Do you know this feeling before sending off an important email to your boss – this feeling of hesitance and stress that’s accompanied by a loud rambling mind saying stuff like ‘Did I make a spelling mistake? Is the email coherent? Does it sound right? Is this what my boss wanted of me? Did I get that right?’
Most of us are so used to constantly doubting ourselves. We are so used to the belief that there is a right way of doing stuff right or being right. In fact, we are addicted to the need of getting it right, so much that we don’t mind feeling potentially anxious, stressed or nervous as a side effect of it. Priority is priority and the priority is to get it right. If ‘getting it right’ comes with suffering, then, oh well, we will suffer.
Within person-centered theory, the need to get it right or the sensation of being scared to get it wrong are strongly tight to the concept of conditions of worth. Conditions of worth are introjected values that we learn along our life journey (often starting in childhood). We quickly learn what patterns, behaviours and values please our parents, teachers, friends and the social world around us and we learn to adjust and respond to what is wanted from us.
To give you a few examples of conditions of worth and how they can sound a bit like:
Don’t get it wrong.
Don’t cry and be a real man.
Be a good girl, you must not be aggressive.
Don’t show your weaknesses.
Be quiet and do as you are told.
Work hard to be successful.
Be strong and never give up.
...AND WHAT IS YOUR EXPERIENCE?
When are you trying to get it right or fear to get it wrong? What examples come to your mind? Is there a particular social environment that increases your need to get it right? Are you aware of what ‘right’ actually looks like? Does the ‘right’ that you perceive as ‘right’ also feel ‘right’? Is it always the same ‘right’ you try to achieve or does it alter with the situation you find yourself in? Who defines this ‘right’ that you try to achieve so badly?
Imagine, you were exclusively priced by your parents when you’d come home from school with a good mark. Let’s assume that you started to believe that you are a better person and worth more when you do well at school. This belief might have been reinforced by teachers, peers who comment on how clever and diligent you are. This is an example of how a condition of worth is formed.
The challenge now is that whenever you do not that well or simply don’t get as much external validation you view yourself as being less worthy. You started to measure yourself against an external locus of evaluation and you try your utmost best to behave in a way that people around you expect you to behave so that you get the needed validation. With time, we feel more and more pressure to perform, respond and adjust to the external world in a particular ‘right way’, even when this ‘right way’ is the opposite to how we feel. It’s such behaviour that defines incongruence or in other words inauthenticity.
I appreciate that this can sound pretty bleak and you might wonder:
'How can I move away from conditions of worth?'
The process of moving away from desperately trying to get it right and beginning to be our real selves includes moving away from any kind of facades and introjected values (including all the ‘shoulds’ in our language’) that we hold about ourselves and stop pleasing others. We have to learn to fully and wholeheartedly accept ourselves the way we are and feel in the world, regardless of its compatibility with the social expectations surrounding us. We have to identify our own conditions of worth and challenge them.
We have to learn to be open to new experiences, we have to develop self-trust and courage for self-direction and most importantly we have to learn to stop judging ourselves and others, but become unconditionally caring. Only in the presence of unconditionality and radical self-acceptance conditions of worth can no longer survive.
Thus, I encourage you to accept yourself and to start trusting your very own experience.
Be yourself. That's enough.