Who you are and who you think you are may be two completely different things. If you’ve ever heard someone give their impression of you and it feels way off the mark you’ll know what I mean. What do they see?  How are you shaped by their views of you?  How many people may have given you ideas about yourself that you’ve never questioned?

We form our self image from how we are treated as children. The poem by Amanda Cater could never be more true. See for yourself:

If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn.
If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight.
If a child lives with ridicule, he learns to be shy.
If a child lives with shame, he learns to feel guilty.
If a child lives with tolerance, he learns to be patient.
If a child lives with encouragement, he learns confidence.
If a child lives with praise, he learns to appreciate.
If a child lives with fairness, he learns justice.
If a child lives with security, he learns to have faith.
If a child lives with approval, he learns to like himself.
If a child lives with acceptance and friendship, he learns to find love in the world.

The problem is, while that forms a child’s personality, most of the time it goes on to form an adult’s personality too. That can mean we become dependent on how people treat us as to how we feel about ourselves. Externally referenced we begin to lose our inner ability to comfort and reassure ourselves.

As social animals our fear of exclusion will often stop us taking risks. In fact, our fear of rejection can stop us altogether being who we really are….until we’re living a pale facsimile of our true nature.

According to research carried out by UCLA in the US, Naomi Eisenberger has evidenced that the pain of rejection is felt precisely in the same area of the brain that registers physical pain. The theory goes that as a social animal we are safer in a collective than alone, so our pain of rejection serves a very valid purpose.

However, our need for inclusion in our media driven society has incurred in many cases, a huge cost. And that is the surrendering of our authenticity. We become who others want us to be so that we are not excluded. We identify with how others describe us so as to feel valuable. We avoid at any cost, being called anything negative all the while developing adaptive and overcompensatory behaviours that ensure we become indispensable, invaluable, loved and needed by others first. We put appearance before substance. We listen to words instead of meaning. And eventually, we wonder why we feel so empty despite all the ‘things’ we have in our lives and things we have going for us.

One of the most powerful socialisers is criticism. The fear of criticism keeps us compliant with social mores and norms. The opinions of others can keep us trapped for an eternity: trapped in a codependent, social network that ensures no one leaves the collective.

And yet, when someone breaks free of criticism, and rises above the mores of our times, suddenly we admire them. We look to them for guidance, for inspiration, for education, for amusement: in short, we look at them in awe because they’ve dared to do something that we never could. And did they end up isolated? Alone? Rejected? Usually not. Their breaking free gives countless others also permission to break free.

So the next time someone offers you their ‘opinion’ about you, instead of taking it into the heart of your being and complying with its unconscious messages, just thank them politely for their opinion and know in your heart, that they are really voicing their fear of being left alone, excluded or rejected. Be kind to yourself. Allow yourself to shine in your own light without arrogance, without pride, but with a certain self knowledge that you know what you’re worth, regardless of how anyone else cares to confine your value.

This is a lesson that not only can you benefit from, but so can your clients. In these 4 valuable hours of audios, I’ll teach you a way of staying centred even when others are against you. Imagine how invaluable that might be in your therapy room? Not only can you learn how to stay calm and centred yourself, but you can teach these invaluable lessons to your clients. Click here http://theopenmindtherapist.com/assertiveness-masterclass.html for more on my downloadable Assertiveness and Confidence course.

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