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Identity - Who are you?

Do you have several personas residing within you that you pull out dependent on who you are with, what you are doing and what situation or environment you find yourself in?

If this is the case, then who are you really? Do your friends know? Does your family know? Do your work colleagues know? Do you even know?

Who am I? That’s one of the questions people often seek counselling to try to answer. It may not be the question they approach therapy with, but the question of identity is often lurking somewhere under the surface and reveals itself at some point within the counselling journey.

There can be so many factors that affects the way in which one may identify themselves which include family and upbringing, education, religion, job role, race, ethnic background, community, local environment, the impact of wider society and influencers from the word of celebrity and social media. The list can go on and on.

So the question may not be, what is it that makes you you, but rather, what is it that stops you being what is quite often referred to as your authentic self?

It’s quite normal for one to develop a persona which is plucked out when required such as the public speaking face of you or the more mature face of you in the workplace. However, it can be a cause of concern when these personas are not merely drawn and utilized when the situation requires, but instead are used more as the place from which you operate in your day to day life. Somewhere along the way, you may have a belief that your real face, or self, is not acceptable in the world in which you inhabit therefore, the persona you have created which seems to have been accepted as you becomes the face that you show up with all the time, regardless.

And what’s wrong with that, you may ask. What is wrong is that deep down inside no one may really get to know who that person actually is. They could be the life and soul of the party but inside are feeling down and low. They may support everyone by always giving, never thinking of their own needs or allow others to do the same for them. It could be that they are simply living in a way that they believe is acceptable to others. The reality is that they may feel unlovable, damaged, weird, not quite as good as everyone else and don’t really like who they are but just can’t allow for anyone else to see that. And if they don’t like themselves with all their perceived flaws, why would anyone else?

So how can counselling help?

It can provide a safe space for one to really explore and examine what it is that stops them being them? Exploring if they like who they are? If not, why not? Are there some parts they like and some they don’t? What do others think? Is what they think of themselves actually true? If so, how do they know?

Counselling can help to uncover and discover ones core belief system, the basis on how they make decisions, engage with and judge others and present themselves to the world. Do they believe it’s better not to cry as it’s weak to show vulnerability? Did they learn to laugh away their pain because no one showed emotion around them growing up? Do they believe you have to work hard and not complain to be successful? Do they believe that education is the key to everything? Did someone tell them their skills and craftsmanship were laughable and they would never be successful? Counselling can help dig to the root of their core beliefs and address the negative impact they have and help someone to develop a more positive way of thinking about themselves by questioning the truth of their often long held beliefs.

Counselling can also tackle what is known as the inner critic. That inner voice on replay that keeps reminding you to stay in your lane, if it even allows you to deserve a lane. The voice that pipes up every time you feel more confident than you usually do, that challenges you and brings you down. I asks you who you really think you are to even be considering what you are considering thinking, feeling or doing. The voice that reminds you of every bad word someone has ever said about you, every painful experience you have had, every time you have failed and why is it’s safer to stay as you are.

What therapeutic exploration and probing can do is really encourage a person to be honest about how they feel and think about themselves and then question this from a range of different angles. A person can learn how to observe their thoughts, feelings and behaviour and also notice what triggers them. We can often develop a negative sense of who we are based on unkind words, someone’s opinion, a failed relationship, painful memories, a negative inner dialogue and what society says we should be. These influences can affect how we believe we should speak, think, feel and behave.

Counselling can help a person to look at all parts of who they are and help them to recognise that all parts of their identity are acceptable and are very much welcome. It can create and reinforce positive ways of thinking about themselves and help them to see that who they are is good enough. Counselling can help them discover parts of their personality they may have buried and help them to love and embrace all parts of themselves improving their self-worth, self-esteem and confidence levels.

So in conclusion and in reflection ask yourself, how do I relate to the world? How much of my true self do I show? Are there parts of myself I’d rather others didn’t see? Or could I do some work on myself to accept myself for who I am?


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