How to Be Yourself Without Fear or Guilt
Do you sometimes feel like you’re not being yourself?
Like you’re hiding who you are?
Rarely, sometimes, or all the time?
Lately, I’ve had a large number of clients coming to me with exactly this frustration. Great people with big hearts, plans, and desires to do what they love, be who they are, and sick of pretending to be someone else just to not rock the boat. This topic is also very personal for me as I used to struggle with exactly this in my early 20s. It took some work and courage, but it was one of the best changes I’ve ever made.
Let me clarify what “being yourself” actually is and isn’t. Being yourself doesn’t mean being the same person all the time. You may be one way with you parents, another way with your friends, and a certain way with your boss. That’s fine. We adjust our behaviour depending on the context. That’s social intelligence.
I’m talking about you being YOU, open about your opinions, thoughts, feelings, ideas, sexuality, without pretending or having a mask on. Just feeling like you’re authentic, free.
Being yourself can be tricky and sometimes scary for us because we fear that others may not like or approve of us, or may criticise us for it. And we all want to be liked and accepted, so sometimes we just hide who we are.
But being fake comes at a price. And the longer you do it, the higher the price you pay. Being fake costs you your self-worth, self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-love. You might conjure up a false persona that looks all nice and shiny on the surface, but underneath, there’ll always be fear, anxiety, doubt, and even self-hatred. And in the end, you may fool others, but you cannot fool yourself.
To make it easier for you to be yourself, you need to change the way you see yourself, the way you see others, and the world you live in.
Below are thoughts (some of them quite deep) that I’d like you to ponder. Read them slowly and let it sink in.
1. Are you wrong?
When you’re pretending to be someone else or you hide who you really are, its worst impact is that it fundamentally makes you feel that who you are is wrong. You need to ask yourself: “Is who I am wrong?” Does it make you wrong if someone else might not approve of what you stand for or believe in, like and love?
2. Is it even real?
Ask yourself whether what you’re afraid of — the things others would say or do — is even likely to happen. Most of the time this whole drama happens just in our own head and is far from reality. You’re not a mind-reader or a fortune teller. The best way to do this reality check is to either speak to someone you trust about it or to write it down on a piece of paper. Once it’s out of your head, it usually sounds quite absurd.
3. Do they even care?
We are the centre of our own universe, and we often feel that we’re under a microscope, that other people keep a close eye on us. But the truth is, most people don’t really care that much about what you’re up to, mostly because they’re busy worrying what others think of them. People have opinions, but that doesn’t mean they’re right.
4. Who’s saying that?
Always ask yourself: “Whose opinions am I worried about? Who’s saying that? Do they have what I want? Do they actually understand?” If I had the idea to start a business, I wouldn’t expect the support of someone who’s never had a business or doesn’t understand it. On the other hand, I’d definitely want to know what Richard Branson would say. People love to have opinions, but that doesn’t mean they are right.
5. Stop criticising and judging yourself.
We naturally think that others think like we do. The less critical you are of others and yourself, the less critical you’ll expect others to be. When you catch yourself criticising or judging, ask yourself “Why do I care? Do I know why they do it? Do I understand them and their situation to be able to make a judgment? Is it possible that they have a good reason for it?”
6. What if it’s working?
One of the worst things about pretending you’re someone else or being fake is when someone actually falls for it. You got them hooked on something you’re not, and now they expect it, you have to keep playing that role. What if someone hires you, wants to do business with you, or falls in love with you for something you’re not? How does that feel?
7. It’s not working anyway
People pretend because they want to be respected, admired, like, loved, ideally by everyone. So whatever mask you wore (or are still wearing), if you think it’s working really well, believe me, it isn’t. I assure you that there were people who saw right through it, and also people who didn’t like that version of you. You see, you cannot win either way. There is no way of pleasing everyone. There will always be a percentage of people who disagree, don’t approve, or dislike you — no matter how many versions of yourself you show. If that’s the case, why not just be yourself? You’re already really natural and good at it.
As the saying goes, be yourself — everyone else is taken. Of course, this assumes that you already know who you are. If you read this thinking “But who am I, really?” then that’s a different question for a different article.
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