Sometimes we know we are not feeling quite right about situations or about how we are living our lives. We may be feeling challenged by other people’s expectations and annoyed by the situations and circumstances we find ourselves in. It may be difficult to pinpoint what the exact problem is that is causing us to feel these things. The answer could be we are simply not being our authentic selves. In fact, we may be experiencing self-alienation.
Self-alienation is a condition in which individuals are out of contact with their own needs, feelings, emotions, frustrations and longings. They are oblivious to their actual self and their life is merely a reflection of an unreal self, of a role they have adopted. We all take on different roles with different people in a variety of settings. When we willingly take on these roles and they match up with our values, it works just fine and there is balance. However, if we continually find ourselves in roles we did not choose, that do not match our values and that perhaps go on longer than we anticipated, we run the risk of becoming inauthentic.
If we live a life of inauthenticity and self-alienation we can set ourselves up for a lifetime of anxiety, depression and a stress (fight or flight) response that is continually “on”. This can lead us down the path towards a multitude of mental health and physical health problems.
The good news is there are things we can do to get ourselves back in alignment with our true, genuine selves. It just takes some self-reflection and a willingness to prioritize our health and our needs first. The following tips can start us on the journey to becoming more authentic.
- Make Time for Self- Reflection
It is so important to give yourself the gift of self-reflection. Before we can be authentic we need to figure out who our true self really is. We need to take time to ponder what our values are and to analyze why they are our values. We can also reflect about how our perceptions of ourselves can block us from moving forward to do the things in life we wish to do or that feel right to do. For example, we may be feeling very self-conscious and worry about what other people think of us. This belief can stop us from exploring all sorts of things and quash dreams and goals we try to set for ourselves. Part of self-reflection in this case would involve drilling down to why we feel self-conscious and asking questions such as: When did this feeling start? Why do I believe this? What would happen if I tried something I was worried about attempting? Should I care about what other people think, if so, why?
- Do you put the “P” in People Pleasing?
If, upon reflection, you identify as a people pleaser, you may be doing yourself harm. We need to question why we think our role in life is to make other people happy and to ensure they are pleased with our personality and our performance. This may come from a deep-seated need to be liked or loved or it may come from other insecurities that we have developed along the way. Let’s be clear, people pleasing is very different from doing nice, thoughtful things for others. These gestures are important for establishing and enriching relationships. We run into trouble when we find ourselves doing things that do not match our philosophies and beliefs. It also becomes problematic when we put pleasing people as our top priority in life. This activity can lead to feelings of anger, resentment, frustration and disappointment, especially when the people we are trying to please do not reciprocate and support us.
One way to tackle excessive people pleasing is to practice saying no. It can be one of the most difficult things for us to do and yet it can be one of the most freeing things we can do for ourselves. Saying no does not mean we are being unkind, selfish or rude. So, how do we say this magical, two-letter word? We can start by being direct and not waffling by simply stating “ thank you for asking, but no I can’t”. We do not need to apologize for saying no or lie about why we are saying no as both of these actions can lead to feeling guilty. We should not say we would think about the request if we really do not mean it as this can add pressure and could ultimately cause us to say yes, when we really did not want to. If we have trouble with this, we can try visualizing saying no and think about how that would feel, then compare it to how we would feel if we said yes.
- Have Compassion for Yourself
We are often very hard on ourselves and we can tend to buy into the negative thoughts and misinterpretations that run through our minds. Self-love and self-care are not just things we can put aside and do later when we have time. They are essential activities that need to occur on a daily basis. Investing in ourselves leads to a more clear understanding of who we are and it increases our sense of self-worth.
Being present or mindful can lead us to some amazing discoveries. Taking time for meditation, walks in nature, savouring our experiences and practicing gratitude can help to provide insight and personal knowing.
Taking our selves out on a date can been very enlightening. For example, there is nothing wrong with a table for one at a restaurant, or taking a stroll through the zoo by your self. In fact, being present in those moments, without worrying about anyone else can be very empowering. Learning to be alone with ourselves and tuning in to how we are feeling emotionally, spiritually and physically is one of the greatest gifts we can give to ourselves. We need to remember we are worth the investment of time and we are deserving of the gift of self-compassion.
- Be Prepared, This Could Get Rocky
When we turn our thoughts inward and transition to leading a more authentic life, others may not like it one bit. People around us are used to seeing us in certain ways and view our behaviours as being predictable and unchanging. But, that is not who we are. We are constantly changing and evolving over time. Change can be very threatening to others, so we need to mindful that we may be the recipient of negative behaviours and actions. People will either adapt to the “new” you or they will not and we have to make peace with that. We may lose people along the way, but if we keep ourselves as our priority we may come to realize the relationship we had with a person who leaves, may not have been the healthiest relationship to begin with.
The way to prepare for the reactions of other people is to remind ourselves why we started our authentic journey in the first place. We will need to visit our beliefs and values often to ensure they are our guides through turbulent times. If we allow people to plant seeds of doubt about what we are doing, we will continue to self-alienate and be oppressed by other people’s opinions of us.