Authentic Self Girl

How to find your Authentic Self

“If I hadn’t made me, I would’ve been made somehow
If I hadn’t assembled myself, I’d have fallen apart by now
If I hadn’t made me, I’d be more inclined to bow
Powers that be, would have swallowed me up
But that’s more than I can allow

But if you really want to live
Why not try, and make yourself”

~Incubus

I am a big Incubus fan and this is one of my anthems. I saved you all from the vulgarities, but I LOVE the message of this song and the premise is infused in the purpose of my practice.

My goal as a therapist is to help people to be themselves and to be happy with themselves. That’s why I went with the whole “authentic self” thing.

The wonderful thing is, or annoying (depends on how you look at it), is that we are always “making” ourselves. Often times in therapy sessions a client might say to me “but I already worked on that!!!” I say, “Sure, and you did a great job! However, you’re not the same person you were then! So lets revisit it and see what works for you now.”

Some wise person said something about not being able to step in the same river twice (after a quick Google search I find it is Heraclitus)

We are constantly changing and therefore constantly coming into our own.

How does one develop their authentic self???

Good question. There is no cut and dry answer, but I have some tips!

1. Exploration and Adventure!

I’m always encouraging clients to find out what they are interested in. Problem is, a main symptom of depression is loss of interest in activities or pleasures that one used to find pleasurable. The fancy word for that is anhedonia. So if you have some of that weird anhedonia going on, no worries, we can work through that in therapy.

2. Self-Compassion

Well, this one is a doozy! Part of finding your authentic self is actually working on liking yourself. And I don’t mean liking yourself when you have “finished” the job. Remember… there isn’t an end.. it keeps going. It is essential to like yourself during the process. This is particularly hard for you critical, perfectionist, logically minded people. I know, because I am one of them. During this process in therapy we learn that we are lovable, desirable, good enough, deserving, powerful, intelligent, strong and so on. I will likely write more on this topic another time!

3. Work through Cognitive Dissonance

When we have conflicting beliefs and behaviors we experience cognitive dissonance. It is hard to be true to one’s self when we are overwhelmed and things pile up to the point that we don’t even know who we are anymore, what we believe in, or what direction we are going in! It can get pretty messy when pushed to the side. Working through this helps you to define and understand your true values. When people address this in therapy it really helps them to find themselves and that’s when they really start to SHINE!

I feel like that is a lot for now, but I think this is something I will continue to build off in future blog posts. Bottom line is, being yourself and building your authentic self will help you to be the strong person you are and not controlled or formed by others. Because honestly, who likes to be controlled by others?!

Empty chair on a porch featuring an article written about suicide.

Lets take the ‘Selfish’ out of Suicide

This past weekend I was watching season 3 of House of Cards when there was a particular episode that mentioned suicide a couple of times. I noticed how suicide was viewed by some characters on the show as being a selfish act. As a mental health professional, I disagree.

Of course those left behind by a friend or family member who committed suicide are often distraught, upset, sad, guilty and angry. Calling someone selfish is a pretty angry thing to say and I want to note that it is OK to be angry!!. It is normal that we are mad at them for leaving us to grieve their loss! We are mad they chose to do what they did and wished they could have gotten better. Anger is a very normal part of grieving. However, once we feel our anger and begin to move forward, it’s helpful in the healing process to work on empathizing with the person who was lost.

Labeling suicide as selfish continues to stigmatize mental illness and the people suffering from a horrible disease.

Throughout my career, I have worked with some very high-risk populations. As a result, I have experienced two client suicides. Looking back on these situations I recognize how far into their illness these individuals were. They were experiencing clinical depression along with other diagnoses as well. They were battling with extreme hopelessness, helplessness and negative outlooks on the future. They did not see a solution to their problem. They did not see it getting better. There is nothing I could have said or done at that point to change their minds.

Does that make them selfish?

Did I know they were going to suicide? Of course not. They didn’t reach out for help in their final moments. The pain was too much to bear and they did not see life getting any better.

I recently heard a story of a woman who chose to go off life support in the final stages of battling with a brain tumor. Was she selfish? How is her lost battle to a brain tumor different from a lost battle to mental illness?

Sometimes it’s helpful to compare it to a physical disease because it makes more sense when it’s physical. The unknowns of suicide make it difficult for us to make sense of so when we try to make sense of it, we can’t and then label it instead. So looking at it similarly to a physical issue, it helps us open up to the fact that there was a mental issue and the person was in fact suffering quite a bit, but maybe we just didn’t know about it.