As I was reading a book "Living the 80/20 Way: Work Less, Worry Less, Succeed More, Enjoy More". this section really jumped out at me:
we're not blank slates. Our genes determine our appearance and have a big say in other matters. As we grow up, our parents and family influence how we behave, think, and think of ourselves. Our teachers, friends, priests, bosses, and mentors mold us. The ideas and norms of our society, and the groups with whom we hang out, strongly sway us.
Yet subtract all these influences and there's still something left: the precious and strange thing called our self, our unique identity and autonomy. However pronounced the pressures on us, we have our own personality. Nobody else on the planet is the same. In a big or small way, we are bound to influence the world, maknig it different than it would be without us.
We become individuals through subtraction. Less is more.
We have the wonderful opportunity to let go of the bits of ourselves that are not authentic, not "really us" - the parts imposed by background, parents, and environment. The authentic self is a small part of our total self, yet it's the vital self. We all have special gifts, unique imaginations, our little bit of genius: the spark of life that's wholly ours.
...Developing one's authentic self, the vital and best part of oneself, is not difficult or unnatural. In being true to your self, you give up the parts of you that are not genuine or natural. You stop acting. You stop pretending to be interested or excited in things that bore you. You stop worrying about what other people think of you. What could be easier? More rewarding? What could electrify your life more?
- Living the 80/20 Way: Work Less, Worry Less, Succeed More, Enjoy More. Richard Koch. 2004. 48-49
Of course, this is in direct contrast with the JWs discouragement of independent thinking and "selfish pursuits" of one's interests. Many put on the 'new personality' to the extreme when they become JWs. Cutting off friends, cutting off hobbies that are a "waste of time", not questioning things that bother the "authentic selves", basically burying everything that defined them as a person and fitting into the new JW mold.
I think this also ties in quite nicely with Steve Hassen's "Releasing the Bonds", which I've just started reading, which describes a process to reach a cult member's "authentic identity" in order for them to realize for themselves that they are in a cult.
I would be interested in hearing the difference that being your "authentic self" has made in your life since exiting the JWs. Do those who fade find that they still have to hide some of their selves? How about those who have DA'd or where DF'd?