Sometimes we live a life where we feel like we have two selves, or a split self. The good ‘me’ we present to the world, and the ‘bad’ me, that we hide from others. It’s a lot more common than you think. Living a life that is ‘ideal’, setting the standard of perfection so far above anything humanly achievable, while denying the ‘real’ self that fails sometimes. I know many people who cannot accept or conceive of failure in others around them or accept failure in themselves. Where does this originate from?

If this is your first time tuning into my blogs, I am currently in the middle of a series on boundary development that I blog about every Friday, and encourage you to check out the past 3 blog entries I posted on previous Fridays. This week I am writing on what real love is about. That real love involves knowing that you are loved for both your “good” parts, and perceived or real “bad” parts of yourself.

Often times though, we learn that we are loved or accepted by what we do, or how well we perform at certain tasks, rather than being celebrated even when we fail. The expectation to get the best grades, or perform the best in your dance class or on your hockey team, meeting disapproval if you don’t get it quite right. Or being compared to others in your family by how well you perform vs someone else, making it into a competition to ‘get love’. This often is where the performance trap begins.

We all can imagine what the perfect “me” should look like. But who defines that? Who are you performing for? Now some of you may say, “I’m only performing for myself”, but where did the idea of performing at all originate? I challenge you to take a look at the root in yourself where you began trying to achieve a high standard for yourself that you can never meet, and the being harsh with yourself when you don’t meet your ideal expectation. Or maybe you can’t stand when others fail and set unreasonably high demands on others to perform to your ideal standard.

The reality is, we all have a “real self”. The self that we are when no one is looking. The self that we truly are, warts and failures and all. The real self is not who we wish to be, but us, just as we are.

When we begin separating the real from the ideal, it is often because we have believed a message that only the good parts of us are lovable and accepted, while the ‘bad parts’ or perceived bad parts are unacceptable. What happens to all that underachieving, bad habit, negative stuff that is unacceptable? It goes into hiding. If unattended for too long, psychologists label it a ‘split self’, where you only present on the exterior what is pleasing and acceptable and considered ‘good’ by those with whom we are in relationship because we grew up believing the struggles and failures and imperfections we had were unloveable. So we begin to build an outer world and a secret dark inner world that we are afraid to reveal to anyone, as we are sure to meet with rejection of the self as a whole – the real person, who is imperfect, yet loveable no matter what. But if the messages you received were that you are not lovable, you begin to believe it and begin to be your own worst judge.

What we all need is to know we are loved just as we are, the good and the bad, and that love is not lost or taken away if we neglect to perform a certain way.

When we fail to accept good and bad in ourselves, or in others, these are the symptoms that result:

1. Striving for perfectionism
2. Idealism – denying that bad exists
3. Inability to tolerate badness in ourselves or others
4. Inability to tolerate weakness in ourselves or others
5. Inability to tolerate negative feelings which then go into hiding, which have all sorts of negative side effects as a result as well.
6. Depression or moodiness
7. Self-image issues
8. Anxiety and panic
9.Eating and substance problems
10. Narcissism
11. Guilt
12. Sexual addiction
13. Broken relationships
14. Excessive rage
15. A perception that you are “all bad”
16 The “all good me” approach of being defensive about taking responsibility for any fault.

These issues can lead to all sorts of distorted thinking, such as believing you are not worth being loved, or that your badness is worse than someone else’s, or that you should be better than you are, all the while competing with a completely opposite belief that you are ‘ideal’. You may also believe your badness is unforgiveable.

How do you get past this? With great difficulty. Anyone who relates to this will easily tell you that once you believe that your unlovely parts are unloveable, it is a tremendous risk to bring those unacceptable parts of yourself -the parts you and others have judged- into relationship.

But it is the only way to heal the gap between the real and the ideal. A good test to tell if you struggle with this at all, is to try writing a list. Define, by using words to describe the external you, who you are to others. Then make a list of the ‘internal you’. The parts younkeep to yourself. Are they telling the tale of two completely different people? Or are they pretty much the same? If there is a huge difference between what you present on the outside and what is going on inside, you may be dealing with a split self. I am not saying that a split self means you have a personality disorder or anything, I am merely suggesting you may have not felt loved for who you are, the good the bad, the ugly. You may have been taught conditional love: that only parts of you are acceptable.

Real intimacy can only exist when the ‘whole’ self is loved, just as you are.

Quick tips to overcome the performance/people pleasing trap: confess who you really are with safe and trustworthy people in your life. Keep following, in a few weeks I’ll blog on the subject of how to determine who the ‘safe’ people are. So to recap: confess the ‘real you – the inside you – with someone. Forgive those who taught you parts of you were unloveable. And forgive yourself for being too hard on yourself and for your mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. It’s part of being human. It’s ok.

Next, integrate your negative emotions and attributes with the ‘good’ parts of you so that you can begin the journey towards becoming a complete person. Allow yourself to feel sadness and anger and fear. The very things you tried to bury because they were perceived or treated as bad. Or were merely discouraged. Stop medicating to avoid pain, whether it be drugs, alcohol or sexual addiction, whatever it is you go to to avoid your pain, is only making matters worse and increasing self hatred. Get help if you are using coping mechanisms to avoid negative emotions.

Begin to challenge your thinking distortions. Instead of assuming on what people are thinking or what you think they want you to be, ask questions. If you are performing in an attempt to please or in order to earn love you don’t believe you are worth receiving, ask. Ask someone the very thing you are afraid of. Ie “I think you are bored listening to me talk. Is that true?” instead of assuming that’s the case and responding as if it were fact, just ask. It may surprise you when they respond, “not at all! I love it when you share your feelings with me! If my expression shows otherwise, it’s because I’ve had this nasty headache all day!”. And then try to believe they are telling you the truth, so that you are not self-sabotaging the ability to receive love from others.

I would also advise that you begin to process and value your negative feelings instead of chucking them into the abyss of your soul, where they only lurk and wreak havoc on the inside, destroying self esteem and encouraging self hatred instead.

Those are a few tools to get you started. My final piece of advice: be authentic. Be your real self. It’s much more wanted than you believe it to be. You cannot achieve true intimacy or really know if you are loved for who you are, unless you take risks and give someone a shot at loving you. You just might be surprised, and find the love and acceptance you crave, rather than the rejection you expect. I know it’s risky. I know it’s hard. But it is achievable!

If you’d like to look at a great resource, check out my one-on-one Personal Development Program which will help you overcome depression, unhealthy thought patterns and so much more!

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If you have any questions on today’s blog or would like help on taking steps forward, I’d love to hear from you!  Post a comment below or visit my website and register for your Complimentary Strategy Session to discuss your situation in more detail.

Katie Meilleur – Certified Life Coach

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