*This is an original adapted extract from The Magic in Me by Dr. Rina Bajaj.
It is rare that we show people who we truly are.
Typically, we are conditioned into presenting a flawless version of ourselves based on what we feel we “should” be. We often acquire these “shoulds” from our early attachments, through family and societal norms and other people’s expectations of us. This can lead to us limiting who we are and what we show the world or people we have relationships with; we can hide behind this idealised mask, as it feels safer to us and less exposing. It can also lead us to have unrealistic expectations of ourselves and others, for example, expecting perfection or seeing ourselves as having failed if we do not meet our idealised standards. This is all or nothing thinking, which is too rigid. We can continue to do this for several years to a point where this way of relating to the world feels normal and automatic, a part of our subconscious behaviour.
But the more we hide behind a mask, the greater the possibility that we become detached from our true selves, the authentic essence of who we are. It is useful to take time to reflect on who we really are in order to try and bring subconscious patterns of relating, feelings, thoughts and behaviours into the conscious mind. It can help us to shine a light on some of the “shoulds” that we are living our life by to consider whether we are living a life full of growth or full of limitation. It is challenging to live by other people’s rules and it can impact how we feel about ourselves. It is impossible to please everybody. Getting more in touch with our true selves helps us to nurture ourselves in a kind, loving and compassionate way—to turn down the volume on the voice of the inner critic in our head holding us back (even if from a desire to “protect” us from fear or vulnerability). When we have a better awareness of who we are, we can begin to reflect on what is working in our lives, what truly matters to us and what needs to change. We can then choose to take empowered actions toward a more authentic life.
You can also choose not to take action—that’s okay too. The key thing is that as your awareness increases, you will get into the flow of making more informed decisions based on who you are and how you want to live your life. It helps you to understand the patterns of how you relate to yourself and others, making this less automatic. It gives you the tools to consciously flow with any changes in yourself or your life. It also gives you the opportunity to let go of or change the things that no longer serve you or make you feel good. Knowing and accepting yourself for who you are in the now is the secret to true empowerment.
Activity: How to speak your truth
This activity is a useful way to continue to build on being less reactive and more responsive in your interactions. The FAAB model, outlined below, can help you to balance speaking your authentic truth with staying grounded and logical. In this way, you can express your emotions, thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them. The model can be applied to a range of scenarios and situations, from work environments to personal relationships.
Facts: This is the point where you simply state the facts of the situation, rather than expressing your feelings. Don’ t let your fears or feelings trick you into thinking that they are true. If you were to present these facts to a judge in court, would they believe that they are true?
Acknowledge: This is where you acknowledge your feelings and begin to take responsibility for your feelings, by using “I” statements. For example, “I feel annoyed today,” “When you did X, it made me feel Y.” This step is important as it doesn’t minimise your feelings.
Assert: You can assert yourself by asking for what you want or setting healthier boundaries, which may include saying no. Examples can include, “I am not able to dedicate time to that right now,” “Let me think about it and I will make a decision and update you.”
Balance: This is about negotiating and balance. What advantage does the other person in the interaction gain from cooperating with you? For example: “If we cooperate, then…” “We are both invested in trying to resolve this,” “Working together will be beneficial for us both,” “It’s important for me to find a balance in my life, as I am sure it is for you,” etc.
Use the FAAB model in one of your interactions today.