From a very early age we are shaped and told who we should be. Maybe our parents try and mold us to be who they never had the chance to be, but also unknowingly passing some of their fears in the process. They want to do what they think is best for us, they teach us to ‘obey’ the rules of our culture, religion and of our society. Our teachers later would do the same thing; then there will be pressure from our peers. Extended family, friends, media, jobs and even strangers tell us how we should behave, how we should look like, what to wear and how we should feel. And we may conform, as we all have a deep need to be liked and accepted. Nevertheless, even though we hope they are doing the best they can with what they knew at that time, I cannot help but wonder how their ideas shape who we become and who we are today.
We may hear ‘x has better grades/job/goods’, ‘you should be more like her/him’ or ‘be good’, ‘don’t be bad’, ‘it’s good to be thin’, ‘it’s bad to cry’ etc. and we may never really question those ideas, the definition of ‘good’ and ‘bad’. Adding to that, there are all the fears and pressures to conform to be liked, to be accepted! So, what’s left of who we really are after all this shaping and polishing? With all the ‘what if’s’? Is there any hope to just BE ME and this to be enough?
As a result of all the pressures, we may learn to BE, to ACT as we are expected to by others; and we perfect this acting to a level where it is hard to see what’s real and what’s not, where it becomes automatic. And as it goes unquestioned, it can create a feeling of being trapped in a life that does not make sense, in jobs or relationships we are unhappy with, feeling lost, confused and feeling a deep sense of unhappiness. Furthermore, we may have no idea why or what to do about it as superficially, things seem OK.
Who am I? ‘And how does one know’ you may wonder? How will I know how much is ME and how much I act in order to be liked and accepted, how much I’m shaped by others? What happens if I step away from the ‘acting part’ of me? What if no one will like the real ME, the one that is authentic even when there is a fear of not fitting in, the one that is free to just BE and do without the constant fears and worries of being rejected? What if in the process of trying to find who I am, I may lose something (i.e. a part of me, friends, family, job etc)? Will all the pain of the loss worth it?
And they are all fair questions, finding and being one’s true self may not always be easy. It’s a process of deconstruction and reconstruction, similar to redoing a puzzle in an order only you know. You may need some extra support to help you through this (family /friends /counsellor or psychotherapist). They could help you start questioning things that you may have taken for granted for most of your life, to support you through that deconstruction and through finding what FEELS right for you, whilst leaving behind old patterns and fears. Is all this work going to worth it?
I will attempt to ask this question with some other ones: did you ever wonder how much energy it takes to ‘act’ a play you didn’t really agreed to but which you somehow ended up playing, especially if it goes against who you really are? How draining that might be, day in, day out? How much the constant worries and fears affect you? How your life could be without them? If you’re already unhappy leading this inauthentic life, then you do have a choice to continue in the same way or you could do something to change it. Yes, it may be difficult to get out of that comfort zone, where you know what to expect, from yourself and those in your nearest environment, where you may have this false sense of ‘being in control’ somehow. But, are you really? Are you happy?
Imagine this journey of self-discovery as a journey up a mountain: it may be difficult to climb at first, but you never let go of your goal – getting to the peak- as there is a deep part within you which knows how good reaching that goal feels. And you keep going, uncovering new territories of that mountain, you are tired, but also so excited about what you may uncover; curious about getting to the peak. And when you finally got there, you may feel truly alive for the first time. It feels right. From there, the road gets easier, as you feel so full of an unexplained wonderful energy, excited about life and about your next journey.
Therefore I urge you, take the journey and find out who you really are, and get in touch if you feel you may need some professional help with this. We are all inherently good at heart and able to follow our dreams, to be our own beautiful unique selves. Under those fears, self blame, unexplored anger and resentment, there is a kind person waiting for you to let them out, to be free, to be alive! So give yourself the chance to be authentic, to be you, do what you love and to be happy as you find YOU are good enough.