Be yourself is one of these pieces of advice that can backfire on people as well as help them. It is based on the assumption that the person “who is herself” will appear more authentic in the relationship and thus will find it easier to be welcomed.
It is true, that when one has less need to focus on how one is perceived by others, there is much more energy available to be present in the relationship. Being present in the relationship means having more energy available to hear and see the other and less need to protect oneself.
But a theme I’ve seen appear regularly in my practice is that people know their reactions quite well in the moment without being clear as to how that is them. They’ll recognize these reactions, experiencing emotions and thoughts assuming that they represent them.
What they rarely pay attention to is how emotions and thoughts will depend on their mood, the circumstances, and their repetitions. They’ll try to develop their handling of emotions and thoughts by pushing those away they are uncomfortable with and making efforts to recreate those they appreciate.
It’s a way to resist becoming aware of what it is that fuels one’s understanding of self.
That is when our work will often involve reflection and an exploration of the perception of the situation. What did they feel, what did they think, what did they do will deliver as much as possible about their own experience in the moment.
However, when people share situations, many prefer a description of what others did, which can sometimes indeed be limited to what they did, but it’ll easily also be what they understood the other to feel, think, or intend.
It’s another way to resist becoming aware of oneself by keeping the focus on others.
With little monitoring of one’s own experience comes a reduced awareness of who one is. Being authentic then happens in relationship to who one believes to be more than to who one is.
It makes it complicated to achieve a journey from who one is, as it remains largely unknown, to who one wants to be, as there is little experimentation with available options.
Time is being spent with who one believes to be. It requires dealing with the felt gaps between one’s experience and what one believes it should be.
This will not necessarily affect a person’s ability to achieve their goals or ambitions. It’s only in the way of being authentic and becoming clear as to what that means.