By Natalie Kusturic, M.A., LMFT
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio
Everyday I see a new headline, article or inspiring message saying, BE YOU. I love the message but what does it mean? It’s hard not to recall times when I was being myself and lost a friend or upset someone in my life. This being yourself concept seems to have a price.
It was the beginning of 2008 and I did not know which way was up and which was down. I was in a relationship with a man who lied so much that I doubted my own existence. The noise in my head was extremely loud and I could barely get work done. Honestly, I mostly just stared at my computer screen. One thing was becoming clear; something had to change because I no longer recognized the woman staring back at me in the mirror.
This is a common sentiment I hear from clients who are actively working to live an authentic life. The noise in the mind will increase and their ability to see the person they once were is gone. Despite the pain, the internal critic will say you are being selfish, uncaring, and mean. How can you let down the people in your life? Why can’t you just do better? If only…
What makes a person feel not enough?
The story of you was formed in the first seven years of life. As a child you learned how to relate to others through the relationship you had with your parents and siblings. Your parents learned their way of interacting from their own families. This means you are going to have to work through some intergenerational issues to move ahead in life. As a child you had little knowledge or understanding of your parents history. Children engage in magical thinking which means they believe if they say or do something they can create a specific outcome for those around them. Of course, as an adult you know perfectly well that if your Dad lost his job there isn’t much you can actually do about this other than love him. Yet as adults the magical thinking continues. If I do this then they will love me more, treat me with kindness, listen to me , etc. None of these issues heal by compromising who you are for another person.
But what will people think…
Up until now those closest to you have been able to anticipate how you will be and have learned to expect certain behaviors from you. For example, if you are always the person who everyone calls for support you may decide that while you like being there for people it distracts you from accomplishing your goals leading you to be less available to others. Some will understand while others will not. When you begin to reclaim the discarded parts of you there will be people who leave. They are not bad people. You have simply outgrown one another.
3 Steps to BE YOU:
1. Cry. Yep you are going to need to mourn the loss of who you once were and the painful times you endured. Be sad, cry. It is a part of your healing. Do not hold back here. At the end of this process you will feel better. Do not turn away from you. Dive in.
2. Decide what you want and communicate it. This takes some introspection. As you are going through your crying and mourning phase, journal. Writing how you feel as you go through the emotions will provide the raw data to begin to see who you are becoming.
3. Boundaries. Once you are clear about who you are, what you want, value, and believe you can communicate it to the people in your life. Setting clear boundaries creates the space for healthy self-esteem to be built and safety within the relationship to be established. In the past you have more than likely crossed your own boundaries for another. There is no need to hide, shrink , or stay small for relationships to work. At the core of setting boundaries lies “I love you but I love me more.” When you choose from this perspective everything changes. Through honoring, loving , and respecting yourself you show others how to treat you and allow them to meet you there. Becoming authentically you is an act of courage and self-compassion. It is the willingness to explore your depths and embrace even the messy parts you have been hiding from. Through my own journey I have learned that the best parts of me were hidden in what I mistakenly had referred to as my flaws. In your process of becoming I hope you find the courage to explore yourself, speak up , and set boundaries. The needs you have neglected in the past will begin to be met. You may even discover that friends and family are more than happy to be there for you. I did.