Every day we are bombarded with pressures to be someone that we’re not.
Advertising and people with something to sell regularly poke our insecurities to get us to open our wallets.
Friends and family can be just as bad. Far too often, they are looking for us to meet the image of who we are in their head, rather than the person we actually are.
Authenticity is not as valued as it should be unless it’s part of a sales pitch for a business consultant giving a keynote speech or trying to sell their latest book.
And work is just as bad. You can’t be yourself at most places of employment. You must be someone else to do your job effectively. Screaming back at the customers is highly frowned upon and will most certainly earn you a disciplinary action, or “coaching for improvement.”
How do you stay true to yourself while wading through all of this?
1. Know who you are and what you stand for.
How can you be true to yourself if you don’t know who you are? What you stand for?
A particular part of your brain knows when you are in tune with something right for you. It may give you a feeling of comfort or familiarity, as in, “This feels right for me.”
It could also be the opposite. You may also feel as though this is drastically wrong, that it’s not good or right for you, and that discomfort may compel you to want to change it.
You can more easily identify what is important to you by what evokes your strongest emotions, then look for the reasons behind those emotions.
A person may feel incredibly passionate about childhood hunger because they went hungry as a child. Or maybe they just refuse to accept the injustice of a child going hungry because it’s something beyond their control.
The clearer you understand the “why” of your emotions, the easier it is to get to the truth of who you are and who you want to be.
2. Act with honesty and integrity.
People aren’t always that good. Sometimes we are selfish, shortsighted, vengeful, or wrestling with any other problems that come with the human condition.
We may be looking for shortcuts to get ahead, skip doing the hard work, and find our way to the top of the ladder while sacrificing as little as possible. And that is possible to do, but it doesn’t feel good at all when you’re trying to find peace and happiness with yourself.
Acting with honesty and integrity is difficult in a world that so often punishes it. Many people don’t want to hear, see, or feel the effects of truth, especially when their wrong-doing comes to light.
The good news is that you can avoid that concern altogether by acting on what you believe to be right, with honesty and integrity.
Honesty is acting in alignment with what you know to be true, which aligns with the desire to be true to oneself.
Respect your moral compass, even when it seems impossible to do. In fact, that’s the time when it’s most important.
Sometimes – often, even – you will have to say no to people in order to stay true to yourself. As difficult as this may be, it’ll feel much better than going along with something that doesn’t sit well with you.
3. Care less about what other people think of you.
It’s natural to want to be liked by others, but being the type of person who is liked by everyone is rarely compatible with being true to yourself.
This partly comes down to acting with the honesty and integrity mentioned above because this often goes hand in hand with being assertive and not bending to the will of others. Many people don’t like it when their views or wishes are challenged.
Then there is the fact that, by being real to who you are, you may find you have fewer things in common with people you call friends. This realization can be disheartening, but it shouldn’t stop you from pursuing your personal truth.
As your actions begin to align with your true self, you’ll see that some of the relationships you have in life will not survive, and that is okay.
You can’t be liked by everyone, but you will be liked by some people, and that is enough.
4. Allow yourself to be vulnerable.
To be vulnerable is to accept all of the facets of yourself. There are some things you won’t like about yourself that may cause you pain or discomfort. That’s okay. That’s part of being human.
The people who act like this isn’t the case haven’t yet experienced something severe enough to change their perception. But they will, sooner or later.
Vulnerability has some interesting effects. First, it scares off people that aren’t necessarily emotionally intelligent or invested. They see those problems and don’t want to deal with them, so they scurry off elsewhere.
That is a great thing. There are few things worse for your life and sense of self than being surrounded by fair-weather people that don’t actually care about you.
The second significant benefit that vulnerability provides is connection. It allows other people who feel a similar way to see that you understand their pain or challenges, which gives you an opportunity for connection and the discovery of truth.
5. Choose your attitude when facing adversity.
Drawing closer to who you are and what you want out of life is a difficult challenge. It will likely require attempting and failing as you sort through what does and doesn’t work for you.
That can be incredibly depressing and far more difficult if you are defeatist about failing. You will have a challenging time learning and acting as you truly are unless you can carry a good attitude about not succeeding.
It’s about perspective. Virtually no one succeeds on their first try of anything. It takes practice, making mistakes, even more practice, even more mistakes! The key is to not look at failing as an end but as a single step on your much longer self-discovery journey.
If you have mental health issues, this will be hard. Depression and self-esteem issues love to paint any setbacks as earth-shattering negatives and prove that we are failures or worthless. These thoughts are lies created by mental illness, abuse, or traumatic circumstances.
The plan didn’t work out? Okay. Let’s find a new plan. How do you keep moving forward toward that goal?
6. Discard materialism as a means of fulfillment.
The trappings of materialism won’t help you connect with and live in tune with your true self.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t want anything or not like having some stuff. That’s totally fine.
Materialism gets into problematic territory when you’re looking for things to best represent who you are so that you can prove to the rest of the world that you are a particular thing.
What good is having a fancy car to impress other people when you have to bury yourself in debt to get it?
What use are designer clothes, shoes, and handbags, whose primary value is derived from the brand name?
And furthermore, the salaries required to purchase these things often demand at least 50-hour workweeks. Sometimes much more if you are struggling to get the golden handcuffs off.
How much of your time, of yourself, do you want to sacrifice for these things?
Again, it’s not about living a totally austere lifestyle. Buy stuff if you want it and can afford it. Just don’t buy stuff to try to represent yourself to other people. That will put you on a treadmill of consumerism that never ends and will take you much farther away from yourself than you care to be.
7. Allow yourself the freedom to grow and develop.
There’s a problem with being in touch with your true self. A big problem, actually. It assumes that our true selves are someone worth being in touch with.
But humanity is ugly and messy at times. People are greedy, jealous, angry, and all other things that are not productive for living a quality, happy, peaceful life.
Your true self may not be the paragon of virtue that you hope it to be, and that’s okay! It just means you’re human and have some work to do.
You are not condemned to being the person that you are. You can learn, grow, do new things, evolve your authentic self into someone better than you were yesterday.
If you don’t like your true self – change. You have the power and ability to sculpt yourself in whatever image you want. It will just take time and effort to get there.
Don’t limit yourself to who you think you are. After some digging, you may find that you are much greater than expected.
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- How To Be Yourself: 5 Tips For Being Real, Authentic, And Not Fake
- If You Don’t Know Who You Are, Read This
- How To Trust Yourself: 20 No Bullsh*t Tips!
- 6 Self-Awareness Activities That Really Make A Difference