As children, many of us have tried to mold ourselves to the expectations and perceived demands of our parents. We either tried to please our parents, or rebel and fight against them. At a young age, we are taught to think that we are either very good or very bad. This message of being either really good or really bad is carried forward into adulthood. As a result, most of us create an identity that is formed from our parents’ reactions to our behaviors. Consequently, their reactions become internalized and labeled as our identity. John Bowlby, the pioneer of attachment theory, called these messages an “Internal Working Model of Behavior”. These internalized messages can run like tapes in our minds. For some, the messages in the tapes are “What will people think” or “Taking care of others is more important than taking care of myself.” We all have some variation of these internalized messages, which help us make sense of the world and to understand others and ourselves. But what happens when these messages and expectations trigger feelings of unworthiness? First, we’ll likely start negative self-talk and second, we’ll stop believing in our worthiness and start hustling for acceptance to disguise our vulnerability.
How to Find the Authentic You
Brene Brown describes authenticity as a practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be to embrace who we really are. It’s a collection of choices we make daily to be real with ourselves by speaking honestly and openly about who are, what we’re feeling and our experiences. When we put our vulnerabilities on the line, we’re choosing to accept our authentic and imperfect selves. But, why would we want to be vulnerable in a world that encourages perfectionism? I can think of two reasons 1) There is no such thing as perfect 2) Perfectionism is all about trying to earn approval and acceptance. Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect and act perfect, we can avoid pain, judgment, and shame and instead fit in with society. For example, some people will try to mitigate the feelings of vulnerability by numbing themselves with a few glasses of wine. The drinking often takes the edge off and reduces the anxiety that is powered by the vulnerability. Others may try to shield their vulnerability by turning to judgment or by immediately going into a fix-it mode. Instead, if we lean into the discomfort, we can learn to take a balanced approach to the negative emotions so that we neither resist nor amplify these feelings. To overcome self doubt and the “supposed to” messages, we have to start owning the messages by asking, “What’s on our supposed to list? Who says? Why?”
3 ways to Cultivate Authenticity
Be Honest- Speak honestly and openly about who you are, what you are feeling, thinking and experiencing- regardless if it is good or bad.
Compassion- At the core of compassion, is acceptance. Learn to relax (via deep breathing techniques) and gradually move towards your fears. Be compassionate with yourself by knowing that we all have strengths and set backs. The better we get at accepting ourselves and others, the more compassionate we become.
Connection- Connection is a bond that joins two people together, which is free of judgment. We are all social beings, and are wired to connect with others; It’s in our biology. Therefore, the connection that we experience in relationships allows us to be valued, seen and heard. Let go of comparisons and connect at an emotional level.
By: Dr. Reena Sandhu
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA