In search of Identity

Photo by Ivana Cajina on Unsplash

In Search of Self

‘Who am I?’, is a question that countless people like you have asked themselves.

Who you are is an intricate web of connections. These include your experiences, memories desires, values, beliefs, interests, skills and aspirations. It also extends to family influences, responsibilities, sexuality, secrets and cultural identity.

Little wonder sometimes it is difficult to know where we begin and where we end.

We become aware of our identity through what we do and especially the relationships we have.

What we do gives us purpose, occupies our time and is an outlet for creativity. Relationships give us love, acceptance and recognition.

Into the Looking Glass

It’s important that when we are ready we can see our self as others see us.

Often we have a distorted view of our self. Most frequently this can be an overly self-critical ‘I’m not OK’, view of self. We might see others as ‘You’re OK’, giving them attributes we deny our self.

Instead we might hold a critical ‘You’re not OK’, perception of others. This is usually a way of protecting our self from the anticipated hurt from others, first experienced in the past.

Counselling can reflect how you see yourself and others. It can shine a light on those aspects that you don’t yet have awareness of. Sometimes we elevate others and downplay ourselves or we might elevate ourselves and downplay others.

The greater the awareness and acceptance of those aspects of our self then the greater sense of self you have. To find a balance is important as it brings ease with self and others.

The Concept of Self

Carl Rodgers who developed the Person Centred approach to counselling referred to the idea of the self-concept. This is how we see our self now and how we wish we were; the ‘ideal self’.

We can lose our sense of self or identity due to many different reasons. One way is when we are focussed on meeting the needs of others, rather than our own. After a while we forget we have any desires of our own.

We might find ourselves repeatedly saying, ‘I’m happy if you’re happy’, ‘no, don’t worry about me’, ‘whatever you want’, ‘I don’t mind, whatever you’re having’.

There are countless other situations where we might gradually lose our sense of identity. Being a parent, a carer, stuck in an unfulfilling job, redundancy, retirement

We might experience abuse, bereavement, trauma, poverty, physical and mental illness. The list is many and varied.

Often our self-image does not fully match reality. When critical of our self this can lead to feelings of inadequacy such as body image or awkwardness in social situations. If we over estimate ourselves then this can stop us from growing and isolate ourselves from others.

Being True to Yourself

As you uncover the real self, you start to see yourself for who you really are. An important part of change is being able to accept yourself warts and all. Acceptance also requires you to have self-compassion for yourself.

Compassion is that part of us that recognises the pain and suffering and wants to help alleviate the source of that misfortune. This is associated with our internal Nurturing Parent and our ability to support and encourage our self.

We also want our Adult reality checking skills and resources in the here and now. That and our inner Natural Child with its’ curiosity, creativity and spontaneity.

When comparing who we are now against our ideal self, the closer the two are the more congruent with our true self we are.

What is the true self? It’s the self you want to be. Maybe it can be better described as ‘being true to yourself’. A place where you have self-worth and appreciation.

The next question may be to ask of yourself, ‘Who do I want to be’.

If you want to work with me to explore that question and to find some answers contact me by email or phone to arrange an initial session.