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What does it mean to stay true to ourselves?

I recently had an experience that got me thinking about how difficult it can be to stay true to ourselves. What does that even mean?

Carl Rogers, the founder of Person centred therapy, talked a lot about conditions of worth and the self concept. Conditions of worth are what other people place on us. They are conditions we must fulfill in order to be loved or accepted.

For example, most of us learn from an early age that it is not acceptable to throw a tantrum. If we do throw a tantrum, there might be negative consequences, for example we might get put on the naughty step or our primary caregiver might be angry with us which doesn't feel so great.

As we get older. some of us learn that we must always go the extra mile in order to be accepted by those around us. Over time what can happen is that these conditions of worth become internalised and we believe that they are a part of us. We might base decisions on them, they might impact how we feel about ourselves and how we behave.

Our self concept, as Carl Rogers called it, can be made up of these conditions of worth and other people's perceptions, views and opinions of us. If they match what we truly feel about ourselves then that's fine but more often than not, what happens is that they are not aligned and who we truly are might not be the same as what others think of us or want us to be.

And then we might feel conflicted. Because the other thing is, if we go against the wishes of others around us or do something we know they wouldn't agree with, that can feel like a risk. It's scary. What happens if they don't love us anymore?

What if they don't accept us anymore?

And often it's too big a risk to take.

The thing is though, if we continue to compromise ourselves in order to be loved and accepted, we are doing ourselves a disservice and it can actually makes us feel more anxious or depressed. Because the truth is that we are all worthy of love just the way we are. As human beings. You don't need to do or be anything extra in order to be worthy of love or acceptance.

Just being you, as you are, is enough.

Of course every relationship comes with compromise and I'm not saying you should turn into someone selfish who only cares about themselves. But there needs to be a balance. Everyone has the right to be themselves and everyone has the right to be happy on their own terms, whatever that might mean as long as it doesn't harm others around them.

Life can be incredibly difficult and challenging but it is even more so when we live it on someone else's terms, according to someone else's values, to fulfill someone else's expectations. Can we really call that love?

The experience I had was one that made me reflect on what is important to me and what my values actually are. So I took a step back. I gave myself some time to sit with it.

Because the other thing is sometimes it's easy to get drawn in or caught up in something that doesn't sit quite right with us. We can talk ourselves into things, justify things, get confused about what we should be doing versus what feels right for us.

And that's okay. It's okay to struggle with decisions, it's okay to question things and to take time to think through your options.

Taking the time to think or breathe or to give yourself some space to consider what you want to do or what your options are- that's being true to yourself.

Whatever you're going through, just remember that you are a worthy human being, just the way you are!


Kirschenbaum, H., Henderson, V.L. (1990). The Carl Rogers Reader, Constable, London

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