How far would you go…

to gain someone else’s approval? Often I have people tell me they want to be liked. The underlying message? They need other people’s approval to give them a sense of their own self-worth. And often they will do things – not because they want to – but because they feel they should. People would want them to or expect them to. Does any of this sound familiar?

How often do you use the word ‘should’ in conversation? When you say “I should…” it generally means you don’t particularly want to do something but you feel it is expected of you.

If you use the word ‘should’ a lot maybe it’s time to reassess your own thoughts, values and beliefs. Where do those thoughts, values and beliefs come from? Do they come from you or are they handed down from others? It’s likely that they come from family or other influential people throughout your life.

I can almost hear you saying, “Yes but isn’t that a good thing? Someone needs to teach us how to behave.”

The trouble with this line of thinking is that if we follow a set of rules blindly it means we no longer think for ourselves. In a sense we have become what someone else wants us to be. We make decisions based on rules laid down by someone else and set in stone, rather than giving it careful consideration from our own perspective.

People who seek counselling often come because they feel overwhelmed by things that seem outside their control. They have lost a sense of their own identity and find themselves in conflict between what they feel they should be doing and what they really want. Often people don’t realise what it is they want. They are too busy trying to live up to other people’s expectations to recognise who they are, never mind what they want. There is no quick fix. It takes commitment and effort to make a difference.

If you can identify with any of this then maybe it’s time you started to think about who you are and what your own beliefs and values are. So what does it take to get started? It takes recognition, motivation and effort to make positive life changes but it’s never too late.

Start today by giving yourself the challenge and asking, “Is this what I believe/want or what someone else believes/wants?” Discover who you are and learn to believe in yourself. You are the best adviser you will ever have. I would encourage anyone who feels confused and out of their depth to seek counselling. Studies have shown that counselling works. We all need support at some time to find the answers. Counselling is not about giving advice but about supporting people in finding the solutions that will work for them. Recognising when we need help and doing something about it is a sign of strength – not a weakness. So if you feel that you need help don’t be afraid to do something about it. Take it as a clear sign that you are beginning to listen to your own voice and to believe in yourself.

Jane Hipkiss Counselling – Darlington


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