You’re always “you”.
Now for the somewhat bad news. “You” will not always be who you would want to be. For those that expected an easy answer, I’m very to disappoint you.
When you notice a difference between what you – repeatedly – do and who you would want to be, that can be the source of (a lot of) pain, discomfort and/or frustration.
The source of the difference between what we do and want to do is within ourselves (even if we feel like we’re just following what others suggest). We “lose” ourselves, because we are unaware of what’s at play and we’re not completely or even completely not in control. We don’t (always) like the primal reactions that historically helped us get here in the first place (fight, flight, freeze, detach, tend & befriend). They are fairly outdated for a lot of our modern circumstances, but they are a lot harder to control than we generally wish for. The key is not to suppress, but to become aware of these processes, see what they can tell us and how we want to go from there.
So I’m going to take the liberty to refrase the question to: “How can I be who I want to be as much as possible?” “How can I (more or less consistently) act in a way that is in accordance with what I envision myself to be?”
Now why would one want to do this, you might ask?
To try to avoid involuntary discomfort, whether it’s unwanted and/or unconstructive consequences for yourself or others.
JFDI – try
Acting the way you want to be starts with knowing who you want to be and how you want to act. But that differs depending on time, circumstance, etc. And really “knowing” who you want to be would mean knowing your exact state and what the consequences will be of your every (inter)action. Pretty impossible. In the heat of the moment try to feel, take your best guess and try that.
Prepare for failure
Spoiler: you will fail. You can try to be the best you can be but you will never succeed all of the time. And is anything really ever perfect?
If you prepare for the pain and discomfort of that failure, not being who you want to be can become a lot less painful. It will be a lot easier not to get lost in those primal reactions. The failure can become a lesson, something positive or at least something that doesn’t get your emotions in the way.
Be gentle (with yourself)
The people that seem in control are not the people without fear or anger. It’s those who see what is alive in them and are able to accept that. It’s those who are at ease with themselves including their “ugly” sides, that are cool and confident (they also know to fake it till you make it sometimes).
Try to stay way from blame and shame since this will very likely prevent you from seeing your “failures” as something positive, as a learning moment. Shame or blame can prevent you from trying to make your life more wonderful by stopping your atempts to bring what you do closer to who you want to be (“improving”). Try not to rationalise what you do. Try not to ask what you have to / should do. Figure out what you (would) want to do. Try to do what you think is useful and helping.
I have found the works of Brene Brown and non-violent communcation by Marshall Rosenberg very helpful to learn to cope with guilt and shame. But there are a lot of different sources to tap in to.
It helps a lot to evaluate things that left you with a hangover (bad feeling and/or unwanted outcomes) and make mental exercises on how you could have handled things different and better. With practise it becomes manageable to become progressively less bad at being who you want to be. But it doesn’t have to be negative or reactive.
Even better is to (pro-)actively search for what triggers you to behave in unwanted and unhelpful ways and what you can and want to do about that.
There is a lot of literature, articles and videos on behaviour, change, on free will, on choice, on awareness etc.
Educate yourself and try to be the best you can be, for you, because you want to, because you’re alive. Life is always searching and growing.
Natural – authentic
Don’t let yourself be fooled (or worse, guilt-tripped) by people that claim that only what comes natural is authentic behaviour. If you genuinly want to (try to) change your behaviour, act different in certain situations, that can be authentic too.
Never forget though that you are already worthy and of value, whatever you try and do. Confused about how we should value ourselves regardless and yet always seem to be looking to change? Me to. Working on that!
So go ahaid, try, fail, learn, repeat. Try, try and try again.
Sometimes, we don’t succeed in getting out of a negative spiral or situation by ourselves. Reach out to people that are supportive. If they can’t help you, see if you can get professional help. I’m all for treating mental obstacles as we do with technical issues: question, study, reach out.
Lot’s of love.
Voetnoten [ + ]
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