The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter
I’m a woman in my late teens. When I was a fourth grader in elementary school, I had to move because of my father’s job. I began to adjust my character to suit the people around me so that I wouldn’t be disliked.
Since then, I have really been bad at expressing myself among friends. I think this is because I haven’t been able to establish my own identity.
I became a university student this spring, and want to use this as an opportunity to change my life.
Playing the role of a friendly girl while suppressing my true nature has been stressful. For that reason, at home, I shout “Be quiet!” at my little brother when he plays piano, and “You’re too slow!” at my mother when she can’t make meals on time.
Neither this domineering behavior nor the gentle side I show at school reflect my true character. I don’t even know what my true personality is.
I only care about my physical appearance, and always wish I had a smaller face and bigger, more attractive eyes. I can’t accept who I am now.
W, Aichi Prefecture
Dear Ms. W
Let’s separate your problem into three parts. First, you want to be assertive. Second, you want to know your true nature. Third, you can’t accept yourself in your current state — someone who is too conscious about physical appearance. It that about right?
First of all, consider your true nature. Both of the traits you mentioned — changing your personality to suit others while playing the role of a good girl, and someone who snaps at their little brother and mother — are no doubt parts of your personality.
The part of you that plays the role of a good girl is simply one side of the person who wears a mask to hide their true nature. And when you use violent words, you are in the situation in which you are dominated by your emotions, lacking objectivity and a clear head.
Consider how to make yourself feel more comfortable while thinking about the manner in which people around you can accept you. Doing this will result in you establishing your own identity.
You will never feel comfortable pretending to be another person or yelling at people. Be aware of your true feelings and express them to others without becoming too emotional. Then carefully consider what you should do to satisfy yourself and those around you, and actually do it. This is the best way to be an assertive person.
As for your focus on physical appearance, don’t compare yourself to others. Instead, imagine the ideal image of yourself — aiming to achieve that ideal should pave the way to you accepting who you are.
Junko Umihara, psychiatrist