Are you living a life that is true to who you really are? How do you learn to do that? And, really, what does it mean to be yourself?
It can be very difficult to lead a truly authentic life in today’s world. There are many factors at play that push you in the direction of “fitting in” to prescribed notions of who you are supposed to be. Often people who try to be their most authentic selves without compromise receive negative reinforcement from society.
In spite of the pressures to conform to society’s “rules” of who and how you should be, true satisfaction with life can only be found when you are living your life as your authentic self. Self-awareness is the most basic requirement of self-confidence.
Let’s look at the reasons we often try to become someone other than who we are, and ways we can return to our best true selves.
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What Does It Mean to Be Yourself?
Learn to Be Yourself by Learning Not to Be Someone Else
There are many reasons someone might try to emulate or imitate someone else.
Life is a learning process, and sometimes we may want to “try on” different personalities to see how they work for us. This is not always negative – if it is done in a spirit of learning and growth, it can be very beneficial to our self-awareness. After all, we all have many different aspects of our selves, and it’s vital to embrace ourselves as whole beings.
However, if we try to imitate others due to insecurity and a lack of confidence in our own identities, we will have the opposite effect of moving us farther from our true nature.
We can get lost in the confusion of merging our identities with those of others.
We lose track of which of these roles we play are authentic, and which are just us playing “dress up” as someone else.
It’s when we try to force ourselves to fit roles that don’t fit that we run into identification issues.
“Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are.”Kurt Cobain
Learn to Be Yourself by Pushing Away Outside Influences
Particularly in this age of social media, where we see so many little snippets of other people’s “perfect” lives, it’s easy to begin to feel like you as a basic, average person, are falling behind.
But that’s an illusion.
Unless you truly live in someone else’s shoes, you cannot know what their life is really like.
We ALL have good days, bad days, worse days, in-between days…it’s just that you only get to see a limited amount on any social media channel, and of course, everyone wants to show only their best highlights.
“The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”Steve Furtick
Parent expectations, and widening that, familial expectations, can play a huge role in making you feel like you must become someone you are not.
Think of the expectations that you will go to a particular college because many other family members went there. Maybe you aren’t interested in attending college at all, but feel the pressure to conform to family expectations. If you give in, you are not being your authentic self.
You are also swayed by friendships.
Have you ever reunited with an old friend you haven’t seen in a while? Even though you feel you’ve grown as a person since the last time you saw them, you may find yourself automatically slipping back into old patterns of behavior. You may not even be doing it consciously, but seeing that old friend can trigger positive memories, which bring out the behavior you used to engage in, even if it’s not how you would normally behave today.
You may be seeking approval, and altering your behavior to gain that approval from your boss, coworkers, school peers, or social circle. It’s been proven in study after study that we are essentially “the sum of the five people we spend the most time with.”
All media can impact you, including movies, television, and books.
Suppose you find yourself drawn into a truly fantastic romance movie – exactly the type of romance you envision for yourself. Could that suggest you alter who you are to behave more like the protagonist in the movie? Because she was able to get what she wanted through a particular way of being – would that work for you, too? Do you change your behaviors to match this fantasy?
With these powerful influences, it’s easy to understand why anyone could be influenced to disregard their true self in order to conform to society’s idea of who she should be.
And that raises the question:
How Do You Learn to Be Yourself?
It’s a challenge to dig deep, recognize your truth, and live it every day.
First, you must do a bit of reflection.
Who are you? Who have you been in the past? Are you an accurate reflection of who you want to be? Do others perceive you as you do?
Take time to really contemplate who you ARE as an individual.
Accept your emotions, your faults, your incompetencies, as much as your strengths, virtues, and values. Challenge your own fear of failure as it relates to your personal growth. Self-awareness is the first step in living an authentic life.
Identify your Negative Self-talk
Do you think and speak as kindly to yourself as you would someone else?
It’s time to put an end to your negative self-talk.
Learn to rephrase the negativity into positive, or at least, passive, language. Instead of things that are “wrong” with you, think of these things as “quirks”. Does that make them seem someone less negative for you? Because the truth is, nothing is “wrong” with you.
You are a human being, unique and special and meant to be on this earth, every bit as much as any other human being.
Celebrate Your Strengths
No matter what your strengths may be, realize that they are yours, and they are powerful.
Instead of beating yourself down for what you don’t think you have, recognize that there is so much positive within you.
Be kind to yourself, and give you the credit you deserve. Celebrate who you are.
Change is inevitable, and that’s actually a good thing. You will change. You have the power to create your own changes. Take control.
Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
It is so easy to see the best in others and the worst in yourself, and for this very reason you will never measure up if you live your life in a constant state of comparison.
Don’t Be a People-Pleaser
Don’t worry about what other people think about you. This may be easier said than done. Again, it’s a matter of recognizing yourself in a people-pleasing situation and learning to change your behavior.
Be honest with yourself, be honest with others.
Let them know who you are, stand up for what you believe in.
Learning to be yourself requires the confidence not just to understand yourself, but to communicate that understanding to the world around you.
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- Challenge Your Fear of Failure: Do Something Hard
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- Shape The Life You Want With a Powerful Affirmation
Final Thoughts on What Does It Mean to Be Yourself?
You are special.
You are the only You there is, and
You are spectacular.
Learning to set aside who you think you are supposed to be – or who others expect or even demand you to be – is a challenge we all need to surmount in order to live life as we truly are.
It may not be easy, but if you focus on these steps, you will work toward becoming your true self:
- Identify negative self-talk
- Celebrate Your Strengths
- Accept Change
- Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
- Don’t be a People-Pleaser
- Be Honest
Challenge yourself to live more authentically each and every day. After all, there truly is only one YOU to share with the world.