At some point in your life, you’ve probably been told to be yourself. It’s one of those things that seems easy enough to do but isn’t always so simple in practice.
So what does it actually mean to be yourself? And more importantly, why is it important?
According to experts, the following are reasons why being yourself is important.
So we don’t miss out on being loved for our imperfect selves
Although it’s hard to argue with these quotes, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind” and “Be yourself, everyone else is taken” (attributed to Bernard M. Baruch and Oscar Wilde respectively), many of our clients are terrified of being themselves.
Worse, they don’t even know who they really are.
Why are people not totally themselves?
People fear that there’s something defective and unlovable about themselves, so they try to match their outward appearance and reactions to what they think is acceptable.
A client of mine who’s learning to share anger just started dating a woman who won’t cry in front of him. Both are always putting their best foot forward and hiding their true feelings.
Each fears that expressing authenticity—in one case anger and the other vulnerability—is the way to avoid rejection or abandonment.
How do people learn not to be themselves?
We learn to be who we are, or in the case of the above couple, to not be who we are in our first relationships.
I was once in a department store dressing room, and a toddler in the next stall was angrily telling his mother he wanted to go home. Bracing for a scolding from her, I was delighted to hear her say, “I know you’re angry at Mommy for taking such a long time. I don’t blame you. It’s okay. We’re going home soon.”
My hunch is that this little boy grew up with his authentic feelings intact, whatever they turned out to be.
When parents scold or shame us for expressing true feelings, we learn to hide them.
When they insist we don’t feel a certain way—sad, mad, disappointed, unappreciative—we think we’re being bad and convince ourselves there’s something wrong with us if we do.
When they regularly tell us what we should or must feel happy/grateful/fine, we push ourselves to be that way to get their approval or avoid their disapproval, and we don’t get to enjoy or express a full range of emotions.
We hold onto what we’re told is okay, and other emotions become taboo. This persona is what British psychoanalyst Donald Winnicut called the false self.
Another way we learn to hold back parts of ourselves is if this dynamic is modeled at home. Whenever I hear a client say, “Oh, my parents never fought,” I wonder how any child of theirs could learn how to disagree or stand up for themselves.
If stereotypically, Mom was always bright and cheery even when she had reason not to be, and Dad wore himself out being the go-to guy who never needed anything from anyone, we learn wrongly that this is how men and women—and couples—should be.
What happens when we’re inauthentic in adulthood?
For one thing, we miss out on intimacy, which only comes from two authentic selves connecting with each other.
As the saying goes, “we bond in the trenches,” which means people form true, loving attachments when they let down their guards and share their deepest feelings.
For another, when we’re afraid to be ourselves, we lose out on bonding with others who are similarly flawed, but we never know it and feel alone.
We miss out on being cared for if we’re always strong, comforted if we’re always fine, and being able to comfortably rely on others when we don’t seek or accept help.
Moreover, we miss out on being loved for our imperfect selves, which lifts our shame, reduces perfectionism, and raises our self-confidence.
People who have difficulty being themselves around others are often anxious about being hurt and suffer from what therapists call being well-defended: they may not get hurt, but they also don’t experience the joys of loving attachments.
How can people learn to be themselves?
The only way they can become authentic is to understand why they haven’t been able to be and to let their true natures and feelings surface slowly.
One of my clients did this by telling her family she was bisexual. Another client told her father that she did not want to be a dentist. A third stood up to her mother’s complaints about her housekeeping.
There are endless ways to say what you mean and mean what you say.
It’s crucial to remember that not everyone will like us when we reveal our true feelings.
In fact, as I tell my clients if parents, spouses, lovers, colleagues, kids, and friends start to get more upset at you, you’re probably on the right track to expressing yourself more honestly.
Alternately, healthy people will be delighted that you’re being more real and love and value you more for exactly the things you’ve been afraid to be.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist | Founder, The Wild Grace Collective
They’re going to judge you — so be you
We’re so worried about just being our truest expression of our selves out of fear that others will judge us. Well, rest assured — they will.
No matter how you act, who you are, what your life circumstances are, or what you’re wearing …. you will be judged.
So, why not let them see the authentic you so that their judgments (which are only a reflection of who they are and the lens through which they see the world, not just you) can, at the very least, be in response to authenticity?
Instead of letting the fear of judgment stop you from being you, I invite you to accept the idea of being judged as a part of being a human being and interacting with other human beings.
And then check how you judge others … maybe there’s space to soften a bit.
You’re already one of the cool kids
Look, we all want to fit in somewhere. Belong in a community where we feel accepted, loved, celebrated, seen, and totally one of the cool kids.
So what if I told you that you, my dear, yes you reading this right now, totally are already one of the cool kids? If you’re rolling your eyes or thinking through all the proof that there’s no way you’re cool in any group… consider this.
What if you’ve been showing up, not really being who you are — not letting the world see you and all the things that make you glorious and cool AF?
- How you geek out on your exotic tea collection when you’re alone.
- How you and your buddies laugh way too hard at Rick and Morty… still. How you light up when you walk into the office supplies section at Target.
- How you get chills and tear up when certain songs come on the radio.
- How, no matter what, you refuse to watch Game of Thrones, get on TikTok, or wear those hideous high-waisted jeans. (barf)
All the things that make you, you, my dear, are the exact things that a group of people out there are searching for in their community.
So go on — fly your flag of authenticity so your people can find you and finally enjoy (your birthright of) sitting at the cool kids’ table — your table.
Being someone else is exhausting
The older I get, the more I realize how precious my energy is. Most people worry about wasting time, but I worry about wasting energy.
It’s true we never know how much time we have on this planet, but what we do know is that we get to choose how we spend it.
We get to choose where to put our energy. What relationships to put energy into. What careers to put energy into. What hobbies, social justice organizations, environmental issues, political events, social events … you name it.
For the most part, we get to choose where to put our energy. So why not put it into things that light us up? That energizes us? That inspires us? That fills us with love? That motivates us?
Putting our energy into things that aren’t truly life-giving, and we’re just doing it to appear a certain way, will drain all your precious energy. Being someone other than who you truly are, is exhausting.
And with an uncertain amount of time on this planet, don’t you want to experience it fully alert, enlivened, and fully you?
Registered Social Worker and Psychotherapist
When you’re not yourself, you’re sending a message that you’re unlovable
When you are not yourself, you are sending a message. You are saying who you are and what you have to offer are not enough or unlovable. This is different from wanting the people we have relationships with to be happy and adjusting behavior to be a better partner, friend, or co-worker.
Wanting to please others is natural and normal; it’s when you are pretending to be different solely for their approval that it becomes an issue.
When we are not ourselves, there is likely an underlying belief that who you are is not enough, not loveable, unworthy of connection or success; otherwise, why pretend?
Pretending is enacted for protection when you want to shield yourself from the inevitable rejection that you expect yourself to experience when putting yourself out there. The pain of rejection may feel earth-shattering for you.
On the other hand, someone else may feel the sting of rejection and feeling of disappointment or sadness but know that not everyone is going to like or love you, and that would literally be impossible.
Acting as someone else is understandably appealing in another way. It allows you to avoid it.
You get to go over it, under it, or around it and not have to go through it. You avoid anything that will bring you unsteadiness and trigger further feelings of unworthiness.
It’s like when someone is more comfortable in the chaos because it is what they know, even though they know it is not good for them. The alternative of change is scary and feels unsafe. Burying your head in the sand will not get you what you want in the long term, though.
Here is what you can have when you show up in the world as yourself:
You feel at greater ease when you are being yourself
Not being yourself is mentally and emotionally exhausting. It is tiresome to constantly have to adapt to the person or situation in order to find just the right formula for being liked or accepted.
Imagine the lightness of walking in a room like you? This is what I think, believe, and value and my actions match. No adjustments. Take it or leave it.
You also get to enjoy your leisure time. You do the activities that you actually like. To be clear, you can do activities because a spouse or friend enjoys them, and you want to support or spend time with them.
This is different from pretending you love this activity and buying all new snowboarding gear hoping this will gain their love or approval.
When you are yourself, you decipher what is enjoyable versus what is what I am supposed to enjoy. Being yourself means enjoying your life with people you actually like.
Your relationships should not solely be based on whether they accept or like you. Think about whether you like them also. Think about how at ease you feel in their presence.
Your self-esteem and worth aren’t solely attached to external things
When you know who you are and are true to that in all spaces, the hard stuff life inevitably throws at you hits differently. It is the equivalent of living in a straw house vs. a brick house.
Your self-esteem and worth are not solely attached to external things like your job, relationships, or money. This is because to be yourself, you have to have to accept yourself and if I dare say: like yourself.
It makes you appear more attractive
This isn’t about looks. It is about how you can sniff out someone who is inauthentic. If you feel someone is sucking up to you, pretending to like something they don’t, or hiding their true feelings, but their face is still showing it, it is repelling.
When someone is 100% their unique self, you want to know more, to be their friend, to hire them, or to take them on a date.
Further, the connections you make with others when being yourself are deeper and more intimate.
You can start taking little steps towards being yourself. Try:
- Speaking up more. For example, let the barista know your coffee order was wrong.
- Expressing yourself emotionally. For example, “I am feeling uncomfortable right now.”
- Expressing yourself visually. For example, wearing the weird shirt, you like.
- Delaying decision-making. For example, saying, “I’m going to think about that and get back to you,” rather than immediately saying yes.
- Figuring out what you like. For example, try a drop-in yoga class.
- Countering negative self-talk. For example, for all the times you notice something you did wrong, practice identifying something you do well.
Remember: Some people hate pickles. Others love them and cannot fathom how you can reject this mouth-watering snack. It is a preference, and so are you.
Dr. Harold Hong
Board-Certified Psychiatrist, New Waters Recovery
Pretending to be someone else can damage your mental and emotional health
The authenticity of your character is an essential quality that will define how successful you are in life. It is easy to put on a persona that you think other people want to see.
You may think that this will make you more likable or help you get ahead somehow. However, this false persona will become tiresome and difficult to maintain over time. And you risk confusing yourself about who you really are.
Being you means being honest about your thoughts, feelings, and desires, even if that means being different from other people. Pretending to be someone you’re not can damage your mental and emotional health in several ways.
It can cause you to doubt your worthiness and value
If you’re constantly putting on a persona that you think other people will find more appealing, it’s easy to lose sight of your unique qualities. This can lead to feelings of insecurity and low self-esteem, affecting your personal and professional life.
It can be exhausting
Maintaining a persona requires a lot of energy and effort.
For instance, you might have to suppress your true feelings in order to keep up the pretense. This can lead to frustration and even anxiety or depression, finding yourself feeling angry, resentful, and disconnected from the people around you.
When you’re not being authentic, you’re not really living
You’re missing out on opportunities to grow and connect with others.
When you’re not being authentic, people cannot truly know and understand you, making it difficult to find those who accept and love you for who you are.
You may also find that your relationships are superficial and unfulfilling. For example, you might find yourself in a relationship with someone who only likes the persona you’ve created, not the real you.
And once they discover the truth, they may feel betrayed and end the relationship.
What are some ways you can start being your authentic self?
- Pay attention to your thoughts and feelings
What do you think and feel about the people and things around you? When you’re honest with yourself, it will be easier, to be honest with others.
- Express your thoughts and feelings openly
This doesn’t mean you must share everything about yourself with everyone you meet. But it does mean being genuine in your interactions and sharing as much of yourself as you feel comfortable doing.
If you only behave in ways you think are acceptable, you rob yourself of self-expression.
- Start making choices that reflect your true values and preferences
No one will live your life for you, so you might as well make choices that will make you happy. If you’re unsure what your values are, think about the things that are important to you and that make you feel good.
When you start making choices that reflect your authentic self, you’ll find your life more fulfilling and satisfying.
Rachel Davidson, MA, LPC-A
Licensed Professional Counselor Associate, Malaty Therapy
To live the truth according to our own values
Why live authentically
Being yourself means living authentically. When we live authentically, we live our truth according to our own values.
So often, we make decisions based on what is considered normal in society or what others want from us. We get into the habit of making others happy rather than listening to what we want and need.
Over time, it can become difficult to differentiate our own values from others, and we can start to neglect ourselves in favor of others.
It might seem easy to go with the flow, but over time this can wear us down, resulting in anxiety, depression, and mental fatigue.
Values and Authenticity
When we’ve spent so much time putting the needs of others before our own, it can be hard to determine what is most important to us.
A good starting point is to make a list of the things that bring us joy. These can be things like family, friends, productivity, nature, spirituality, and education. We can then clarify our values by ranking them in order of importance.
As we do this, it can be helpful to check in with ourselves to ask whether we are choosing what is important based on what we feel in our heart rather than what we think would be viewed favorably by others.
Once we have a list of our most important values, the next step is to determine whether the life we are living is consistent with what we care about most.
For example, after doing the values clarification, you may recognize that honesty is a top value of yours. If the way you are living involves lying or cheating, your lifestyle is at odds with one of your significant values. In this way, you are living inauthentically.
These inconsistencies between the way we want to live and the way we are actually living can lead us to feel uneasy, anxious, and unhappy with our lives.
How to start living according to your values
Beginning to live according to our values can be a challenging task when it’s not what we’re used to. Start by making small changes to habits and actions in ways that contribute to closing the gap between your lived and aspirational values.
When we live according to our values, we are able to truly be ourselves. We can then be proud of our actions and know we are doing our best to care for our mental health and well-being.
When we live our truth, we are able to show up most effectively for ourselves and for those we care for.
Being yourself is important for a few different reasons. Living inauthentically can lead to mental and emotional suffering.
To not experience Cognitive Dissonance
Cognitive dissonance is the discomfort that happens when our attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors are in conflict. When we lie, hide parts of ourselves, or act differently than our true values or beliefs, it actually hurts us.
Cognitive dissonance also usually leads to a change in our behaviors or beliefs so that we can resolve that discomfort.
So, if you are not being yourself to fit in, your behaviors or beliefs might change in ways you never intended. You may become a version of yourself that you don’t want to be.
To avoid being in a constant state of anxiety
Anxiety is the feeling we experience when we anticipate a threat is coming. If we are not being ourselves, that means we are likely in a constant state of anxiety because we live in fear of being “found out.”
This would make it hard to relax, unwind, and recharge. This could also lead to avoiding things we do care about because we feel like imposters.
Being yourself allows you to be honest about your emotions
Our emotions are messages we are intended to hear. Sometimes they can be based on misinterpretations, but it doesn’t benefit us to ignore them, even if they are. Repressing our emotions doesn’t make them go away. Instead, it usually leads to those feelings rebounding or creeping up in other areas.
Being yourself allows you to be honest about your emotions, which in turn helps you better cope with them.
Emotional vulnerability is also the way we make deeper connections. If you hide who you are and how you feel, you will probably feel lonelier. Being authentic about who you are is how you find the people who you really belong with.
That sense of belonging is essential to our well-being.
Andrea Gharritt, MPH, RDN, LDN, CLC, CIEC
Certified Life Coach, Registered & Licensed Dietitian and Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor | Founder, The Bold Life Design
It is the most important thing you can do for your health
At the core of all humans is the deep need for security, dignity, and belonging.
So many people, in order to try to get these needs met, put on masks and armor, ready to perform, day-in and day-out. All of this performance takes a massive toll on our:
Have you ever seen someone crumble under the weight of a secret only to become a lighter, happier version of themselves after telling the truth, their truth?
That’s because even when the consequences of letting go of a secret are severe, on the other side of the rumble, the choice to be honest with yourself and others about who you are results in deep relief and healing.
Being yourself, honoring your unique gifts and talents, and celebrating your weirdness, is at the root of true health and well-being.
That’s why, as a food and body peace dietitian, before we ever talk about food and how you take care of your body, we talk about who you are, what lights you up, and what mountains you want to move.
Until you are in true alignment with yourself, all the self-care habits and behaviors in the world aren’t going to be truly impactful and sustaining.
But being yourself in a world where everyone is trying to fit in, one-up, or showcase their #bestlife, can be a challenge.
Give yourself permission to show up as yourself and advocate for your wants and needs unapologetically
Step one is to give yourself permission to show up as yourself and advocate for your wants and needs unapologetically. This kind of courage is a muscle that we can train and flex.
Start small with something that feels doable, whether it’s wearing something that expresses your personality or simply choosing what you really want to order at a restaurant (instead of what everyone else is having).
Continue to build self-trust and confidence by exercising this muscle of permission and courage, looking for opportunities to flex bigger.
Over time, being yourself in profound ways — like vocalizing your opinion at a meeting, taking a public stance on an issue that’s important to you, or having a hard conversation with a friend or family about your boundaries — won’t feel so daunting.
There still may be fear, but the self-trust you have cultivated will give you the courage to feel the fear and move forward anyway.
Tara M. Pope, MA, TLLP
Psychotherapist | Owner, Total Mind Psychology
Suppressing aspects of ourselves leads to emotional and mental health issues
What do you think of when someone tells you to be yourself? We are complex and multidimensional human beings, and we express various aspects of ourselves in many different environments.
Within these various aspects, we should be able to express the true essence of who we are.
However, there are some individuals that may have difficulty expressing the authentic parts of themselves. This leads to emotional and mental health issues that are a result of suppressing aspects of ourselves.
Signs that you are not being yourself
Experiences that cause individuals to be inauthentic may stem from childhood and past encounters where they have felt rejected or missed the opportunities to develop and identify authentic aspects of themselves.
These individuals may present with behaviors such as:
- Suppressing their emotions and opinions.
- Difficulties with setting boundaries with others.
- Difficulties trusting their own decisions.
- Seeking validation solely from others.
- Lack of awareness of their own unhealthy behaviors.
- Difficulties recognizing the need to change and grow.
These behaviors can lead to symptoms of anxiety and depression, causing difficulties within relationships and daily functioning.
How to be yourself
The ways you may express yourself can vary, depending on the context of your environment. Your true self may present differently when you are at work compared to when you are spending time with close friends.
Related: How to Be True to Yourself
Even if you need to present different aspects of yourself in different contexts, this does not mean that you have to suppress your true self.
Here are a few steps to take toward being your true self:
- Become more aware of your unhealthy behaviors and inauthentic traits that have been interfering with your relationships and mental health.
- Talk to a mental health clinician to get to the root of why you have not been expressing your true self.
- Work on discovering your values and personal goals for change.
Remember that it is not an easy task to change behaviors that we have maintained for years. But, once you are able to identify the parts of you that are true and the parts that you want to change, it will only lead to a more authentic life of being yourself.
John G. Cottone, PhD
Licensed Psychologist, Choosing Therapy
Being yourself helps you settle into more consistent ways of relating with people
Halloween is a time when we bask in the fun of being someone else. We dress up, wear masks, and try on myriad alter egos that lie at varying distances from our core personalities.
Part of the fun is that we can experiment with different ways of thinking and talking, and ultimately we can learn something about ourselves and the people we imitate.
But Halloween is only fun if it stands in contrast to the consistent personality we’ve come to embody, which those around us know and love.
For some people, though, Halloween is an everyday experience, especially for those that don’t like who they are or are still trying to figure it out.
Adolescents, in particular, are in a continuous state of flux, trying on new identities as they work to determine who they might be and who they want to become.
When we reach adulthood, however, after having developed a consistent identity, mental wellness increasingly depends on our ability to be ourselves across situations, even when this may pose challenges for us.
There are several reasons why this is the case:
When we’re comfortable being ourselves, we can settle into more consistent ways of relating with people. This allows them to get a better idea of how we might react in certain situations, which can lead to more positive interactions in the future and fewer unpredictable negative interactions.
The more we’re ourselves in social situations, the more genuine we appear to others, which leads to them trusting us more and to them bonding with us.
However, when other people suspect we are wearing a mask — literally or figuratively — they close up emotionally because they’re unsure if they can trust us, and this becomes a barrier to them bonding with us.
When we show people we’re comfortable being ourselves, even in challenging social situations, it projects an air of confidence that few other behavioral expressions can project.
Nothing is more attractive than confidence. Confidence begets success, and success brings more confidence, but it all starts with being yourself.
Joni Ogle, LCSW, CSAT
Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Sex Addiction Therapist | CEO, The Heights Treatment
It will bring you a sense of inner peace and happiness
Being your true, authentic self is one of the most important things you can do in your life. It allows you to be honest with yourself and others, and it helps you to stay true to your values and beliefs.
When you live in alignment with your authentic self, it becomes easier to create a life that you are truly passionate about and content with. This will bring you a sense of inner peace and happiness.
It can be challenging to be yourself in a world full of people trying to conform to societal norms and expectations. However, it is important to remember that you are unique and special and that you have something valuable to offer the world.
When you embrace your true self, you will be happier and more fulfilled. You will also be more likely to attract people who appreciate and value you for who you are.
Additionally, trying to be someone else can be mentally and emotionally exhausting.
No one can keep up a fake persona forever. At some point, the act will become too difficult to maintain, and you will likely crumble under pressure. It is far better to be yourself from the start simply.
This way, you can focus your energy on living your best life and being the best version of yourself.
Life Coach and Leadership Mentor | Founder, take34u
Being yourself is the very root of happiness
For me, there are five different areas that underpin the importance of being yourself. And together, they lead to a clear, connected, calm, loving, and confident you. In fact, I believe that being yourself is the very root of happiness.
The power of being aware of who you truly deeply are is as old as time itself. But it’s something that we often forget to make time for. So if you haven’t checked in with yourself and how you’ve been feeling for a while, take just a moment right now with this simple question.
Related: How to Check In With Yourself
Ask yourself, “How do I feel right now?” Then notice whatever comes up for you.
This is a space to acknowledge your feelings as they are in the moment. There is no need for guilt or shame, fault or blame, just a neutral acknowledgment of whatever you notice.
You may hear, feel, smell, taste, or see something or, indeed, nothing at all, and whatever happens is absolutely perfect for you right now at this moment.
And if anything big comes up for you, remember to reach out for support from your support network or health professionals, as you are Never alone!
It takes practice to really connect with yourself, so congratulations on taking the time to get started here now. To really begin deepening your self-connection, you can ask yourself the question above at least once daily.
Next, you can go a little deeper with your journey into being yourself and connect with the natural rhythm of your breath. Take a few moments to close your eyes and feel the airflow into your body and back out again.
To strengthen your connection to yourself, try the following simple exercise:
- Breathe in for the count of one.
- And then breathe out for the count of two.
As an extra connection point, you can silently say to yourself on your breath in, “one pink elephant,” and then on your breath out, “two pink elephants, three pink elephants.”
Being aware of your physical body and breath is empowering and enables you to calm yourself easily and effortlessly. Plus, the longer out breath helps you naturally relax and slow down your heart rate and breathing just a little.
And if you repeat the words silently to yourself, you’re also listening to yourself. So you get to enjoy mental, physical, and audio connectivity with yourself.
Each of these practices will support you in increasing your self-awareness and self-connection to the real, authentic you inside, which will, in turn, gift you some personal truths to accept about yourself.
This is the time to be kind and gentle to yourself; after all, you only know what you know at this moment. So if you’re perhaps doing tired or anxious right now, you will have fewer resources available to understand what is causing you to feel how you feel. And that is absolutely ok!
You are a wonderful unique human being, and you are doing the best you can. As you explore your self-acceptance, it’s a fabulous time to connect and share what you’re feeling and noticing with others.
Whatever is happening for you at this stage in your life will also be occurring for others. Plus, others will have navigated these experiences before you.
So reach out to them for support and accountability as you enjoy your own challenges and opportunities.
The next stage after you accept yourself for who you are is to move into your self-love. This often includes some self-forgiveness and releasing of old emotional baggage.
By starting to love and treat yourself as you would a loved one, you will begin to notice that feeling of calm and joy grow stronger. Your energy across all areas of your life begins to improve as you are no longer punishing yourself for the past.
You begin to love yourself in each moment as you notice, connect to, and accept exactly how you feel and who you are fully and completely.
After all of this amazing work to truly be yourself now, you get to really enjoy it. When you have created the clear, calm, connected confidence to choose to be yourself with anyone, anywhere, at any time, you are absolutely free to be you! Something that for many of us is for the first time since we were kids.
Because if you think of it, newborn babies are absolutely happy to be themselves. They ask for what they want and need and keep asking and getting louder until they get it.
So maybe being a bit more childlike with your confidence and self-belief as you embrace the importance of being you will be beneficial!
As the truth is that you matter, and it’s absolutely time for you to:
- Stop wasting your energy trying to please everyone else, and enjoy being fully you.
- Trust yourself and follow your passion, vision, mission, and intuition. However, you refer to your inner voice, wants, and desires.
- Share your true voice easily and effortlessly and light the way for others to do the same.
So what are you waiting for? Start that daily check-in, awareness, and connection-building with yourself today. Then soon you too can completely enjoy stepping into the magnificent amazing you that you really are.
You are likely to experience happiness in a new way
I was joking with a friend this week that I thought I would know everything about myself by now, but each year and each decade brings new insights and growth.
Knowing yourself well, however, is a prerequisite for being able to relax and be yourself with others.
Knowing yourself comes from a combination of actions:
- Regular reflection on words spoken and actions taken and the effect of both on others.
- Focused attention on developing character qualities like respect, dependability, or flexibility and learning which qualities are strengths and which need growth.
- Identifying what behavior changes to make.
Who am I with others?
In addition to knowing yourself, being yourself with others requires two key elements:
- Trust that the space and interactions will be safe.
- Self-confidence and self-respect so that you can demonstrate you have value.
As you relax and put less emphasis on the opinions of others about you, and as you recognize you don’t need to place importance on the judgments of others, it becomes possible to blossom and be yourself.
When that happens, others receive the benefit of what you have to offer and wish to be around you.
Achieving integrity and wholeness
You may adopt a different persona with each role you carry out. Some of that is reasonable, as you naturally interact differently with close friends than you do with your grandparents.
What is important to notice, however, is whether you are being honest about yourself with everyone.
If you notice that you wear a mask to hide who you are, and no one actually knows you, your honesty has slipped.
Knowing yourself and allowing others to see the real you come from leads to a state of integrity and wholeness. You don’t have to try to remember what you said or how you behaved with one person versus another.
When you experience a state of integrity, where your inside self and your outside self are congruent, you are likely to experience happiness in a new way.
Journalist, Behavior Analyst, and Speaker
Trying to fit into society’s expectations can send your self-worth and dignity plummeting
Women, especially, have been raised in a society that does not support authenticity. Whether it’s your hair, clothes, opinions, attitudes, or preferences, society will let you know its approval rating.
But trying to fit into society’s expectations can send your self-worth and dignity plummeting. This is notably true when becoming a wife and mother. Many people will have advice about how you should do things right, but it’s important to know yourself and be yourself to be the healthiest you.
Here are three questions you may want to ask yourself to help you get to know and honor yourself.
Do I want to ask my fiancé to take my name?
Have you considered asking your soon-to-be husband to take your name? Would you like to give your children your name?
Most women know the many married name options available today.
- Taking his name.
- Keeping her name.
- Hyphenating names.
- Repositioning names by moving their maiden name to their middle name and adding their last name.
- Creating a new name.
But most women don’t consider asking their fiancé to take her name, or if she keeps her name, giving their children her name instead of his name.
Your worth, identity, family history, and place in society are as important as the man you’re about to marry.
Thanks to the many women who’ve come before us and fought for our equal rights, there are no laws in any of the 50 states that require women to take their husbands’ names or for men to retain their names.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with wanting to give up your name and take on your husband’s name, but have you truly considered what you’d like to do and what outdated laws, traditions, or stereotypes may be holding you back?
Am I in tune with my intuition and empathy?
Intuition and empathy are natural abilities, but our society doesn’t provide a framework for us to develop them. Instead, many of us disregard these abilities and stifle their messages, which may cause physical, emotional, and societal problems. It is important to develop these abilities by being true to yourself.
For example, when we don’t listen to our intuition, we are often ignoring our emotions. Stress and anxiety may build up over time because your intuition is trying to tell you that a change needs to occur in your life.
Maybe a relationship or job is not right for you, or you really shouldn’t go on a trip, but you don’t want to change direction. Unless we acknowledge our intuition, we have no way of really knowing what is going on inside us.
Empathy is our ability to step into someone else’s shoes, be aware of their feelings and understand their needs. Honing our empathy is important for establishing relationships and behaving compassionately.
When we develop our empathy, we experience another person’s point of view, rather than just our own, and grow our helping behaviors from within, rather than being forced to act polite.
A lack of empathy can also cause people to misinterpret what other people are trying to say, which can ultimately lead to miscommunication, conflict, and damaged relationships.
What do I want?
Most women are natural caregivers and people pleasers, and society encourages us to develop those abilities, but when we give too much of ourselves, we can suffer physically and mentally.
It’s important we take the time to know what we want and honor it.
Stop and ask yourself right now, what do you want? If you’re like me, your mind goes to a list of things I should do. I should switch over the laundry. I should call my mom. I should help the kids with their homework. Or, it turns to escapes. I want a glass of wine or bowl of ice cream or to take a nap. Those are not truly what I want.
They are what society has taught me to do, and my rebellious side makes excuses not to do those things.
To find your true self, you need to go below those voices that have developed from parents, peers, and society telling you what you should want.
Start with small questions like, would I like the blue pillow, orange pillow, or whatever item it may be, and notice your thoughts.
Push away thoughts that resemble, “Joe would prefer the orange one” or “the blue one would go better with the sofa.” Instead, feel where in your body you feel warmth and joy. That’s where your answer will be found. Then you will know what you want.
Practice this simple exercise every time you feel a pit in your stomach when you have to make a decision. Soon you’ll be able to tap into your body for answers.
After some practice, most people feel less stress and anxiety and more self-worth.
Life Transformation Coach and Certified Yoga Teacher, Embody Your Flow
Being yourself is the key to happiness and success
When you are yourself, you are more in tune with your inner guidance. You are honest with yourself, so you know exactly what you want and what you need.
You make decisions that are aligned with the life that you want to live for yourself. You pick the right job. You pick the right life partner. You attract to you the people who share your values.
Moreover, you don’t make decisions because of society’s pressure.
It’s really about you following your path and defining your happiness and success. All of this makes you a happier, healthier, and better human being.
Being yourself is the best gift you can give to this world
In a toxic culture where mental and chronic illnesses keep rising, being yourself is the best gift you can give to this world.
Finding yourself and your version of happiness makes you thrive as a human being. And when people thrive, they lead by example to all the people who are around them. They show what’s possible to their family, their friends, their colleagues, and their children.
Being yourself is healing, and when you heal yourself, you also heal the world.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I know if I am being myself?
• Gut feeling: Pay attention to your intuition. You’re likely being yourself if you feel at ease and comfortable with your actions, thoughts, and decisions.
• Consistency: Observe your behavior in different situations. If you’re consistent in your values, beliefs, and actions, you stay true to your authentic self.
• Honesty: Reflect on your thoughts and actions. Are you being honest with yourself and others? Honesty is a crucial aspect of being yourself.
• Alignment: Your actions should align with your passions, goals, and values. When you’re true to yourself, you’ll make choices that reflect what’s important to you.
• Personal growth: When you’re being yourself, you’ll experience personal growth as you learn from your experiences and adapt.
What happens when you are not being yourself?
• Stress and discomfort: Pretending to be someone you’re not can lead to feelings of stress and discomfort. You may feel like you’re wearing a mask or constantly struggling to maintain an image.
• Relationship strain: If you’re not being yourself, your relationships may suffer. Authenticity is crucial for forming deep, meaningful connections with others.
• Lack of fulfillment: When you’re not true to yourself, you may feel unfulfilled, as you’re not pursuing your passions or living according to your values.
• Identity confusion: Over time, you may lose touch with your authentic self, causing confusion about your identity, beliefs, and values.
• Stunted growth: Personal growth can be hindered when you’re not being yourself, as you may be avoiding challenges, learning opportunities, or chances to develop new skills.
What is the best way to be myself?
Being yourself is essential for a fulfilling and authentic life. To truly embrace who you are, consider these steps:
• Spend time reflecting on your values, beliefs, and passions.
• Identify your strengths, weaknesses, and unique qualities.
• Pursue interests and hobbies that genuinely excite you.
• Embrace your imperfections and flaws.
• Recognize that everyone has strengths and weaknesses.
• Cultivate self-compassion and treat yourself with kindness.
• Stand up for your beliefs and values, even if they differ from others.
• Express your thoughts and feelings honestly and respectfully.
• Practice saying “no” when something doesn’t align with your authentic self.
Surround yourself with supportive people:
• Seek out friends and loved ones who appreciate your uniqueness.
• Limit your exposure to toxic or unsupportive environments.
• Engage in communities and groups that share your interests and values.
How can I stay true to myself in a world that pressures me to conform?
Staying true to yourself amidst external pressures can be challenging but is essential for a fulfilling life. Here are some strategies to help you stay authentic:
Strengthen your self-awareness:
• Regularly check in with yourself and evaluate your emotions, thoughts, and actions
• Determine if you’re living in alignment with your values and beliefs
• Prioritize your mental, emotional, and physical well-being
• Engage in activities that help you recharge and maintain balance
• Be clear about your limits and communicate them to others
• Protect your time, energy, and values by saying “no” when necessary
Find your tribe:
• Seek out like-minded individuals who appreciate your authenticity
• Build a support network that encourages you to stay true to yourself
Embrace your individuality:
• Celebrate your unique qualities and talents
• Resist the urge to compare yourself to others or seek external validation
Does being myself can make me happier?
Yes, being yourself can lead to greater happiness. Authenticity allows you to develop deeper connections with others as they engage with the real you. Living in alignment with your values brings a sense of purpose and fulfillment.
Embracing your unique qualities fosters self-acceptance and self-love, contributing to overall well-being. When you’re true to yourself, you are more likely to pursue passions that bring joy and satisfaction.
Is it ever too late to start being yourself?
It’s never too late to start being yourself. Embracing your true self is an ongoing journey, and it’s always possible to make changes and grow. Regardless of your age or life stage, you can begin practicing self-awareness, reflecting on your values, and making choices that align with your authentic self.
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