Nov. 30, 2021

Authenticity or Belonging?


Do you ever feel like you have to choose between being true to yourself (authenticity) and being accepted by others (belonging)? For many people, this internal conflict between our need for authenticity and our need for genuine attachment continue to tear our inner lives apart.

Many of us have learned to sacrifice our authenticity for the sake of keeping relationships, but over time we find ourselves deeply unhappy because we have inadvertently abandoned ourselves because of our fear of being abandoned by others.

In this episode I share about my life-long struggle with this tension and how it has changed since I began my interior journey.

Transcript and Chapter Markers at this episode page.

ANN CHATS | Authenticity or Belonging?

Exploratory Integrative Life Consultation with Ann

00:40  Introduction
04:35  Between Authenticity and Belonging
09:54  Dr Gabor Maté
15:05  Experiencing this dilemma as adults
22:22   A scared little child inside me
25:03  The source of my healing
30:17  PRAXIS Listen. Ponder. Act.
38:11  Exploratory Integrative Life Consultation
41:23  Conclusion

- As you listened to today's episode, what struck you? Does something resonate particularly strongly with you?

- When was the last time you felt you had to choose between authenticity and belonging? How did you resolve that tension? 
- How do you feel about the choice that you made? Were you at peace after that? Or did your choice make you feel empty and frustrated?

- If you often feel torn between authenticity and belonging, you will need inner-integration to help you to get out of that prison. (See transcript for more information)

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Do you ever feel like you have to choose between being authentic and belonging?

Welcome to Becoming Me, your podcast companion and coach in your journey to a more integrated and authentic self. I am your host, Ann Yeong, and I'm here to help you grow in self-discovery and wholeness. If you long to live a more authentic and integrated life and would like to hear honest insights about the rewards and challenges of this journey, then take a deep breath, relax, and listen on to Becoming Me.

Hello again, dear listeners! Today's episode is actually a recording of my latest "Ann Chat". Ann Chat is both the name of my YouTube channel, as well as a particular series of videos that I create about, you know, just kind of me talking about stuff that matters.

So, it's kind of like a little bit different – similar, but different from my episodes in Becoming Me. So, in my latest Ann Chat, I talk about the struggle between authenticity and belonging. Or you know, that struggle between just listening to myself and allowing myself to acknowledge what I really feel, what I really want.

And at the same, time dealing with expectations or what I perceive as expectations on me on certain choices to be made, or behaviour, in order for me to find belonging with people or the groups that matter to me. After listening to my own Ann Chat, I thought, you know, this topic actually fits perfectly with Becoming Me.

And so here you go. This is actually a rather last minute insertion into the podcast schedule. But I hope that it comes at a good time, as you enter into that part of the year, where usually we all have to deal with a lot of decisions about whether or not to participate in gatherings, meetings – certain, maybe social and cultural expectations on gift exchange, card-writing all of that stuff, right.

So, if you wish to watch this, rather than listen to it, you can head over to my YouTube channel. Again, just search for Ann Chats, or such for my name, Ann Yeong. But what will be here, which isn't on the YouTube channel, would be of course, our praxis prompts.

So, at the end of this episode, you will be able to also hear the usual invitations to ponder, so that you can bring what you've heard into deeper connection with your own life. And also, at the end of today's episode, I will be sharing with you one concrete way that I can help you, okay? If you've been listening to Becoming Me for a while, and you haven't quite figured out what's the next step you want to take, or you need to take in a more intentional manner into authenticity and integration.

I have a new service, I guess you could say. It's a one-off, no strings attached session that you can book with me – an exploratory, integrative life consultation session, which will give us about 90 minutes, right, for me to listen to you and to ask you questions – clarifying questions. So that by the end of that session, we can have some kind of a direction for you in terms of what might the best resources, or the best next step for you – specifically tailored to you – for you to take in your journey.

Whether or not that is further coaching with me, or maybe counselling or therapy or spiritual direction. Right, so, that's something that I'm going to be starting up in the new year. And if that's something that you think you are interested in, just remember to stay till the end of the episode, to hear what steps to take for that.

Okay. I hope you enjoy this Ann Chat.

Hi. So, in today's Ann Chat, I would like to talk about something that has been a central point of struggle in my own life. I think as early as – well in terms of my conscious memory – as early as maybe primary school and even more so in secondary school. And that is the tension or the dilemma of choosing between what I feel I need to do, and I ought to do in order to be accepted, to be approved of and how I actually really feel, and what I really want.

Now, the thing is actually, before I started again, this interior journey of healing and getting to know myself again – which was a journey that I started when I turned 30 – about 12 years ago.

I had actually lost touch with one side of that tension, which is how I actually really feel. I had by the time, learned to distrust my own emotions, distrust my gut – distrust anything that, at any time I kind of feel like I want something, instinctively, I think, there's a judgment on that. That, that's not to be trusted, that it's probably selfish and that the better thing or the right thing then to do, is somehow, always the opposite of what my heart or my gut is trying to tell me it wants.

Okay, and that is – it's just the way it was. And in my own journey, as well as in so many people that I speak to – that I accompany you know, including clients that I coach. In one form or another, this kind of tension and bias exists, right. This tension between a deep awareness and ability to be attentive to just what the body, the heart, the gut is actually saying about, you know, what is, and what I actually feel.

And the other side of the tension would be – perhaps some people will call it our super ego, right? Or the head-knowledge or judgment that immediately puts a value on. But these are the things that are right. These are the things that are good. And these are the things that I ought to be doing. And if these two things are in tention, there is a cost if I choose to be true to one versus the other – whichever one we lean towards, right.

Now, for a very, very long time, I never even doubted that there was anything suspect or problematic about what my mind, my intellect has grasped and understood as the higher good – being altruistic, being selfless, self-sacrificial.

Of doing the noble thing of sacrificing my own comfort, my own needs, to help another person in need. That was how I was raised though. These are the values that I invite both in my family, my culture – Asian kind of culture, where the collective good is always somehow put above the needs of the individual.

And it is also exalted and praiseworthy; this kind of self-sacrificial behaviour, right. It's also praised and rewarded in the religion of my faith, which is – I'm a Catholic, I'm Christian. Right, and there's always this emphasis on, of course, laying down one's life for the sake of another, right.

Now, I'm not saying that is wrong. But I am trying to – I guess I'm trying to kind of highlight that the way that we interpret something like that, what is virtuous – the way that we interpret it can be very damaging if we do not know how to hold these two opposites, which is the truth that my body, my heart, my gut is trying to speak to me about, right.

It's my internal compass. And on the other hand, what people like to call objective truth – in the sense of outside of me, right. Truth that comes purely from the outside of me. If we trust that always completely over the truth that is coming from within us, then we're going to end up always in conflict, in tention, and we will feel like we're forced to choose one over the other.

[00:09:59] DR. GABOR MATÉ
Now, in the last year, I've learned a new term from watching some videos and teachings by Dr. Gabor Maté. So, I think this year, his name has suddenly become a lot better known because of a incredibly moving movie called The Wisdom of Trauma.

So, Dr. Gabor Maté, he's a medical doctor who created or – I mean, started this way of therapeutic, psychotherapeutic inquiry called, compassionate inquiry. He is one voice among many. He's not the only voice who is trying to show the connection between – even just mental and physical illnesses, addictions with emotional health, okay? – Emotional health.

And Dr. Gabor Maté talks about the – that every human being, you know, from our earliest days, have two basic needs. And I know you'll relate to this. One need is the need for attachment, the need for relationship, to be loved, to belong, right? To be in relationship with the people who care for us.

That is a survival need. If we do not have that, we will not survive. We would quite literally die. And that's built into us not just emotionally, but biologically as well. The other – there's another need actually, just as important. And that's the need for authenticity, right. The need to feel what I feel, to be able to trust what I feel and to be able to express the truth that is coming from within me – the truth of what I feel, what I think.

And, ideally these two needs can be met in, you know, in our families, in one place where I can be true and honest and authentic – I can feel what I feel and I would not fear the risk of losing attachment, right – losing relationship that's important to me, if I am honest about feeling what I feel.

But unfortunately, I think in, you know, in every place, because we're all, I think, generation upon generation of hurt and brokenness. And, you know, different levels of inauthenticity and even unawareness that – and Dr. Gabor Maté talks about this as well – that even the best intention parents, right, I mean, we're not even talking about parents who are explicitly, overtly abusive – whether emotionally or physically – we're talking about parents who are generally trying their best and they want to be able to love their children well, will often, inadvertently, communicate to the children that in order for them to be fully received by the parent, to be loved well by the parent, they need to sometimes suppress their authenticity.

That sometimes them expressing exactly how they feel is not welcome, right. And that's because we all have issues with, even accepting our own difficult feelings, so it's even much harder for us to deal with another person's difficult emotions.

So, this difficulty in experiencing that we can be received fully, that we can be safe with someone that we love if we feel what we feel – from our youngest days, mean that we often choose attachment over authenticity, right?

So, a lot of us, we choose to prioritize belonging because we want to fit in – whether it is in our family or as we grew up with our friends, or as we get into adulthood, even with our colleagues, our communities, whether it's our religious communities or, you know – whatever, you know, whatever, whichever group, social group we prize, that we value.

We will always be aware that there probably is a certain kind of norm of behaviour, of action, of choice, that we need to do in order to be seen as good, worthy, praise-worthy, likable, respectable, you know, however you want to describe that. Because some of us may want to be honoured.

Some of us may just want to be loved and popular. Some of us may want to be respected. But all these are measures of, I'd say, of how we want to experience attachment. Basically, that feeling that I am received, right? I'm not rejected.

So, what happens when – even when we're adults, we are not able to give ourselves that acceptance.

So, now I'm talking about just within ourselves, right? There is a relationship that we have with ourselves, which I think a lot of us are not aware of because when we are young, if we do not know how to develop that relationship with ourselves, we're constantly only looking outside of ourselves for acceptance.

So, we never learn. We never learned how to give ourselves that acceptance that we really crave and need. And so, even when we are in our thirties, forties, fifties, perhaps even sixties, and who knows even older, our sense of identity still rests on – well, something that's outside of us, whether it's the family group, whether it's our community, whether it's our friends.

Now, I'm also talking about this now near the end of November. And the end of the year is often a time of great emotional stress for a lot of people, whether they are fully aware of it or not. And why is that? Because December is often traditionally a time for festivities, celebrations.

You know, a time when people write festive cards with, you know, maybe Christmas cards to friends, buy presents, plan meals, and get-togethers. What does that mean? That means that, you know, if you're hosting, you're probably thinking of people to invite – who's going to be on your guest list, right?

If even if you're hosting, let's say multiple gatherings, who is going to be on the guest list – who are you including and who are you not going to be including. You're going to have to, you know, exclude some people, right? If you're on the receiving end of invitations, which invitations are you going to be saying yes to?

Which invitations are you going to turn down? Do you realize that whichever side, I mean – whether you're the host or you're a guest, you're an invited guest – when you make these decisions, you're going to have to weigh-in between how you really feel. Do you really, really want to – in the first place, let's say, hold this gathering.

Maybe it's something that your family expects of you, or your friends expect of you. Maybe every year you do this, and it's become the social event of their calendar, you know, at the year end. And you feel the weight of that expectation. What if the truth is this year, you don't want to do this, right? If you feel what you feel, you just want a quiet restful December.

It's been such a stressful year in the pandemic. Maybe you just want to have a quiet one. Just for example, right. Or just with maybe, you know, a very different kind of time with maybe just one or two friends – even if you're technically allowed now, by social measures, to have a larger gathering.

Maybe you don't want to have a larger gathering. Are you going to choose between; are you going to feel like you have to choose, right – between how you feel and making your friends happy. Right, and I think we probably will feel that tension. And which are you going to go with? If you receive invitations, how would you decide if on one hand you're afraid that, oh, if I say no, my friends are going to think that I don't care about them –

– versus, you know, what I really want. What I really need is time to figure out what's important to me, you know, now that the year is over, and I need to look ahead. I don't want to have a noisy December. I don't want to have a crowded social calendar. And maybe I just want to attend one or two gatherings. And then with my family, and that's it.

Which way will you go? So, even in that, there is that tension between your need for attachment, right – your need to feel belonging for your friends, you know, for other people to think well of you. to connect with you – and honouring what is the truth of what you feel. Now, the thing is of course, if you really think about it, the people who really do love you for you – and I really hope that there are such people in your life, right – may not be many.

We're very, very fortunate even if we have just one or two such people in our life who love us, not for what we can do for them, but love us for us. Who actually genuinely want what's best for us. They're not going to be the ones that are going to be disappointed or mad if you don't accept their invitation, or if you decide you're not going to host a gathering. They are the ones that are going to say, okay, yes, maybe a part of me – I miss you.

And I wished that I could spend this time with you. I miss our gatherings, but your wellbeing and your happiness – that's more important, you know? And as long as you're well, and you're happy, I'm sure that in time, we will have opportunity to meet again and to hang out together again.

And that's about gatherings. I know for many years in the past, I would feel stressed about the number of cards, Christmas cards I would need to write. And you hear me say that – need to write, right? It's almost like I have this expectation that, in order to maintain certain friendships and relationships, especially for those who actually do send me cards – I'm not a very gift and card kind of person, okay.

So, sometimes I just feel a sense of obligation to reciprocate, right? People send me a card and if I don't send them one in return the next year, you know, maybe they're going to think that I don't care and maybe they're going to stop sending me cards in the future. And what would that mean? Or maybe that would mean that I'm not important to them.

Or that, you know, they don't care about me anymore. Notice the level of assumptions, right? In the first place, the assumption that just because someone sends me a card, necessarily means that I'm really important to them. I mean, that may be the case, but that may not always be the case.

There's some people who are just really wonderful with sending cards to – you know, to friends and it doesn't necessarily mean that it's that big a deal that, you know, in the way that I read into it, right – even though I may be very happy when I receive a card. Who wouldn't be, right? So, all the layers of reading into something as simple as giving and receiving cards, shows my insecurity.

There is something that has remained very young in me. There's a scared little girl still in this, you know, 40-something year-old body – that my friends are going to abandon me. That I might do something wrong or say something wrong, and I'll be alone, and I'll be lonely. You know, even as I say this now, I'm getting a little teary because that feeling is – is so familiar.

And even though I have become a lot more secure because of a lot of the healing work that I've done and continue to do, it's never far away. It's never far away. Sometimes it's so silly.

It could just be, let's say, you know, someone delays in responding to a message or after I do a session and you know, I don't get any kind of feedback in response as to whether it was experienced as good or not. And the insecurity kicks in. And I'm afraid that I did something wrong or said something wrong. Maybe I pushed too hard or made somebody uncomfortable, you know?

And then sometimes, I'm not able to accept that, that is how I feel – that I feel insecure. So, authenticity, feeling how I feel, honouring that this is what my gut is saying to me. And then, learning to tend to myself, giving myself the time that I need, the space that I need, to just be seen and be heard, just by myself, right.

Versus constantly chasing someone else's favour, someone else's approval. I don't know about you, but I don't want to live a life that's constantly imprisoned by the expectations, and the wants and opinions of other people. No matter how important someone else is, I want to, at the same time, be able to give room to honour and feel what I feel. I don't want to have to continually subjugate the truth of my emotions, of my convictions to the need for me to be accepted by someone else.

Now, in my own personal journey, the centrepiece of healing – that place, there's one place. There's one place in which my attachment need, and my authenticity, they co-exist – and that is God. For me, that is that one place that I have discovered sometimes, been shocked, at how God is not afraid, not scandalized and not intimidated of the magnitude or, you know, whatever it is.

I can feel what I feel, and I can express exactly how I feel with Him. For so long, I had grown up afraid thinking that I have to censor, even in prayer. I have a censor what I have to say because I projected onto God, you know, the human tendency to give conditional approval. But in Him – in Him, in God's love, I've experienced that healing because I realized that I can express exactly what I feel, and He can see me and hear me.

And not only does He threaten to withdraw attachment from me, He pours out even more loves and says, try
Me. I love you more than that. My love can encompass everything and anything you can throw at me, it can encompass and embrace everything that you feel. And it is from that place of integration, where my attachment need and my authenticity need can come together.

That I rebuilt myself, you know, my confidence, my security, because I know that, you know, at the core of me, in the deepest part of my identity, I am accepted when I am true to myself. In fact, I have a growing conviction, not just of the mind, but experienced in my body that God delights in my authenticity. And yes, that authenticity, the expression of the authenticity can still mature and grow.

And I'm going to stumble along the way as I learn what that means to be true to myself and also to be loving, right – how to live in that tension of an imperfect world. But I will no longer abandon myself just because I'm afraid that others will abandon me.

And so, I'm just this little, you know, doing this little sharing because I think some of you maybe need to hear this. I know a lot of you will actually identify with this because it's such a universal tension within us. And if you find yourself struggling at this end of year especially, between choosing what you need –

– listening to your own emotions and being able to express what you feel and wanting to fit in and belong. I just want to remind you that your acceptance and your love and unconditional love for yourself is much more important than anyone else's approval.

And if you can't offer that to yourself – you know, I think we all learning to do that still – try working on that, rather than trying to chase the approval of others in order to feed that attachment need within yourself, because it's possible. You know, and if you are a person of faith, I really invite you to just sit before God and let him love you in – you know, in the truest form of you. Experience that.

And then, you will find that from there, you also have that ability to look at yourself and to receive yourself. Then you can be more authentic even when you are with others. And you will see who your true friends are, the ones who really do love you for you. And really why do we want to spend so much time with people who only love us or want us for what we can do for them anyway, right?

So, I wish you a presence-filled end of year. And one where your authenticity and your capacity and need for love and attachment can find some way to meet – if not perfectly, at least a little bit more, with a little bit more integration than before. So, thank you for listening to this Ann Chat. Until the next time.

Okay. So, here are the praxis prompts for today's episode. One: Listen – as you listened to this episode about authenticity and belonging, what resonated with you? Was there anything that struck you? Were there parts that kind of like made you feel like it connected you to a certain point in your life, or an experience that you've always had, but couldn't quite name? Pay attention to what that was.

Two: Ponder – when was the last time you felt you had to choose between authenticity and belonging? How did you resolve that tension? How do you feel about the choice that you made? Were you at peace after that? Were you happy? Did you feel empowered? Or did your choice make you feel empty and unseen and frustrated and sad?

Three: Act – if you often feel torn between authenticity and belonging, if you still often fear that being yourself will alienate people, and you find that you tend to choose what will make other people happy, over your own wellbeing. Well, then my friend, you will need inner-integration to help you to get out of that prison.

[00:31:57] AN INVITATION
Okay. I mean, in a larger sense, this is what the whole podcast is about – coming out of that prison. And learning to move towards interior freedom and to a life that is more full of meaning, aligned to who you are. Right, so, if you don't move out of that prison, if you continue to let yourself be caught in this endless, you know, ding-donging between struggling with what you actually really feel, and then making choices that go against that authentic voice in you, in order to avoid conflict or to please other people, a number of things tend to happen over time.

One, you develop unhealthy addictive and or compulsive behaviours to soothe that ache inside you. Okay, whether it is substance; alcohol, drugs, or even food – chocolate, junk food or whatever it is. Or, you know, compulsive and addictive bingeing of videos – that's definitely one of mine. You know, a number of different kind of, compulsive behaviours.

Okay. And you know, in the long-term, this does not help you. In the long run, this actually takes life away from you. Apart from that, you will find that your body also starts breaking down from the chronic emotional stress that you put it through. Whether it is burning out and having things like acid reflux – you know, I developed chronic acid reflux and then became a lot more sensitive to just gastric flu over and over again.

And that was just the beginning. I managed to kind of, arrest it and start taking action before it got worse. But your body will find ways to tell you that this is not how you're meant to live, right. Your body will say "No" for you when you fail to say "No" – when there is a "No" that needs to be said.

And also, you'll find that your mental health takes a dive over time, right? You experience anxiety, depression. Some of you listening to this may already be on antidepressants. You may be already seeing a psychiatrist, a counsellor. But you know, it's not just treating the symptoms of anxiety and depression – that doesn't go to the root.

The root of all this is, we all need a life of meaning that is aligned to the truth of who we are. Learning to live responsibly, but with freedom, right. Not a responsibility that just comes purely from an external imposed obligation or sense of duty, or a sense of right and wrong.

So, I invite you, right – to consider how, if you haven't already – how you can take a more intentional, deliberate step towards interior freedom. If you desire a more authentic and an integrated life, and if you want to move towards wholeness, then commit to your interior wellness. In this past year, I have seen some individuals move incredible distances towards interior freedom and authenticity, over a period of like, six to nine months.

I've been so privileged to, you know, to see, to catch a glimpse of these journeys that have been made. And these are people who have made this inner work their priority, okay. They cleared themselves of heavy commitments. They made space and time for themselves. And invested in the right professional help to make progress.

Right, and it wasn't an overnight thing. It took them months and months, and it's still happening. They're still on their journey, but because of the commitment they made – and that real commitment, like I said, of making space in their calendar, you know, saving up, you know, prioritizing this inner work, you know, seeing a therapist, if that's what was needed, you know, finding a new spiritual director that was the right one for the season that they are in, finding a coach or, you know, any combination of that.

Not necessarily all at once, but you know, at the right time and the right pace. And, literally, I just had a conversation – I just had a session, a coaching session with one of these people, not too long ago. I saw her once at the beginning, near the beginning of the year. And we did like, you know, one session and I told her that what I sensed was she needed first, right –

– the next step for her was not so much working with me but, you know, finding a good spiritual director and also perhaps looking at some therapy to work on, you know, the human foundation that has been wounded, and she did that. And then, I didn't get to see her or talk to her, you know, even on Zoom, until about nine months later.

And she was like an entirely different person, right? She did what she needed to do and now she is ready to come work with me, you know, to look at the piece of you know, discerning what is that specific call, perhaps that she has in her life, right. Because now, now we've lifted off.

She has kind of like lifted off a lot of that burden that would colour how she sees herself, you know – that kept her from freely noticing and discerning, you know, what is hers and what isn't. So, now she is in a much better place and we're going to be moving forward in that. And she's not the only one – there've been a couple of them, but she's the most recent one I've spoken to.

And I just can't get the image out of my mind of that – the radiating glow on her face, you know, so different, so different from the first time I spoke with her.

So, I mentioned at the beginning of this episode that I will also share that piece of this puzzle that I can provide for you. So, one of the things that I do for people is to help you listen to where you what your life is saying and to figure out at this point, right, in terms of making headway into this – into your journey of authenticity and integrity and wholeness.

Where are you on this journey at this point? And what is the resource or the kind of help that fits where you are right now? Because this answer changes, it's dynamic. It's not static, okay? There is no one size fit all. And there are many different parts to this journey of, you know, into authenticity and wholeness.

So, I know that for a lot of people, it can feel very daunting. You don't quite know where to start, or maybe you may have already started, and things aren't quite working out the way that you thought it would. And maybe an external, you know, an external objective, voice or, you know, set of eyes can help you get some clarity.

Now, if you've been listening to this podcast, and you feel that what I say resonate with you. If you feel that I'm somebody that you trust to be that pair of eyes – well, from next year, I am offering a service, okay – so, this is a paid service. But it's basically a one-off session, 90-minute session, an exploratory integrative life consultation session.

All right. So, you can take this on, even if you don't really intend on, you know, to – you're not very sure whether you do you want to work with me beyond that one session. But you think that I could be someone that could help you figure out what the next step might be, and maybe connect you with some resources or some people that could help you where you are right now.

All right, then you're welcome to book this session. It will be on my website. I will put a link in the show notes for today's episode. It's a pre-paid session, you purchase of that session for that 90 minutes. And there will be some preparatory work for you to do to maybe reflect on, to prepare for that session.

And then during the session, basically, I'll be listening to your sharing based on the preparatory questions that I've given you. I'll be asking you questions to, you know, to gain clarity and we'll be working towards finding what is that best next step that's tailored for you at this point in your journey, okay.

And whether or not, after that, you wish to continue working with me and sign on with one of my coaching packages, or not ever, you know, talk to me again – that's fine. So, it's a one-off session, which I sincerely believe that can help you kickstart your interior journey.

[00:41:23] CONCLUSION
Thank you for listening to Becoming Me, where new episodes drop every first and third Wednesdays of the month. Remember, the most important thing about making this journey is to keep taking steps in the right direction. No matter how small those steps might be, and no matter where you might be in your life right now, it is always possible to begin. 

The world would be a poorer place without you becoming more fully alive. Don't forget to visit my website at and to subscribe to my newsletter as well as to this podcast. Until the next episode, Happy becoming!