Reaching your real self
For whom do you live your life? It’s come up in several conversations recently with clients that they are living for someone else. One client has lived for a father, one for a mother, one for a spouse. It seems like a noble, honest and righteous thing to do – live for the people you love. But there’s a catch…
What transpired with each of these guys was that they “de-selfed” in order to try to make others happy. Trying to gain the appreciation of a distant father, you may take on some of his hobbies, look for ways to engage in conversation, talk to him about the politics that he likes but you despise, etc. With Mom it might be studying a particular major in college because that’s what she always said she wanted you to do. With the wife it might be giving up golﬁng with the guys because it keeps you apart on the weekends; that you stopped going to the gym after work because she misses you, giving up playing piano because she doesn’t know how to play.
Do any of these – or maybe other things you’ve done or stopped doing – sound familiar? We all make compromises from time-to-time: it’s how we get along with other people in our lives. But what we’re talking about is something more than a compromise. This is an act of de-selﬁng to make others happy.
De-selﬁng has all kinds of forms – giving up friends, changing beliefs, altering your self-talk, and many more. Over time, it can be difﬁcult to separate who you really are from who you are trying to be for others.
How do you know if you’ve de-selfed? For most people there is an incongruence in their life that surfaces as frustration, anger, low-grade anxiety or depression that mounts and can become resentment, deep depression, isolation and addiction.
If you’re feeling any of these symptoms, think back to a time when you felt more aligned, more at ease. If you can recall a better time, you have probably de-selfed. If it’s hard to recall a time when you were more at ease or happier, something else is going on.
The bottom line is this: You will probably NOT gain their love, affection, approval or anything else by de-selﬁng, and you will eventually resent them and feel lost.
There is hope – clarifying your values, making decisions congruent with those values, and ﬁnding your own voice are great ﬁrst steps to re-selﬁng. If you’re struggling, I’d like to help.