Defining self

I am struggling to fully understand what my therapist meant by asking me to consider the question: “Who am I when I am not wearing a mask?”  Up to this point in my life, I have primarily defined myself by what I was feeling or what I was doing. So my therapist told me it was more than that and I must dig deeper.  So people are not defined by their behavior? This is confusing.

I even attempted to get the answer by looking up the definition of self in a dictionary.  An individual person as the object of his or her own reflective consciousness.   Or even this: a person or thing referred to with respect to complete individuality: one’s own self.  The definition is just as vague as the term.

My therapist asked me “Who are you when no one is watching?”  I responded “What am I doing when no one is watching?” That is when she told me I must dig deeper.

I don’t understand.  I have often viewed “self” as some external entity that takes over during my worst states.  Kind of like spirit possession. All of my worst traits dwell there; as well as my worst emotions.  They are like a virus that creep in and infect me when I am vulnerable.

I do not know when I came up with the above idea of self.  But my therapist tells me that is not self. Hmmmm. I am totally baffled then.  How is it not a feeling or behavior? Those things I understand…well, I mostly recognize, at least.

In any case, if anyone out there has a different definition understanding of self that you think might be helpful for me, please share it in the comments.  It would be greatly appreciated.