Sense of self. Self. Sense of. What does this really mean? I often hold this question for my clients. Who are you? Who have you been told you are? What defines you? Do you know who you want to be?
We all have a series of these questions rolling around in our heads. Questions of about who we are, our worth, our degree of lovability. Is a, b, and c enough? If I do e, f, and g maybe then I will know I am loved. But who decides?
There are some of us who have a more vulnerable sense of self than others. We are what they call “people pleasers” and we actually really fear any kind of criticism from others. We try to make it so they can’t not like us, hence the people-pleasing. The problem is there is too much stake in the other’s perception, holding their opinion or experience of us higher than our own. We interpret their reactions to us as reflecting something true or defining of our worth. Maybe someone looks at you funny on the bus, and you think “Oh, they think I’m stupid.” Maybe someone questions why you made a certain decision and you think they are telling you do anything right. You don’t get the job and you think “I’m not good enough.” Our value is reflected in the way others react to us. SO MUCH PRESSURE TO NOT MESS UP!
I’ve had fun and hard conversations with clients and people in my life about this concept of what other people think. Sometimes we’ve laughed about how terrible it would actually be to be able to read people’s minds. And we give them the authority to decide our self worth? Sometimes our ego is a little sore from feedback that we took to heart. Yes, to some degree how another person reacts to you is going to tell you something about the interaction, which is how we learn social skills. However, their thought of you in that moment does not define you. It doesn’t have that much power if you don’t let it.
How do we develop a sense of self? The first step is to start questioning why it is that we read so much into what another person says or might be thinking. And then remind yourself that you have power and choice. You can take what someone says to you and decide for yourself whether or not you want to hang on to it. You can move on. You can take it and learn from it. The choice is ultimately yours. You get to have that power.
We are all enough.
We are all works in progress.
We are all on this journey of life.
No one is doing it perfectly.
Go for it. Declare to the world who you are!