Living within a family, community or broader society places certain demands upon us. Laws are put in place to preserve the safety of the group and societal or cultural mores influence our choices and actions. Our identities are largely shaped by the family, culture and society into which we are born. We can be accepted or rejected by others depending on how we respond to the conditions placed upon us. What happens when our values don’t exactly match that of our family or community? The prospect of being true to our authentic self can bring with it the risk of the loss of relationships. It often feels safer to put on a metaphorical mask and to live in a way that is expected of us by others, in order to preserve the status quo, but this too can lead to deep feelings of sadness at the loss of a life only half-lived.
Counselling and psychotherapy offers a safe space to explore aspects of ourselves that we might feel uncertain or fearful about. A non-judgemental environment allows us to acknowledge and learn to embrace our unique self. We learn to be comfortable with ourselves, warts and all – after all who is perfect and who would want to be? Equally as important we learn to trust in ourselves and to be proud of our strengths and achievements. While we consider the feelings of those we care about, we can stop being governed by them. We can begin to open up new choices and possibilities for ourselves where previously they may have been limited or perhaps we felt like we did not have any other choice at all. Living authentically means being true to ourselves and allowing ourselves to hold our own values while respecting those of others.