Recently I would receive more than average comments of appreciation, addressing that ‘I have the courage to stay true to myself’. Do I? And what does that mean? What is it exactly that I do to stay true to myself? This blog serves as an attempt to unravel, deconstruct and, ultimately, reflect on what staying true to yourself means – to me.
We all know that feeling far too well: in our daily autopilot programmed lives we do what we have to do to make a living, study, run a household and juggling all that together. And then once or maybe twice a year we have this well deserved time off for a holiday. Travelling across the globe to explore the world and to have some time to relax. And depending on the type of traveller you are (i.e. everything from am to pm fully planned or more open and explorative), life will give you answers you have neglected over time during your busy, daily life. And before you know it, oops, (unwanted) thoughts and feelings will creep to the surface.
Difference between needing and wanting
It is within these crucial moments that I realize that I want to work less hard, read and write more, spend more time with my loved ones, invest more in my spirituality, unleash my artistic side, live a more sustainable life…and – I promise you I can go on and on. These are practical activities enabling me in attaining whatever goals or desires I have.
More interesting are patterns of avoiding negative and uncomfortable emotions. These also find their way to the surface when there is space and a less occupied mind and heart. And I find these emotions absolutely crucial. It is through confronting yourself with these emotions that it becomes clear what the ultimate struggle is in your life and what value system this is connected to. It may show you the difference between what it is that you want versus what you need – two very different concepts. I have been fascinated by this mechanism, by means of self reflection. And so I dug into psychological theories, finding out that there is a noteworthy approach referred to as the self confrontation method.
‘In essence it comes down to being blatantly honest with yourself’
Without getting too philosophical and technical about what the concept of self is to begin with (which is a huge topic, by default), the self confrontation method is a simple and approachable way to connect the dots between your past and present. What events of the past (still) have an influence on your life today; why? Whom in your life affect you most and how do they make you feel; why? And, ultimately: what drives you? The latter is so very closely related to your purpose.
According to psychologists Angyal and Bakan, there is consensus across personality psychology theories so far about two essential drivers for people: either (i) self confirmation, characterized by feelings of confidence and strength, and/or (ii) feeling connected with others. These two different motives can cause an internal struggle when imbalanced. I have experienced that in a way too.
For instance, I would get on a regular base feedback that I have an authentic and powerful personality. I have questioned to what extent that depends on whether people around me compliment me for that – thus, being led by the confirmation of others around me OR that it comes from within. And to be honest: I don’t really mind either way (there are so many other things to worry about and this is the least of it – to me). But still, this self confirmation method got me thinking:
Asking yourself these questions
Something that comes very natural for me, i.e. connecting the dots between my past and present, is actually a key ingredient for unlocking patterns and confronting myself. And this confrontation would allow me to feel what my gut has been telling me all this time. The following key questions I pose myself from time to time. So far, this has helped me to listen to what I feel and value, even if that meant letting go of people or things I so deeply love and am attached to:
- What is your purpose in life (massive question, I know. But so crucial. I tend to forget sometimes and have to actively remind myself helps)?
- What activity or whom give or cost you energy; why?
- What or who do you care most about? Is this different from the past; why?
- What or whom are you thinking about and/ or struggling with a lot lately; why?
- To what extent are there unresolved issues in your family/ closest friends circle; why?
- What or whom makes you feel at home; why?
- What do you want to keep and/or change in your life; why, how and with (help from) who?
- What do you need and to what extent does that match with what you want?
Answers to these questions might take time to process – at least with me it does. This is the most difficult part; especially when you are an impatient person such as myself. I do not have the illusion to have the best answers – because I don’t. And I am starting to become more and more comfortable with that. There is an art to it: radical acceptance. The questions above help in reflecting and taking that tiny step back in our hectic daily lives. But then again I question whether it is human to have such intensely busy lives to begin with. So, I ask myself on a regular basis: what is my purpose in life and what can I accept or do more/less to live up to that? Sometimes I take a radical decision and most times I learn to accept that some things I simply cannot change (also part of self confrontation).
How do you stay true to yourself?
- Psychologie magazine: zomer zelfonderzoek
- SAGE publications on self confronting method