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Here’s How to Be the Real You and Be Much Happier (Cont...)

   by Arthur P. Ciaramicoli, EdD, PhD

Tell compassionate truths to others

Stop giving people the phony, easy, evasive responses that you think they want to hear. Instead, tell them the truths that they need to hear, with as much tact and kindness as possible. This will be challenging at first, so start small when discussing relatively minor ­matters.

Example: Rather than say that “your presentation at the neighborhood association was wonderful,” you might say that “your presentation was wonderful, but you should clarify this one point you made, because I sensed some confusion in the crowd.”

Saying difficult things that people need to hear is a way to express empathy—a concern for the needs and feelings of others. The giving and receiving of empathy cause the body to release oxytocin, a hormone that reduces the drive to be inauthentic by replacing anxiety with a sense of calm and well-being. Empathy also fosters the feeling that personal bonds are being developed.

Sharing compassionate truths also encourages other people to share ­compassionate truths with you. People who hide their true selves tend to have distorted images of who they are. (Usually, they have more negative opinions of themselves than they deserve.) Hearing compassionate truths can start to bring your image of yourself more into line with reality.

Helpful: Ask people whose opinions you value what they really think about one of your ideas…one of your abilities…or some part of yourself that causes you anxiety. Say that you want the truth even if the truth is difficult to hear.

Experiment with revealing your true self

When you meet people you have not met before and are unlikely to meet again—perhaps when shopping at a store or during intermission at a show—offer your true opinions. Be polite but otherwise make no special effort to impress or please. These onetime encounters are a great opportunity to overcome your fear that your true self will be poorly received because the risk is extremely low—even if the ­interaction goes poorly, it will have little effect on your life. There’s an excellent chance that after a few attempts, you’ll discover that being yourself is a wonderfully calming, natural and even uplifting experience.

Take control of your self-talk

Everyone has an internal voice in his/her head. Is your voice kind and uplifting to you…or unkind and critical? People who struggle to be themselves are particularly prone to punitive, ­unfairly demanding self-talk.

The good news is that it is possible to modify self-talk. One strategy is to respond to negative self-talk with instructional self-talk that includes a concrete plan of action.

Example: You are struggling to voice your opinion to your colleagues because your self-talk is warning you, They’ll dislike me if I tell them they’re wrong. Respond with the instructional self-talk, They won’t dislike me if I provide my concerns in private and with compassion—particularly if I offer to help fix the problem.

Be Honest with Yourself

Ask yourself what you would do differently in your life if you were not afraid of someone else’s judgment. Honestly answering this question can open your eyes to how being inauthentic has been holding you back from accomplishing what you really want to accomplish.

See the appeal of your flaws

Before you attend a social gathering or begin a conversation where you might be tempted to present the unnatural “improved” version of yourself that you think people want, remind yourself that people like to spend time with imperfect people. It makes them feel more comfortable about their own imperfections. And we all have ­imperfections!

Source: Arthur P. Ciaramicoli, EdD, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in the Boston area who has been treating clients for more than 30 years. He previously served on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and is author of The Stress Solution: Using Empathy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to Reduce Anxiety and Develop Resilience. BalanceYourSuccess.com

Note: Arthur Ciaramicoli is a Hopkinton resident




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Updated: February 27, 2018 08:40:31 AM

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