Only when we know ourselves, do we know if we’re on our journey – a journey satisfying to us versus the journey someone else has conditioned us for. Generally, we like being recognized and acknowledged for being our true self. We are happiest, healthiest, and most successful when being and acknowledged for using our natural skills, abilities and strengths. Plus, when we’re playing to our natural strengths, we’re more likely to experience being in flow.

We, our natural self, are molded and conditioned by family, teachers, etc., to blend in, fit in with our group. After a while, we have experienced our conditioned self to the extent it is easy and common to lose track of our authentic self. We experience life through our conditioned self without even realizing it.

We take it for granted that we know ourselves, while often unaware we’re differentiating between our authentic and conditioned selves. At our deepest most important levels, most of us don’t know ourselves; we are mistaken in what we believe about our self.

Emily Pronin, a Princeton University psychologist specializing in our self-perception and decision-making process says we don’t realize the way we view ourselves is mistaken and distorted. She calls it the “introspection illusion.” She states we think we observe ourselves, but our self-image is affected by unconscious processes we don’t understand. Like the old saying, we can’t see the forest for the trees; our motives are often a complete mystery to us.

Not knowing ourselves interplays with and increases our not loving or appreciating ourselves. A side effect of not knowing ourselves is we generally experience more setbacks, get upset, doubt ourselves, and experience more challenges and undesired swings in our relationships.

I think this story illustrates how subtle these changes occur and the differences they make.

I discovered the CORE MAP profile when I went through Pathways Core Training and decided to become a certified CORE MAP coach. Because my wife, Pam, and I worked together, Pam was allowed to go accompany me through training.

During a lunch break, Pam and I wound up sitting diametrically opposite at a long lunch table. Gina, CORE co-founder, and I were discussing the course when Gina asked me what was Pam’s personality? I said Pam is an “Organizer” (an introvert- thinker).

Gina commented that didn’t describe how Pam was behaving. She was behaving as an extrovert. I said, “I know! It drives me crazy! Pam is being the girl I fell in love with. After we were married, Pam changed, and I miss the girl that captured my heart.”

To make a long story short, later that day Pam was asked if she’d participate by taking the CORE MAP profile that night and be a guinea pig for the other coaches in training. Pam agreed, took the CORE MAP profile, and went through a coaching session in the class the following day.

Turns out Pam, a natural extrovert-thinker, as a child was conditioned like many children, to be seen and not heard at home. After we married, Pam reverted to her conditioned self.

When home, Pam was unhappy and quiet. But, when we were out with others, she was her natural self, an extrovert. At home, I frequently wondered what I had done for her to withdraw from me. I thought it was me and I was puzzled, confused, and unhappy.

After Pam went through the coaching session and discovered the conditioning that had occurred, with practice, she resumed being her authentic self, playing to her natural skills and our lives changed dramatically for the better!

Unfortunately, this is a common and typical experience. It varies in the ways it shows itself, but relationships generally change after marriage.

Generally, the changes evolve slowly until “Bam!” they hit home, affecting the relationship in negative ways and leaving a lot of misunderstanding, pain, and anger in its wake.

Being our authentic true self and playing to our strengths is the solution.

There’s an additional benefit as well. Being our conditioned self drains our energy similar to leaving the car lights on when we park. However, when we are authentic and living from our strengths, we’re generating energy. Similar to the car lights being on while driving doesn’t drain the battery; however, leaving the lights on when the car is turned off has created many undesired circumstances. Personally, I have found that being my authentic self is like being the energizer bunny or kids at play on their playground until mom calls ’em home.