Who Are You…Essentially?

Debbie* is brilliantly creative. She leads the public relations campaigns for one of the largest health care facilities in the United States, but she yearns to be her own boss, brave the entrepreneurial path and reinvent the long forgotten power of the written word.

Jill* is an intellectual, with a brain that moves at warp speed. She has advanced degrees in education and worked as an elementary school principal while writing her doctoral thesis. As her mind mulled over the complex issue of praising children for their results or their efforts, her soul asked if it could go outside, sit under a tree and write fiction.

These two smart, savvy and socially adept women were successfully climbing a career ladder. Socially, these women earned top marks. They were accepted by friends, family and society for being wonderful pillars of social order, but their inner knowing, their essential self, was tired of pleasing everybody else, tired of playing the game, tired of repressing deeper feelings and real dreams.


Every woman who has ever yearned to be someplace else, but dutifully shows up where she is asked, or any woman who sits in a boring meeting, nodding with consent while secretly visualizing her hidden talents being applauded by thousands, knows the struggle only too well between the social self and the essential self.

Who are these two opposing elements that reside within the same bodily domicile and why must they struggle? And… is it okay that you hear these different voices?

First, every individual has a social self and an essential self. The social self is the persona which conforms to the demands of family, friends, community, and society and which an individual generally develops for acceptance or for protection. The essential self is an individual’s true self and expresses the individual’s thoughts, feelings, desires, needs, and inner purpose.

The social self often runs in opposition to the essential self in order to avoid ruffling the feathers of those around you, or to keep the status-quo. Your social self is geared to be avoidance based, conforming, predictable and hardworking. Your essential self is wired to be attraction-based, unique, surprising and playful.

How can two juxtaposed selves reside in the same place? Not easily. In fact, most days they are in conflict, but when they do agree to work together, it’s bliss. Literally.

The language of your essential self is this:

  • Energy. Your essential self has lots and lots of energy! Feeling lethargic, drained or even exhausted is a sign that your social self has ruled too long. It’s time for a revolution. Take note of the activities that drain you and the activities that revive your energy levels. Where you’re peppy and full of zip is where your essential self resides.
  • Health. Your essential self keeps you healthy! Every stressful experience causes a physiological response in the body within seventy-two hours. Frustrating encounters with colleagues lead to headaches, neck pain and an over-burdened immune system. You may not even realize your social self is ruling you until you drop an activity, a job, or a mate and suddenly see yourself looking and feeling better.
  • Memory. Your essential self is a sponge not a sieve! Where lies your passion, lies your memory. Ever try to learn information that was boring? When you feel apathetic, or are downright disinterested your brain has a heck of a time hanging onto bits of data. However, when you are genuinely motivated or passionate about a topic, the smallest bits of trivia are valued like gold nuggets.
  • Time flies. Your essential self cannot tell time! If the second hand on the clock has stopped moving, your essential self is gasping for air. When you lose track of time, absorbed in an activity that has drastically increased your attention span, your essential self is fully engaged.
  • High. A natural one. Your essential self puts you in a good mood! When your social self is tempted to be scared, but your essential self is feeling exhilarated, you’ll float, having found such inner peace that even bitter, nasty, social self driven individuals will not be able to burst your balloon of happiness.

When you reconnect and start speaking the language of your essential self, you thrive. When you are feeling cynical, have doubts, or experience fear, thank your social self for wanting to keep you safe, and then sweetly ask it to be quiet. Pain, self-sacrifice, suffocation or numbness of your spirit are not helping you reach your fullest potential, nor helping you offer your greatest good to the world.


Debbie just finished assembling two hundred and fifty of the most gorgeous wedding invitations. The bride and groom are socially tickled and Debbie is essentially ecstatic with the results. Jill just completed a series of children’s book about the most adorably curious boy and his imaginary adventures. Her essential self will give every child who reads her stories the gift of discovering their own greatest potential.

Go on, get high … naturally. It’s essential.

Photo credit iStockphoto *All names have been changed.

About the Author


With presentations to 30,000+ executives in 8 countries, AmyK Hutchens serves as an Intelligence Activist & business strategist to leaders around the globe. She is a former senior EVP of Operations for a leading sales & marketing firm, Director of Education for Europe & Australia for a billion dollar consumer products company & chosen member of National Geographic's Educator Advisory Committee. Visit www.amyk.com or @AmyKinc on Twitter.

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