At a time when most people are faced with mounting personal and professional responsibilities, it can be quite trying to figure out how to manage everything and prioritize that which is important. This is an even more daunting process when one does not know what exactly is important, how to get it and perhaps most problematically, how to feel good about it. Even more challenging, is when one's most salient role models on how to be "a successful adult" have different priorities and very different rules of how to go about attaining them.
This is where the process of individuation comes in. Namely, learning how to recognize ones' own inner voice and differentiating that from the internalized opinions or values of others. While learning to recognize one's own voice is a crucial step to self-realization, the trickiest part, in my experience, is learning how to trust and be guided by this voice, so that it is heard above those of all others.
While this process is challenging for most people, individuation is particularly difficult for those folks who come from more collectivist cultures, where the opinions of the family, and particularly, of the elders are valued more than the opinions of the self. In this case, choosing one's own path in life, no matter what it is, can lead to feelings of betrayal and abandonment on both sides. Additionally, in collectivist cultures individuating from one's family of origin not only can be seen as a form of disrespect, but is often deemed to be quite unwise. In the words of Otto von Bismark "only a fool learns from his own mistakes, a wise man learns from the mistakes of others".
These powerful messages can be quite difficult to disavow, particularly for those who have been conditioned to please and value the wisdom of the collective, above their own. It is precisely this invalidation of the self that can lead to a grave and debilitating fear of making mistakes, no matter how valuable the lesson within. The process of individuation then, requires tremendous courage to not only recognize, trust and pave one's own path, but to make a few mistakes along the way, in hopes of finding that which is truly one's own.