Why do we change? It seems like a simple question, but if you really think about it there are a number of complex reasons why people feel the need to change things about themselves.
Some people change for better health- physical and mental. Some people change out of fear for what may happen if they don’t. Many people even change because they feel obligated to do so for others. The reasons we change are great, vast, and very personal, but in order for change to be lasting our reasons have to come from within- they have to be true to who we are. This is called honoring our authentic self.
The term authentic self defines the person that you are before you change things- thoughts, feelings, looks, or actions- because you think you have to. It is who you are before you are affected by external expectations or opinions. Many of us have lost track of our authentic selves because we have tried to hard to be something else. Being true to your authentic self means having high self-esteem and being confident and comfortable in your own skin.
When we think about “who am I”, we often answer this question with defined roles placed on us by others: I am a nurse, I am a husband, or I am a daughter. These roles, however, don’t define your authentic self. Our authentic self is the composite of all your skills, talents, and wisdom. It is all the things that are uniquely yours and need expression, rather than what you believe you are supposed to be and do.
Consider this exercise in identifying your authentic self: think about all the changes you would like to make in your life and rate them on a scale from 1 (low) to 10 (high). What kind of rating do you give losing that weight, becoming happier, feeling less depressed, or learning that new skill? If you notice that some items have a lower score, ask yourself “why am I doing this then?”. If you are trying to change things that you aren’t truly interested in, then you are not being true to your authentic self. Instead you are trying to fulfill someone else’s expectations of who you should be.
When we engage in change for reasons other than to honor our authentic self, it is rarely a lasting change. Too often, these changes result in failed attempts and lowered self-esteem because of our failure. That is not to say that these changes may not be important, but we need to find motivation for making these changes within our authentic self in order for them to be lasting, life changes.
Before trying to make a change in your life, ask yourself “I am doing this for me or for someone else”. If the answer is for someone else, maybe it’s time to reevaluate the importance of the change or find an internal reason why you want the change. This is the only way to make change permanent and honor our authentic self.
Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor