Midlife Signpost 3: Your Truest Self is the One the World Needs Most

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Nature versus Nurture

It is said that telling our stories matters because often the challenges we face are echoed in the stories of others. This article focuses on embracing your truest self.

Psychologists commonly refer to the nature versus nurture debate, where nature includes your biological predispositions, and nurture includes all your external influences. Imagine it as internalised and external voices that impact your identity and how you show up in the world. The voices you choose to listen to can set you on a course for your future.

Without knowing yourself well enough and knowing which voices to trust, can lead to ambiguity, low self-esteem, fear and insecurity, as well as a consuming need to prove your worth.

At my recent graduation ceremony I briefly shared a bit of my personal story, and the filtering I needed to do having grown up in a displaced South African community. I needed to re-evaluate and reframe my life choices, beliefs, and worldviews that impacted my self-identity (see extract below).


Graduation Speech (adapted extract)

Five years ago, I pursued a Bachelor of Applied Social Science degree because I wanted to know what makes us, as humans, tick. Why do we behave the way we do and how can we build healthy, thriving relationships? 

Before I enrolled for the course, I wrestled with several questions about studying later in life, because I was approaching midlife, and juggled family, work among other roles.

At a deeper level, I was unsure how I would apply a psychology degree in a future career context because of my social background and the limiting beliefs I held about my social identity.

When thinking of the nature versus nurture debate, and the many social ills that flowed from the sombre history of South Africa, a belief that manifested growing up in a displaced community was that I wasn’t good enough as a human being. That belief caused me to play safe, stay small and compliant. I was afraid to try new things, or fully develop my God-given life and use my voice as I am today.

Using the tools gained on the academic learning journey, along with external support, I grappled through these questions. I soon realised that of the many voices scrambling to impose an identity on you, the voices you choose to listen to will set you on a course for the future.

I ended the studies with a clearer understanding of where I fit into this world and how to live a meaningful life.

Today, I apply my spiritual and creative skills, introverted personality strengths, and lessons gained through life experiences, to live a meaningful and purposeful life.

glynis klein

I share my story to demonstrate the importance of filtering through the voices grappling to impose an identity on you. A deeper self-awareness will help you sift through external and internalised voices to clearly heed the values, beliefs, aligned with your innate identity.

Four Inner Selves

In the extract below, Parker J. Palmer describes four selves vying for dominance in your life. As you read the descriptions, can you identify the self that currently takes centre stage in your life?

The figure calling me all those years was, I believe, what Thomas Merton calls “true self“.

It’s not the ego self that wants to inflate us (or deflate us, another form of distortion),

It’s not the intellectual self that wants to hover above the mess of life in clear but ungrounded ideas,

It’s not the ethical self that wants to live by some abstract moral code.

It’s the self, planted in us by the God who made us in God’s own image. The self that wants nothing more, or less, than for us to be who we were created to be.

parker j. palmer (let your life speak)

Embracing Your True Self

As the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated, our environment and other external influences are constantly evolving. These shifts can disrupt our sense of inner stability. To combat these constant changes requires a clear grasp on what keeps us internally grounded. The better we understand what makes us tick, the better we’ll adapt to life’s inevitable shifts without losing our core selves.

Being willing to bravely uncover and embrace your true self can take you on a path to meaningful and purposeful living, aptly phrased by Frederick Buechner in the quote below.

‘The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet’.

Frederick Buechner

If you’d like more support to help uncover your true self, I developed a workbook, titled Unveil Your Life (see image below). The workbook includes 5 practical steps to explore your personality strengths, beliefs, innate abilities and skills to foster deeper self-awareness to help you thrive on purpose in midlife!


Dear Midlifer: Are you tired of wearing social masks that don’t really fit you, while hiding parts of your beautiful self for fear of what others may think or say? Feel free to share your comments below.

This article looks at the fourth midlife milestone in the 2022 blog series Five Midlife Milestones: Freedom to Be You.

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