Paolo Assandri
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No one is the ultimate version of themselves

I don’t really remember the first time that I asked myself: “Who am I?”. However, I believe this question came up to my awareness when I was asked what kind of studies would I want to pursue once I finished secondary school.

My teachers would give me well-meaning and often conflicting advise but  none of them were satisfactory enough to me. I felt something different about me that could not be defined by any of those words. I needed to get to know me more.

When I started asking questions about myself, I got frustrated, as I couldn’t find a unique and reassuring answer to any of them. On the contrary. I even got more confused by asking myself: “What defines me?”, “Am I my body?”, “Am I my thoughts?”, “Am I my emotions?” “Am I what I think I am?”, “Am I what others think of me?”. Thanks to those questions and to my personal and spiritual journey, I came to terms with some ideas which I found extremely helpful to connect with myself more deeply.

No one is the ultimate version of themselves

Although we all tend to think that we cannot change ourselves we all live in a constant  process of  changing. Our experiences, chosen or  undergone, everything that we learn, the quality of our relationships, ideas that we process or that we decide to embrace, our environment, are a few examples of what may change us, even in a substantial way. This happens because the nervous system is adaptable and enables us to learn many things. Thus, like it or not, we all change, as do the situations and the relationships, even those we would like to keep untouched. We are all immersed in a continuous changing flow: we grow up, grow old, change our minds, feel different and contradictory emotions, we fall in love (and fall out of it), we create (and destroy), etc…

This reminds me of the Buddhist concept of impermanence. It recites that everything changes and nothing lasts forever. Following this concept. we are all invited to welcome ourselves and the environment without judging, and observe with curiosity (and respect) the changes that happen inside and outside ourselves. In fact, in Buddhist philosophy everything is impermanent. For this reason, I listen with a lot of interest, and a little mistrust, to those who, in describing themselves, use frequently words like “Never” and “Always”. These two words create an illusory reality that is not even close to the way life goes on.

We are not (only) how we define ourselves.

We all are storytellers. By telling our stories we meet our human desire to make sense of our experiences and to reassure ourselves by creating predictability in an ever-changing and uncertain world.  However, we often describe ourselves in a partial, distorted and disrespectful way of our inner self. Somehow this allows us to satisfy our need of stability and predictability in an illusionary way. On the other hand, by doing so, we create a caricature of ourselves that may hide important and precious inner aspects of us. For instance, whoever defines oneself as strong and secure, would that person be able to show vulnerability and sensitivity without feeling that something is odd? For this reason, I invite you to be careful when defining yourself. It might become an existential prison.

We are not (only) how others define us

The way others define us may become a self-fulfilling prophecy, especially if we decide to believe in what they say and they think about us. That is even more true if their definition of us the only available version of the reality that we have. For example, if  you would be described as not creative, you might stay away from all creative or artistic activities, depriving yourself of expressing your creative talent. This is why it is important to understand that the way others define us might be partial or distorted. Sometimes it might even be misleading or dishonest.

We do need friendly and welcoming relationships to show our true self.

To show your true self in a sincere and spontaneous way, it is essential to be in relationship with other human beings who are open minded, loving and not judgemental. I like to think that our soul is shy and this is exactly why it needs to feel protected and safe in order to let be seen.

Our inner self includes something that words cannot describe.

There are aspects of us that we cannot express easily, maybe because we are not even aware of owning them. This is as a result of our education, of the culture we grew up within, and of the most important relationships in our life that may have taught us that to be accepted by others, we do not have to show some of our characteristics. The more these hidden characteristics are “structural”, the more we could feel a unspecified malaise that we cannot even define. In fact, although we try to hide them, theses aspects may knock at our consciousness, trying to “show up” in different ways, often through a sense of dissatisfaction, suffering or annihilation. These aspects represent our potential and that possible future which seems non describable by words. When we give permission to ourselves to see these aspects, words find a way to represent them. In this way, they become like pieces of a puzzle, thus giving us the opportunity to see ourselves more clearly.

In trying to define ourselves, we have to take into consideration that our own descriptions are temporary and partial. We are human beings engaged in a changing process:  some evolve, others suffer changes, others implode and others pretend they do not change. The way we learn to welcome change and integrate it into our existence gives us the opportunity to choose our “shape” and enables us to bring to life that “possible future” that we all have in our inner self.

“We can spend our lives letting the world tell us who we are. Sane or insane. Saints or sex addicts. Heroes or victims. Letting history tell us how good or bad we are. Letting our past decide our future. Or we can decide for ourselves. And maybe it’s our job to invent something better.”

Chuck Palahniuk

Author: Paolo Assandri is a Counselling Psychologist (HCPC and British Psychological Association registered), a Psychotherapist (UKCP) and Psychologist-psychotherapist (Ordine degli Psicologi del Piemonte). He is based in London where he lives and works.

No responsibility disclaimer: The information provided in this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional health or medical/psychological advice or treatment. The article is for general informational purposes only to improve wellbeing. Consult with a licensed health care practitioner (doctor, psychologist or psychotherapist) in case of need. Authors, producers and consultants linked to this article are not responsible for choices nor actions of readers following the read of this article.

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