I tell clients that I believe they are the most qualified experts when it comes to how to live their lives. Despite the temptation to believe that there are others who may have better ideas about how to live a good life, each life is different. No two people have had the exact same experiences, have formed the same beliefs and values, are facing the same challenges, obstacles, and opportunities.
I also believe that supporting someone to trust themselves provides far more value than any strategy or wisdom anyone else has to offer.
But it isn’t as simple as deciding to trust themselves. That’s a great start. But how on earth can I expect my clients to trust themselves when they know more than anyone else the mistakes and failures they have experienced? It’s probably fair to say that we all present the most advantageous version of ourselves for the rest of the world to see. We automatically present the world with a persona that will be perceived by those around us as we want to be seen.
I often refer to this as the False Identity. Some call it the ego. Internal Family Systems refers to the parts of ourselves that present strategic personas as protectors.
Why do we do this? I believe we present a false identity to the world because we are trying to hide what we are ashamed of. “If others knew who I really am,” we may argue, “they wouldn’t like me. They may hate me.”
I haven’t met anyone yet who has lived a perfect life. We all make mistakes – plenty of them. And most of us have had countless experiences that have helped us to conclude that in some ways we are deficient, broken, damaged, unattractive, high maintenance, or simply unlovable.
So, when I suggest that my clients learn to trust themselves, the suggestion often sounds preposterous. That’s because we are trained to think that who we are is what we are trying to hide. And we know that what we have successfully convinced people to like, accept, love, approve, and appreciate about us has been manufactured. Sure, we can fool the world. But now we are expected to fool ourselves?
I’m not suggesting that we trust the conniving, strategizing, protecting, egoic, false identity. And I’m not suggesting that we trust the hurt, scared, anxiety filled, depressed, neurotic, and shamed parts of ourselves to be provide the wisdom and clarity needed to live a good life.
Eventually, I introduce my clients to the idea that who they really are is who they should trust. When I encourage my clients to trust themselves, I am referring to their true, authentic, self.
Learning to trust ourselves begins with an intention. But it’s not as simple as a decision. Moving from distrust to trust of what the Internal Family Systems refers to as the Self, is a process that involves recognizing that we are not our strategies, and we are not our shame. At the core of each of us is a reliable source of wisdom and power. Uncovering who we are not helps us to discover and access the resources of Self.
The best method for accomplishing this which I have found is the Internal Family Systems model (IFS). It’s easy to assume that IFS is about family issues. While much of what is discovered with the help of IFS relates back to our families of origin, the “family” in Internal Family Systems refers to the internal family of subpersonalities that make up the shame-based identity that masquerades as who we are.
I have been trained and certified as an IFS practitioner by the IFS Institute. The IFS model is a therapy model that is being used by a growing number of therapists and practitioners around the world. Its effectiveness explains the growing popularity of the model. I am a personal development coach and, over the past couple of years, the IFS model has become one of my favorite methods for helping my clients learn to trust themselves.
For more information about IFS, go to www.IFS-Institute.com.
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