It is often difficult to act in accordance with what we really feel, isn’t it?
We tend to spend our days just trying to get by, and when we ask others how they’re doing, they just give us a small smile and a nod. We tend to ignore it and take those small actions as a sign that they’re doing alright.
But they’re not, right? Not at all. In fact, we can sense it. We know that there might be something going on with them, but we simply chose to ignore it. Why is that? Because we also know how it feels. Like them, we are also disconnected in some way.
Is it possible for us to be in touch with what we really feel? In this post, I explain the importance of congruence in our lives.
Congruence — a Self-actualization
According to Carl Rogers, congruence is when a person’s ideal self is consistent with their actual experience. This means that a person is congruent when their outside actions match what they feel on the inside. In other words, it’s when the behavior of a person matches with how they feel and think about the situation.
With congruence, there is a sense of harmony and agreement between self-image and ideal self. Rogers believed that being in the state of self-actualization will a person only achieve congruence.
Many of us have experienced congruence. I have met lots of people who are excited, eager, and somehow know what they want in life. They understand their wants and needs and act in accordance with what they truly feel.
These people take on the world with their self-understanding and belief. We also tend to trust congruent people more easily. As children, we love teachers who are congruent; as adults, we are attracted to a congruent man or woman. Naturally, a congruent person attracts people and connects with us.
However, there are times and situations when being congruent with our true self is not acceptable. I cannot really express my dismay, as an example, for a salty dish that my mother-in-law prepared for me as that would probably lead to consequences.
The Power of Desire and Belief
When it comes to alignment and congruence, our desire and belief must line up. We cannot desire something, then have the belief that it will come to us one day without acting on it. To be able to utilize congruence, we must act on it and actually believe that we can do it. We must understand our personal power, apply that understanding to our daily life, take action, and recognize its purpose.
How Incongruence Affects Our Lives
Incongruence, on the other hand, is the difference between a person’s actual self and their actual experience — similar to how most of us really feel. This occurs when our self-image is distorted from our experiences, and our outside actions don’t match our emotions. In order to cope, we tend to deny our real feelings and wear a mask instead.
This is an altered self that we use to face the world. The problem with this is that in this certain persona, we drift further away from being congruent with ourselves until we forget who we really are. This leads to depression, stress, and a constant feeling of being afraid because when we wear a mask, we take away our abilities to connect with people.
A person who is in a state of incongruence may feel a sense of isolation or a feeling of exhaustion. People who are experiencing mid-life crises are often those who get trapped in this scenario. Because of the pressure of life in terms of family, finances, and health, these people often lose track of the things that really matter most in life. They also tend to block out any connections they have with their loved ones, thus leading to losing themselves.
In times like this, what we need to do is disassociate ourselves from our lives, and look at ourselves from a different perspective. We need to assess if we are living a life that is aligned with our values and beliefs. Once we find harmony and balance in ourselves, then we can achieve congruence.
The key to finding congruence in ourselves is awareness and mindfulness. We need to accept our strengths and, much more, our weaknesses. We may think that being vulnerable and bearing ourselves to the world is a sign of frailty, but that isn’t the case. Opening ourselves up to the world is the path towards congruency.
I’ve learned that one way to open up one’s self is by spending time with animals. In Equine Therapy, horses are very perceptive animals that have no understanding of congruence and incongruence — yet they are able to sense it. They are rational animals that do not ignore their perceptions, so if they feel that a person is not being real with them, they tend to feel uncomfortable.
When they sense incongruence, they tend to snort and walk away from a person. Many people tend to be afraid of approaching animals because we are scared of what they think of us and their reaction towards us.
However, if a congruent person approaches them and bears their true emotions, the horses will also sense that. Even if the emotion is ugly, the horses will feel that those are real, and they will acknowledge it by coming over and huddling over. For a person to experience this is magical, and similar in real life, once we showed our real self to the world, people will also connect with us. And then we’ll achieve congruence.
The Difference Between Doing and Being
Because of modern influences, we focus on “doing” the things that give us short satisfaction like goals, achievements, and rewards. It gives us a sense of control, and there is nothing wrong with that. We are all just trying to get things done to survive.
However, when we simply do something, we try to deal with it, and if the outcome is not what we expect it to be, we tend to be negative towards ourselves. When we focus ourselves on “doing”, we tend to get so focused on the busyness and distractions that we forget who we really are. In “doing” something, we escape the need for validation for our feelings and emotions.
When we accept ourselves for who we are, our focus shifts to “being”. This naturally aligns with our congruence and brings freedom to our life. When there are no standards and goals, we focus on being our true selves without judgments, thus leading to a happier life.
Both “doing” and “being” are important in our life, and the key is to find their balance so that we will always be in line with ourselves.
Finding congruence and alignment is a life-changing experience, and I wish everyone well on their journey towards happiness.
For leaders wanting to explore more about self-actualization, my book The Smartest Person in the Room covers the 7 Step Secure Methodology that further covers alignment and congruence and how we can utilize it to become effective leaders of ourselves and others.
Other ways to achieve congruence could include therapy (both regular and equine), meditation, and introspection.