Imagine being told who you are is not enough, or who you are is wrong. Imagine the impact this has on a person's sense of self as it gets eroded by these critical messages. The reality is though that we are all unique and being different is OK and normal.
The world around us continually defines who we are. This was especially significant when we were young, with a lot of kids told explicitly or implicitly, ‘Don’t be you’, one of 12 main Injunctions: a concept in Transactional Analysis (TA).
Growing up feeling like you’re not meant to be the person you are is tough. It can have serious consequences on your mental health, sometimes leading to anxiety and depression and affecting your sense of self and the relationships you have with others.
“Don’t be you’, may have been directly said by a child’s parents. For example, a child may have been told when they were younger that they were never good enough compared to other kids, no matter how hard they tried. As a result, this could have led them to a belief that their parents wanted a different more successful child and that they were a failure.
Society also plays a huge part in conditioning people’s beliefs about who they and others are supposed to be. For instance, impacted by the prejudice in society, a lot of queer kids grow up with a sense of ‘Don’t be you’ related to either their sexuality or gender identity. A child may have recognised at an early age that they are not like other kids. With their developing awareness of sexuality, they may have noticed they were attracted to people of the same sex, rather than the opposite sex like their peers.
We live in a heteronormative society that conforms to the belief that people ‘should’ romantically and sexually be with someone from the opposite sex. People whose sexuality is outside this norm can grow up believing, it’s not OK to be me. This also relates to people who are gender nonconforming, asexual or aromantic.
Not feeling connected with yourself, because you hold a belief you’re not meant to be yourself, can have awful consequences. It affects people’s self-belief and confidence, leading them to undermine themselves or over-perform to try and compensate for what they feel is lacking. People can fear living their lives as their authentic selves or hold anger and frustration because life does not seem fair.
Therapeutic work using TA concentrates on beliefs we picked up when we were young. In sessions, you and the therapist would examine and explore the experiences you had and the decisions you made concerning them. By looking at the early decisions you made, that defined who you became, you can make new decisions that are appropriate to who you are today. This is often necessary if we are living our life with a set of beliefs made when we were a child, but we are now an adult.
As an adult, with so much more awareness of ourselves, the world and life, it is vital to think about who we are. To connect with what feels right to us; not what is right for someone else. No one else is living our life but ourselves, so perhaps say, ‘It is absolutely OK to be me, and I am happy with and appreciate who I am’.