Perhaps you feel that you are almost always under attack because you don’t live up to other people’s expectations. Much of the time, you feel like you are stumbling over invisible electric fences that keep zapping you–being punished just for being you. You struggle to understand who you are because everyone around you wants you to be someone else. You’re made to feel weird because what comes natural to you is judged as strange by others. You feel like you have to hide a part of yourself in order to get along peacefully with the people around you. Maybe you feel like you are living someone else’s dream instead of your own. In any case, you find the idea of being unapologetically yourself almost unimaginable.
Perhaps you’re being asked to have values or beliefs that don’t feel right to you. It could be a certain religion that you’re told is the “only true way.” Or maybe you’re being told to “act in an appropriate way” as a person of a certain culture, class, or race or gender. Maybe you feel like you’re a different gender altogether from what you biologically appear to be. Or that you are sexually attracted to people that people of your gender supposedly shouldn’t find attractive. Or that there may be other ways that you don’t conform to what others want you to be. Maybe it’s a simple case of having life experiences that have changed you, and you find yourself thinking differently from the people around you. In the most extreme cases, you find yourself either banished or facing threat of banishment from your family or support system for not conforming to their ways.
Some of this struggle is part of our evolution as human beings. We evolved because of our social nature and interdependence. Over ten thousand years ago, not being accepted by the tribe and being kicked out often literally meant death. Some anthropologists suggest that this has had a profound effect on our ability to disagree with others and stand out from the crowd, or, on the other hand, accept people and ideas that are different. For all of the talk of egalitarianism in our society, it seems like our worlds revolve around power dynamics that get in the way of listening, honest dialogue, and greater appreciation of differences.
Why is it other people’s business what you choose for your lifestyle, beliefs, gender expression, sexuality, the clothes you wear, and other decisions you make? Certainly, a minimal amount of conformity is necessary to get along and function with other people. But other people’s expectations of conformity often far exceed what is necessary in order for people to mutually thrive and prosper.
I have spent almost all of my life navigating between other people’s expectations and my own truth. For example, I went through a legal name change some years ago in an effort to align my name with my image of my true self. To my amazement, that decision had more positive and profound effects on my life than I would have imagined. I have been growing my hair out for several years despite the common misperception that long hair on men is not appropriate or professional.
I can help you navigate what might be a tricky path to 1) identify what it means to be yourself, and 2) put the act of being yourself into practice. We can discuss what gets in the way of you being yourself. Perhaps those obstacles include trauma of influence from people with who have had profound power and influence in your life. We can look at those obstacles and find ways to work around or overcome them.