She waits at the corner for the school bus, trying to look calm but shaking inside. Will the other girls like her outfit? Will they think she’s pretty enough to let her sit with them at lunch? Those middle school years are tough on girls (and boys, too). We survive them, but they often stay just below the surface as we become adults.

We tell ourselves again and again that our people can’t define our worth, and yet we find ourselves making choices and taking actions in the hopes of satisfying or impressing other people. Instead of the mean girls in middle school, it may be our co-workers, our friends, our parents … even our children.

It isn’t long before we find ourselves becoming exhausted meeting the expectations of other people — or even just what we think they expect of us. Or we obsess about things they say about us, giving their words power over how we live. We carry deep hurts people have inflicted upon us, but we continue to keep the pain and the reasons for it secret.

It is impossible to live an authentic life of wholeness if you’re either trying to live up to someone else’s expectations or letting their ideas or actions dictate who you are and what you do. True maturity comes when you accept who you are. Sure, it’s easy to say you’re going to stop living based on others’ expectations, but it’s difficult to shake off those chains that keep you from living your best life.

That’s where you may benefit from some help from a friendly professional like our counselors. They can help you recognize the person you really are and spot the ways you allow what others think (or even what you assume they think) to interfere with your happiness. Your counselor can also tell you more about our “Know Your Worth” workshop, which may give you more insight into who you really are, so you can move forward with fewer worries about what others may think.

You just need to take the first step, by connecting with the right counselor for you. It takes courage to do that, but I know you’re ready to stop letting other people’s thoughts define who you are and who you want to become.

Britt Smith is one of our therapists who works with teens and families and uses the enneagram to do so.

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