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“Why There Is Nothing Wrong With You”

I see so many people in my private practice who believe they aretwins not smart enough, not good enough or unworthy in some way. They even do their best to prove to me why they are right by citing many examples of when and how they screwed up in life. That may include broken relationships, failing in school, alcoholism, a yo-yo weight situation, job dissatisfaction, getting fired or having little financial security at their age.

If you are thinking that only applies to those people who need psychotherapy, let me give you a reality check: If you find that there is an area of your life where you can never seem to get ahead, then you too probably subconsciously believe that you are not good enough in some way. (This probably applies to 80% of the population)

Getting back to my client, as they are busy trying to get me to see how much of a failure they are, I simply refuse to acknowledge it. After getting to know them I usually end up saying something like this, “That is funny because  who I see is someone who is bright, insightful, caring and a person with many talents.”

What?!! How could this be? How can the two of us see such a different person? Isn’t one of us delusional? Actually no. Let me tell you why…

There are actually TWO people in one body sitting in front of me!

No, let me reassure you that there are no hallucinogens in the room. And I am not really seeing two people. But we (yes me too and over 7 billion others) each act like we are two different people at different times:

One is your natural self – the self you were born with. the one with your own unique potential talents and gifts, your own rhythm and pace and innate strengths and weaknesses.

The other part is your conditioned self. This self learned how to think, act and feel by all the rules and people you were exposed to, especially in the first 8 years of childhood. The biggest influencers for this part of you include your parents and other caregivers who lived in your home, your siblings and the home and neighbourhood you grew up in. It also includes the media, TV and news that you were exposed to and the way these were interpreted through the lenses of your culture and gender in your home and through the eyes of all of your early childhood teachers, coaches and religious leaders.**

“So, I get it.”, you may be saying, “But what is the problem?”

The problem is that in most people, your natural self often gets drowned out by all of the conditioning that created your conditioned self. And when you grew up your conditioned self may be so strong it may now have trouble remembering your natural self at all.

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Let’s take Teresa (not her real name) as an example. Teresa was born with an innate talent of being at ease with social interactions and generally enjoying the company of other people. Essentially she is a natural socialite.

She was raised in a home where her parents emphasized the importance of respect in the community. She was told that ‘status’ was not just a perk but an essential element of self-respect. This was reinforced by her cousins who would often speak highly of her uncle Kyle, a financial analyst for a boutique investment firm and her aunt Sara, a respected pharmacist. Friends and teachers also spoke highly of people with higher education.

Teresa internalized these rules and learned to study hard. She received very good marks in school. However she also enjoyed sitting on student councils and organizing school dances but she was told that these came second to her studies. She found that when she got to grade 12 she was confused about her future life direction. She did well in lots of subjects like Sociology, Marketing, English and History but she ruled out Drama and Media relations because she was told “they wouldn’t lead anywhere”.

business suitSo heeding the advice of her parents, she decided to get her BA in marketing with a minor in English. She ended up getting a prominent six-figure position at a reputable marketing firm, which specializes in digital marketing. Her family and friends were impressed and celebrated her “success”. But deep down she knew that something was wrong but she couldn’t put her finger on it.

She threw herself into the work but after only 2 years she could no longer do it because she finally had to admit to herself that she never liked it. Her father was devastated and confused. Her friends questioned her sanity.

She came to me for help. The first thing she said to me was, “I am such a loser. I thought I got everything I wanted but I then quit. I am an embarrassment to my family.”

To which I responded, “You are not a loser. You are just confused.”

And the real work began…

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Can you now see why Teresa is confused? Her natural self had TV journalistinnate social and interpersonal gifts yet her conditioned self taught her that socializing wasn’t as respectful as other pursuits. It would have been better for Teresa to pursue areas that better matched her natural talents like PR, event planning, acting, TV talk show host, political activism, international relations, dispute resolution, advocacy and organizing networking groups, to name a few.

 

 

When I say there is nothing wrong with Teresa…

…I mean that there is nothing wrong with Teresa’s natural self. The only problem is that Teresa – through no fault of her own – had forgotten who her natural self was. She got confused because she grew up to believe that her conditioned self was her natural self.

I helped Teresa separate the two. The idea is not to blame her parents and early childhood circumstances for the confusion, They were doing their best and were probably working from the false viewpoint of their own conditioned selves. The idea was to allow Teresa’s natural self to come to the surface where she could see it. When she did that the confusion began to diminish and her true career direction came into focus.

It takes practice to be able to see the difference. Although you may now understand the difference, your conditioned self will still do its best to keep you in the dark. It is truly sad that most people go through their daily lives believing their conditioned self is who they are.

girl-with-mic

…I believe this is the cause of our deepest suffering.

It causes people pain, sadness, envy, emptiness and regret. You will never really reach your true potential if you don’t allow your natural self to come to the fore.

Take time every day to start listening to that gentle yet persistent whisper of your natural self trying to emerge from within. You are worth it. And the next time you get confused or think you are a failure, think again. You may be just confusing your conditioned self for your natural self.

Live Your Dreams,
Sam Gerstein

**These two “selves” are loosely related to what Carl Yung, the Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist who is best known for his work in analytical psychology, described as the unconscious ‘Shadow’ and ‘Self’. It is too simplistic to think that the conditioned self (my term) is “bad” while the natural self (again, my term) is the “good” part of you. In fact each part of us has both. The ideal is to confront and integrate all parts into a whole, but I have simplified the concept to make a point.

P.S. Now I want to hear from you. Have you ever felt that you were not smart enough, not lovable, confused or not good enough in some way? What did you believe was the reason? Please provide your insights about the “two selves” discussed above. I would love to hear your comments.

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