Background. Personal authenticity is a person’s ability to be oneself and coherent in both his/her personality and the circumstances of his/her life (time, place, and life-calling). The sense of one’s true self plays an essential role in peoples’ psychological well-being and life goals. Currently, the theory of authenticity is included in existential psychology, the person-centered approach, and the psychology of the subject, but all of these approaches have some methodological limitations.
Objective. The aim of the current study was to explore the everyday presentations of the true self among the primary school children and adolescents. It was expected that in adolescence, these representations are more differentiated and mature than at an earlier stage of life.
Design. In the exploratory research, 330 respondents took part, including 163 primary school children (74 girls, 87 boys, ages 7 to 11; M = 9.4) and 167 adolescents (78 girls, 89 boys, ages 12 to 17; M = 14.3). A special interview consisting of 11 open and closed-ended questions was developed. The inductive method of content analysis was used.
Results. Differences were found in the frequencies of the categories used by primary school children and adolescents. Older respondents described their true selves in more detail; their evaluations were more positive and often included their social life as an inseparable part of themselves, whereas descriptions by the younger children were more sparse, ambiguous, and individualistic.
Conclusion. The results obtained can help identify the substantial stages of the genesis of the true self. To develop authenticity, these facts should be taken into consideration.
Keywords: authenticity/ true self/ adolescents/ everyday representations/ descriptors/ content analysis