Have you ever felt pressured to be someone you’re not?
Have you tried to behave or act a certain way, just to feel accepted?
If your answer is “Yes,” you’re experiencing one of the most common problems in our world today; you don’t know how to be yourself.
There has never been more pressure to conform than in today’s world. Social media has set up unrealistic expectations for how we should look, how much we should earn, and what we need to buy.
With so much exposure to other people’s (often fake) lives, our inner critic grows. We wonder, “Why isn’t my life that awesome? Maybe that’s what I should be doing?”
I’ve seen this happen again and again in my 30 years as a transformational therapist. Many of my clients were so hung up on being accepted that they suppressed who they truly are.
Eventually, they just forgot how to be themselves.
The problem is that when you act like other people just so you can be accepted, you ignore your true self and your personal needs. This is often accompanied by a feeling of emptiness inside.
So how do you get over this hurdle and just be happy being you?
I’ve been fortunate enough to work with thousands of clients around the globe. Throughout my experience, I’ve learned the happiest and most successful people are the ones who’ve managed to develop authenticity and learned how to be themselves.
In this article, I’d love to share some of the strategies that I’ve learned from helping my clients be true to themselves. Hopefully, these tips will help you learn how to be yourself too.
Step 1: Start by Getting To Know Yourself
If you find it challenging to be yourself, it could be because you don’t know yourself well. After all, without self-awareness, how can you expect to be you?
The good news is that building a relationship with yourself is like any other relationship. It takes time and commitment.
Have conversations with yourself. Ask yourself deep questions, such as, “What is my one unbreakable rule?” and, “What genuinely makes me happy?”
You’ll find that the answers to these questions (or at least your attempt to answer them) will give you a much better idea of who you are and who you aspire to be.
Start a journal and list all the deep questions you may have been intimidated to think about before. Don’t rush to answer them—take your time and reflect on your answers.
If there are questions you can’t find the answer to, that’s a clue that can guide you to the next stage of your self-discovery.
Also, while doing this exercise, don’t forget to list out your flaws. Add difficult questions, such as, “What have I been avoiding in life?”
None of us are perfect. Recognizing our shortcomings is an essential step towards self-awareness and understanding who we truly are.
Here are examples of questions you could ask yourself to get to know yourself better:
- What am I most proud of?
- What is my biggest self-limiting belief?
- Define my top three values
- What don’t I like about myself that I wish I could change?
Step 2: Redefine Your Values and Act on Them
Most of our values come from external sources. Our parents, family, friends, and social media—everyone wants to have a say in who we should be.
If you don’t know how to be yourself, it probably means you’ve been living according to values that other people have imposed on you.
However, these values aren’t set in stone; if you wanted to, you could change them at any time (and you should).
To be genuine, you must start by choosing your values.
This entails re-evaluating the values you’ve been taught your whole life. The goal is to decide if it’s something you really agree with, rather than just going with the flow.
Choosing values that are important to you puts you in the driver’s seat. You’re in charge of what you believe in and how you act, not anyone else.
In other words, your values become a true expression of you.
Sit down and identify which values are truly important to you and which ones were imposed on you. Question all your supposed beliefs and values, especially the ones you’ve held for a long time.
Identify three to five values you would like to adopt and start acting on them.
For instance, if you’re a woman who has decided she doesn’t want children, embrace that! Plan your career, announce it to your potential partner, and enjoy your life chasing what’s truly important to you instead.
Changing your convictions and acting on them can be scary, especially when you consider that some people may not support your change. They may claim that this new person isn’t the “real” you.
However, redefining your values doesn’t make you inauthentic. In fact, it’s the opposite—practicing only the values you truly believe in is key to being yourself.
Human beings are constantly evolving, which means that your values will change according to your level of maturity and experience. Don’t be afraid to question and change your values as you evolve as a person.
Step 3: Stop Comparing Yourself To Others
Here’s an interesting thing about our minds—we tend to think in relative, not absolute terms.
For example, if you own a car, objectively, that’s a great thing. You have a vehicle to get around in and that makes your life more convenient.
However, your mind doesn’t necessarily think that way. It automatically compares you to other people, mainly to those with better cars. This kind of comparison will make you less happy with the car you have.
What’s worse is that this effect is compounded in today’s world. You’re not just comparing your car with your immediate peers. You are constantly comparing yourself and what you have with people you see on TV and social media.
Even though you are seeing a small percentage of the population who are extremely rich, your mind starts to think that this is how everyone lives. With time, this perception makes you more and more unhappy. Many people start to change their values and focus on the wrong things just to keep up.
However, keep in mind that what you see on social media is a highlight reel. Many beautiful and successful people struggle with things such as depression and suicidal thoughts despite their fame.
Trying to mimic someone else because of their perceived value will only destroy your self-confidence and inhibit your personal growth.
What’s worse is that imitating other people will send you into a dysfunctional pattern of creating fake personas instead of discovering your true personality.
Instead, shift your focus to you. Ask yourself, “How can I win my own approval? What can I do to appreciate myself more? What would I consider a personal achievement?”
Once you stop comparing yourself to other people and defer to you instead, you’ll instinctively know how to be yourself.
Step 4: Don’t Judge Yourself for Your Past
Learning how to be yourself invariably means some change. While you’re going through this transition, learn to let go of your past.
Whether you’ve been insensitive, lazy, reckless, whatever—forgive yourself.
Know that you tried your best and acted a certain way with the knowledge and experience you had at the time. Now that you know better, you can change.
Remember, your previous behavior does not define who you are. Learn to see your past behavior as something you did, not someone you are.
Ruminating on your past does nothing for your personal growth. It only brings up negative feelings and stops you from moving forward.
Instead, embrace the present and start living more authentically. Understand that no matter how you were living before, it’s okay to be different now.
Step 5: Cultivate Self-Love and Self-Acceptance
You may be reluctant to be yourself because you find it difficult to love or accept yourself.
If you already have a negative self-image, then you may think it’s better to be anyone other than you.
In this case, before you can develop authenticity, you need to cultivate self-love and self-acceptance first.
In my three decades as a therapist, I’ve discovered that the root of so many modern problems—smoking, excessive drinking, compulsive shopping, depression, and even denying your own identity—comes right back to not feeling “enough.”
I want you to know that you are enough.
Be comfortable in your skin. Learn to appreciate and love yourself—for both the good and the bad. Show kindness to yourself as you would to your best friend.
Once you’ve accepted yourself and understand that you are valuable, you’ll have the courage to express who you are.
If you’d like to learn how to better love and accept yourself, I’ve designed an ‘I Am Enough’ program to help with precisely that. You can sign up for a free ‘I Am Enough’ masterclass and experience the benefits of this method for yourself.
At the end of it, you may love the results so much that you find yourself saying every day, “Marisa Peer, I am enough!”
Step 6: Be Willing To Change
Who you are is also a result of your circumstances. You become a certain way because of your job, the people you surround yourself with, and what you spend your time on.
If these things force you to become someone you’re not, it’s necessary to change them to be more genuine.
For example, if you’re stuck in a relationship where your partner doesn’t appreciate you or support your passions, then being yourself becomes an uphill battle. You may find yourself suppressing who you are just to avoid conflict and get along.
The same goes for your career and the people you surround yourself with. If they don’t support your personality and values, it will be challenging to be yourself.
Create an environment where you’re allowed to be you. If you’re in a job you personally disagree with, look for another career. If you find that your current social circles are toxic to be around, surround yourself with people who support you instead.
Once you change your circumstances to fit yourself, it will be much easier for you to be who you are.
Step 7: Practice Honesty and Self-Expression
Most of us fear saying what we truly feel and think. We believe that our honesty will push others away or cause others to judge us.
However, by definition, honesty and self-expression are what it means to be you. If you don’t act according to what you truly think and feel, then you’re not being yourself.
Let me clarify, being honest isn’t verbalizing a stream of consciousness. It means voicing out the values and principles that are truly important to you.
It means not denying yourself just to please other people.
For example, have you ever been out on a first date with someone who mentioned that he/she hates Star Wars when they’re your all-time favorite movies?
Being you means having the courage and integrity to say, “I appreciate that you don’t like it, but I love that movie.”
Apply this honesty and self-integrity not just to dates but to every aspect of your life. It will be challenging at first, but just like a muscle, this will become stronger with practice.
Here are some ideas of how to practice honesty and self-expression:
- Draw boundaries with people. Be comfortable letting them know when they’re making you uncomfortable.
- Own up to liking what you like, even if you think other people think it’s silly or stupid. After all, who cares what they think?
- Admit to your mistakes, and apologize for them. We all make mistakes, and there’s no shame in admitting that.
By expressing and owning up to your principles, beliefs, and unique traits, you become uncompromisingly you.
Step 8: Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
If you’ve been finding it difficult to be yourself, it’s probably because the easier option was to behave like someone else. Maybe you were scared of what other people thought of you, or you were afraid of being rejected.
The truth is that because human beings are such a diverse, dynamic species, being judged and being rejected is an inevitable part of life.
Not everyone will understand why you act the way you do or why you made the decisions you’ve made. That’s still no reason you should hide your true self.
Accept the risk of being judged or rejected, and still be yourself—unapologetically.
The good news is that while some people may not accept you for who you are, others will. The ones who do will be much more supportive of the real you.
Another reason to constantly push yourself out of your comfort zone is that it’s critical towards your self-discovery.
The more you experience life, the more you understand and know how to be yourself. You become more confident and can express yourself freely without reservation.
To help you get out of your comfort zone, set some personal goals, either for yourself or ones you can tackle with your family, to help you discover how you cope outside your comfort zone, and develop the confidence you need to know that you can take on anything with the right mindset.
Step 9: Master Your Mind
I’ve worked with enough people to understand that many of us suffer from the same root problem—a need to fill the inner emptiness of not feeling “enough.”
Not knowing how to be yourself is also a symptom of this inner emptiness that I’ve observed in many of my clients.
I’m a big fan of simple, easy steps and actions—backed up by experience and science—that have a huge positive effect on your mind.
That’s why I believe the solution starts with a simple affirmation: “I am enough.”
The repetition of this simple phrase over and over (both out loud and in your head) will eventually make it difficult for your mind to object to it. It’s a trick I’ve used effectively on my clients for years.
I invite you to join my free masterclass, where I take you through the exact framework I use to help my clients break through the self-doubt, self-sabotage, and self-shame they’ve struggled with their whole lives.
You can also experience a powerful ‘I Am Enough’ meditation designed to allow you to have the confidence to be yourself. I recommend listening to this meditation every time you feel uneasy or doubtful of yourself.
For full experiences and guided transformation, sign up for the full ‘I Am Enough’ program or schedule an appointment with one of my highly trained therapists who can accelerate your process of change.
Remember that you are enough, have always been enough, and will always be enough. So never be afraid to let your true self shine.