The Subtlety of Required Conformity

October 1, 2022

     Okay! How many of us have been there? We have 30 minutes or less to add a social media post and we dive in only to find something has changed! This happened recently when I attempted to add an upcoming educational workshop as an event on one of my platforms. I was limited to what I could charge; there was no apparent way to indicate it was to be an 8-week workshop meeting once weekly. And do not even get me started on the need to memorize or look up the size requirements every time we want to add a cool photo or great illustration. Granted, there are many, many, many people who can adapt quickly to changes and would not find this a problem at all. I am not one of them. What had once worked well was now beyond the scope of my adaptability.

     I came away from the experience feeling very much like I was being forced into conformity. If I wanted to use this particular platform, I best decide whether I would comply or change my plans. I changed my plans, and this experience started me ponding other areas of life we all have encountered subtle or maybe not-so-subtle pressure to conform in a way that leaves us feeling isolated from our authentic self.

What often goes unnoticed is the impact of repeated and prolonged isolation from our authentic selves on our well-being. Self-knowing begins with recognizing our first, truest, most committed long-term relationship is with ourselves. We must understand our emotions, our bodies, and our spirits. Without this knowledge, we are often lost in a whirlwind of seeking comfort and safety through the validation and acknowledgment of others. If those on whom we depend to define our well-being are busy, distracted, or abusive much of our capacity for emotional regulation and self-discovery is spent desperately trying to stay connected by becoming what others cannot live without.

This is especially true for those of us who grew up in homes with parents and caregivers who never tended to our basic needs as children and teenagers. Raised in homes that failed to help us feel safe, seen, soothed, and secure, we perfected coping strategies that kept us alive and at the same time taught us things like:

  • People please instead of recognizing our own needs
    • Compulsive or relentless self-reliance because we had to depend on ourselves
    • Our only worth comes from meeting the needs of others by sacrificing ourselves

     In short, we were left existing in a state of fear. Our default mind takes us repeatedly into our coping strategies and leaves no room for a journey into emotional safety. 

The good news is that whether we are dealing with addictions or not we can begin our journey of self-discovery. We need to know what authentic relationships look like; first with ourselves and then with others. 

  Alex A. Avila, MA, LPC, CSAT, CST, CPTT, NCC, ACS, CAT, CBCP is a licensed professional counselor and relationship expert who authored Emotional Safety: Honoring Yourself While Creating Trust and Presence to Experience Meaningful Relationships. This book offers hope and understanding about emotional safety. Written positively and eloquently, Emotional Safety explains how to discern and understand safety in all types of relationships and offers practical suggestions and guidance to deepen and develop the skills we all need to understand ourselves and others in the context of relationships. 

About the author: Claudia Nell Hawley located in Centennial Colorado and serves clients in Centennial, Greenwood Village, Littleton, Englewood, Denver, and Parker. She offers educational workshops, couples, and individual counseling. Claudia is trained in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, The Gottman Method, and Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR)

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