I Do, Therefore I Am

Many patients describe anxiety related to who they think they are. Most people describe themselves in terms of what they do: where they work, what they have accomplished and their future goals. In these cases, their self concept has been associated strictly to actions and external measurements and, while having goals in life is important, many people have forgotten (or never learned) the fact that they are valuable as people, no matter what they do.

This concept is especially foreign in cultures where success is vital and goals are what make you a  “productive” human being.

The root of this concept may also stem from families in which children were not taught that they were valuable just because they exist and that there is no reason to do anything in order to be worthy of love and attention. When children must struggle to obtain unconditional love from their parents, only feeling acknowledged when they perform greatly (or perfectly), then they go on to become adults that can only measure themselves by these standards.

Anxiety arises when there is a feeling that no matter what they have already done, they must achieve more and more, nothing is enough, therefore they are not enough either.

Few people define themselves by their intrinsic characteristics: funny, caring, intelligent, creative, etc. Most people describe what they are in relation to the standards that they have incorporated in their minds to be “acceptable”, to their families and external witnesses.

Must you “do” to be you? Can you describe yourself independently from external standards that you have been taught or do you always associate yourself to external factors?

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