“Being Authentically You”

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As a clinician, I have become increasingly aware of the ongoing opportunities to learn from my time with clients and grow in my understanding and skills. And as an ENTP (extroverted, intuitive, thought centered, perceiver) in the Myers Briggs and as an Individualist (primarily – I personally don’t think we’re only 1 thing…that’s for a future blog!), finding a counseling approach that is both unique and authentic, is extremely important to me.

Many of the most meaningful aspects of my counseling approach and focus has come straight from sessions with clients. Many people – especially adults – make their way to counseling because of some level of relational stress or breakdown. These relationship challenges of course affect people’s mood, emotions, feelings, and thoughts. And of course, many people today have increased depressed or anxious feelings that often affect relationships with others. One way to conceptualize (or see) this is to refer to people’s “inner-self” and “outer-self” as explained below.

Inner-Self Feelings Thoughts Values Insecurities

Outer-Self Behaviors Words Actions Relationships

Something I’m continually learning from my time with people in the counseling environment is how often our inner-self and outer-self have so many factors in common, or aspects that interact and even overlap. I have referred to this in different ways with different clients in different sessions. Let’s call it the “Authentic-Self” which refers to the healthy sweet-spot where our inner-self and outer-self are in-step, balanced, and aligned.

Inner-Self Feelings Thoughts Values Insecurities

Authentic Self Self-Awareness Self-Compassion Self-Efficacy

Outer-Self Behaviors Words Actions Relationships

Another way we can better understand our “Authentic Self” is that it is how we view and relate to ourselves and to others. As you can see above, our “Authentic Self” encompasses a need to build self-awareness which can lead to increased self-compassion. And increased self-compassion can help us feel more at peace, more comfortable in our own skin, and can often contribute to feeling better and having improved relationships. This takes time. And there is much that goes into this growth for each of us. Two components of healthy living that I have learned to focus on here with clients are “Assertive Communication” and “Boundaries”. I refer to this as “Learning our ACB’s” (another future blog article).

“Assertive Communication” often refers to communication that is healthy, honest, direct, and kind. It’s again in the “sweet-spot” between the extremes of “Avoidant Communication” and “Aggressive Communication” and can relate to our inner-self and out-self, as seen below.

Inner-Self (Extreme) Avoidant or Aggressive Thoughts or Feelings

Authentic Self Assertive Communication & Healthy Boundaries

Outer-Self (Extreme) Avoidant or Aggressive Behaviors and Words

How each of us can relate to ourselves and others can vary in many ways, depending on their natural tendencies, challenges, and goals. What I do with clients is together, come up with a list of words that help describe healthy relationships and communication. Again, this takes time. For some people, being Direct with others is difficult, because for various reasons, they desperately want zero conflict and total peace. But being direct applies to our inner self as well. We can ask ourselves, “why do I hate conflict?”, and “how could being more direct actually help improve my stress levels?”

For others, conflict and arguing is a shot of adrenaline. They crave it and have gotten used to it over the years. For them, a word like Curious or Kind could be really helpful as they build self-awareness and self-compassion in themselves and their relationships with others.

What words come to your mind and heart? Maybe it’s Patient or Vulnerable? What descriptive words would help you improve a key relationship or help you set and keep healthy boundaries? What would help you become a better, healthier, happier, and more authentic person inside and out?

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