the "true self."

In order to recover, we have to let go of the lies our ED mind tells us in favor of rediscovering our true selves. One way we can do this is by working with an EDIT™-certified recovery coach to look inward and reconnect with our innate intuition.

By turning our attention inward, we can learn to respond to real-world events from the heart and soul. Rather than "reacting" with our physical bodies first, we can use our compassion and intuition to shape our evaluations (i.e. the way we think about what's happening to us) and guide a reaction that feels authentic to us.

Ready to Rediscover Your "True Self?"

If you're ready to let go of the "false self" identity imposed by your eating disorder and rediscover who you really are, contact me at Using a coaching framework based on the EDIT™ method, I'll teach you to reconnect with your intuition and begin making authentic decisions from the soul.

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