We have probably all had the experience of feeling disconnected from our selves in some way. This is usually triggered by something – a life event which challenged your self-concept, advertisements that condition you to live and think in a particular way, not to mention the self-promotion and impression management that is the world of social media. Once we feel this disconnection we lose focus and energy and feel a sense of being lost or ‘off track’.
This subsequently can lead to feelings of envy or put us at risk of comparing ourselves and our lives negatively to that of others – the cognitive distortion knows as ‘compare and despair’. Sometimes, reflecting on what we envy in others can give us insight into our desires and what is missing from our own lives. However, continual comparison simply blocks us from getting back in touch with our authentic self.
Being your authentic self is important not just for your own well-being and happiness, but also because when you are not in accord with your true self, your relationships will be affected. The best and healthiest relationships depend on the individuals themselves being in balance and at peace with themselves. As Specialist Matchmakers, one of the most common requirements we hear from our members in a potential partner is that they are ‘comfortable in their own skin’. So how do we create that harmonious state?
The first step is to know yourself and build self-knowledge. It is easy in this busy world to have your attention focused externally, without ever asking yourself the important questions in life. This is why coaching can be so enlightening as it challenges people and forces them to engage with different perspectives and sides of themselves to develop this self-knowledge. In the words of Shakespeare, “to thine own self be true” but preceding this is the requirement to know yourself in the first place.
From self-knowledge comes self-acceptance. It is common to feel the need to prove yourself to others or to match an illusion created in your head through years of absorbing societal and cultural ideals. The less you feel you have to prove the more in touch you will be with what matters to you without being pulled in different directions. In essence, don’t censor yourself, accept yourself.
The internationally recognised lead on self-compassion, Dr Kristin Neff draws a distinction between self-kindness and self-judgement. Self-compassion encompasses being kind to ourselves when we are upset or failing rather than becoming self-critical, punitive or ignoring our pain. Self-compassionate takes as a starting point the truth that life is inevitably full of difficulties and people need to allow themselves to be vulnerable. The warm and compassionate treatment of the self in these situations allows the individual to re-connect with their authentic self.