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From Automaticity to Authenticity

Clinical Psychologist, Beste Aydogan


November 22, 2022

From Automaticity to Authenticity

girl looking at a mirror smiling

From Automaticity to Authenticity

Throughout our lives, we learn and use certain set of behaviors and coping mechanisms based on our past experiences. Sometimes, these behaviors become patterns that we find ourselves act in similar ways toward different situations. Some behaviors become so automatic, they do not come from our authentic selves. In Psychology, authenticity refers to honest representation of oneself. Regardless of what the societal rules impose on us, it is the self that reflects its true beliefs and values. We can see the loss and emergence of authentic self through many different themes in our lives. The journey toward authenticity is a lifelong process. Adolescents and young adults experiment with friends, partners, hobbies and jobs to identify what feels right for their present and their future. People in middle age and older may reflect on their identity, evaluating whether the choices they’ve made thus far, such as in their career and relationships, have provided the fulfillment they have been searching for.

Setting Boundaries and Saying "No"

Today, I’ll be talking about preserving our self-authenticity and the difficulty in saying “No” in situations that we want and need to oppose and how this hinders our authentic selves. We might find ourselves saying “yes” to things that we don’t want to or going to places and meeting people that we don’t have any interest in. You might hear someone saying, I feel like I have no control over my life and things are just happening around me. Not being able to say “no” may show up in different areas of our lives. It may be difficult for us to say “no” to our manager, who comes up with a last minute request or to say “no” to a friend, who offers you a cigarette even though you had no intention to light one up. In society, this habit is usually called people pleasing.

You may have more or completely different scenarios about not being able to say “no” in your life. You may have realized that this issue is taking a toll on both your physical and mental health. The question is, if it has so many negative affects on your life, why do you keep following the same pattern?

Intense people pleasing act actually comes from a deep fear of abandonment. To avoid this uncomfortable scenario and emotions that come with, some people think this is the right or maybe the only way to bond with other people. Over time this behavior becomes an automatic habit.

But the good news is that we have a choice! The choice to say “No, thank you, not this time”. The habit of people pleasing might give you the urge to CHOOSE NOT TO say it because it is scary. “No.” is a full sentence. While saying no can lead to feelings of guilt or fear, remember: when you say no to something, you’re allowing yourself the space to say yes to something else, even if that something is rest.

If one behavior resists changing, the person may not see the negative affects of it, or even if they see it, they need more motivation and encouragement to take a step towards change. It is important to understand the underlying reasons before changing them.

Changing a Behavior

Before we try to change a Behavior, it is important that we try to understand why we are choosing that Behavior over and over again. Understanding, before trying to change takes effort and bring compassion to our lives.

So here are some questions to help you understand why you can’t say “No:” · What do I think could happen if I say no? · How do I think my emotional and social life would get affected by saying no? · How do I think others would respond to my opposition? · How do I think, I would come across to other people if I say no? · How do I think, I would benefit from saying yes? · Do I think I live in a society or engage in groups that encourage me to say “yes?”

Here are some questions to promote Compassion:

· Who do I think I am trying to protect myself from? · How do I think I could feel safe in my relationships? · What conditions do I think I need to create them?

Here are some questions to increase your Motivation to oppose:

· What do I think are the long-term benefits of saying no? · How do I think my life would improve if I start saying no? · Do I think my decisions and relationships reflect my true values? · How do I think being more authentic in my choices would benefit me?

Hopefully by answering these questions, you will get to know more about your beliefs about social values. These are not the easiest questions to answer at the first sight. It could take some time to process, and that is completely normal.

I want to point out that I wrote, “I think” in every question. It is important to distinguish thoughts from reality. Thoughts and beliefs are developing through complex interactions of personal history, experiences, and environmental circumstances. You might be thinking that people will grow apart from you if you say “No”, however in reality this belief might not hold. It might hold for some people, but that doesn’t mean the whole society will respond the same. Reality on the other hand, is what we can observe directly.

Transitioning from automatic acts to authentic acts could be a tough journey. Authenticity is more than merely trying to be ourselves: it requires us to know and own who we are. Since you will be trying something new, you might feel the anxiety rushing through your body as you try to set your boundaries with other people. Anxiety shows that you are trying something new, not something wrong, and novel situations such as being real to yourself bring new emotions which is something to be encouraged and cherished.

Stay true to yourself! Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony. ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Please feel free to contact me at if you have any questions or would like to seek professional support about this topic!

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