Part 7: Authentic Self vs Constructed Self

Thich Nhat Hanh Slide

Authentic Self vs Constructed Self

Our constructed self is the individual we present to others, it is defined by the job we hold, the role we play in our relationships, the hobbies we practice or the sports we participate in, it’s about the external things we say or do.

Our authentic self is defined by who we are as an individual when all of those external things are taken away.  Ask yourself, who are you without your job?  Who are you without your family or friends?  Who are you without sports, hobbies, etc.?

When those external factors are taken away from us and we can no longer define ourselves by them, who is left?  Who are we without them?  It becomes very difficult for us to define ourselves as anyone without external identifiers.

Our personality types, our attitudes, ethics, virtues are the only things to which we can consider our authentic selves.  After everything has been taken from us, these things are all that we have left of who we are.

Dr. Seligman teamed up with Christopher Peterson and together they developed six core virtues and twenty-four character strengths that enable each of those virtues to be attained.

  1. Wisdom/Knowledge
    • Creativity
    • Curiosity
    • Open-Mindedness
    • Love of Learning
    • Perspective
  1. Courage
    • Bravery
    • Persistence
    • Integrity
    • Vitality
  1. Humanity
    • Love
    • Kindness
    • Social Intelligence
  1. Justice
    • Citizenship
    • Fairness
    • Leadership
  1. Temperance
    • Forgiveness/Mercy
    • Humility/Modesty
    • Prudence
    • Self-Regulation/Self-Control
  1. Transcendence
    • Inspiration/Wonder
    • Gratitude
    • Hope
    • Humor
    • Spirituality


Going through this list we want to feel like we hold all six virtues and that we can enact all 24 strengths.  The truth is that we don’t.  What we’re doing is imagining the person we would like to be and not who we are authentically.

This shouldn’t dissuade us from pursuing these virtues and strengths and adding them to our character traits.

The strengths that we feel strongly represent us are termed “signature strengths.”  We fulfill these throughout our daily lives and they generally come easy to us.  Others are not as easy for us to add to our repertoire, and some we struggle to even attempt.

Whether or not we lack the motivation or the experience to live in accordance with these virtues and strengths, just being aware of our shortcomings can go a long way in living an authentic life.

When we live an authentic life, we will find ourselves more motivated to carry out the daily tasks we would like to accomplish, and when faced with obstacles and setbacks we can become more resilient just by being aware of our virtues and strengths.

AA Golden - Transparent with Text

This series is available free for download in PDF format and includes activities for more engaged learning: Motivation

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