The true self is different from the self, which is made up of a blurry combination of your physical appearance, your intelligence, your memories, and your habits, all which change through time. The true self is what people believe is their essence. It’s the core of what makes you you; if it was taken away, you would no longer be you anymore.
But though this finding has been repeated many times, the true self is an example of a “folk intuition.” It almost certainly doesn’t exist. What we know from neuroscience and psychology doesn’t provide evidence for a separate and persisting morally good true self buried deep within. Yet that makes the true self, and the fact that so many of us have this belief or bias, all the more intriguing, said Nina Strohminger, an assistant professor at the Wharton School.
We’re bombarded with the adage to “be yourself.” Adam Grant wrote in the New York Times that “we are in the Age of Authenticity, where ‘be yourself’ is the defining advice in life, love and career.” A study from 2011 found that in college commencement speeches, one of the most common messages was “Be True to Yourself.”