How to Be Yourself (4 Powerful Steps to Be Who You Want to Be)
You made it. You asked yourself the question.
You want to finally be yourself in this mad, mad world.
Open acknowledgment is the first step, and I think you made a great choice.
Unfortunately, being yourself is not an easy process.
It’s a journey through dark caverns and dense bushes with prickly things that can poke you.
But fortunately, you are learning from a man, a random stranger on the Internet, who actually learned to be himself.
I have distilled the wisdom I’ve learned the hard way so that you can learn from my past missteps.
Read on, fellow traveler.
Let’s start with step number one…
Figure Out Who You Are
To be yourself, you must first know yourself.
Who are you currently?
What is currently causing you to feel like you’re not being yourself?
Because you ended up here, there must be something distressing going on.
This part of the process starts with lots and lots of questions—and that’s OK.
I’m the kind of person who asks himself questions constantly. It’s how I make sense of the world. Sometimes I ask myself questions out loud. Sometimes people stare at me when I do this.
It’s not a problem, though, because I’ve learned to be myself—and I just don’t care who sees me being me anymore.
When you ask yourself questions, you admit to yourself that you don’t know the answers.
A big part of my old identity was that I felt I always needed to be prepared with answers to any potential questions. This started in school, and it carried on throughout college and my first experiences as a working professional
Now that I’m further along on my life journey, I know this incessant need stemmed from my own anxiety.
I was terrified to be judged by others, so I did whatever I could to prepare for every possible situation.
I never realized that showing others that I didn’t know everything allowed me to be vulnerable—and being vulnerable creates the opportunity for connection.
You’re going to need to ask yourself a lot of questions. Questions like:
1. Am I happy?
2. Do I show up in an authentic way in my relationships?
3. Are there certain situations where I feel less confident? Does this cause me to pretend to be someone I’m not?
4. How do I know when I’m being myself?
The key is to be curious about who you. Curiosity penetrates the mystifying social spell that has been cast upon you.
Years and years of peer pressure and societal influences have partially shaped you into the person you are today.
Constantly being curious about who you are will eventually lead you to the answers you need.
And then it’s time to move on to step two, which is…
Stop Caring About What Other People Think
You have to do this. You just have to.
Life is too short to care what other people think. Of course, don’t go around tickling people and putting gum on their personal belongings. You have to be a decent human being.
What I mean is that it is not your responsibility to make sure everyone is OK all of the time. You are not responsible for other people’s happiness.
When you are a child, everything is carefree. When you are a little one, you can do something as stupid as sneeze—and grownups think it’s adorable.
But then you grow up.
And you realize that not everyone thinks that you’re all that and a pack of Skittles. (I don’t know the actual phrase, sorry. I grew up on a cul de sac and missed out on a lot of things.)
When you start going to school, you realize that other kids are beginning to care about their identities.
Your identity becomes this socially crafted, amorphous object that you need to wield to get others to like you. You wear clothes because other kids are doing it. Peer pressure is everywhere.
And as you get older, it only grows—teenage life, dating, finding jobs—the list is never-ending.
But you absolutely cannot, under any circumstances, live your life to please other people.
If you listen to what your parents tell you, and only follow career paths that have been pre-approved by them, you will be living their lives, not yours.
If you compare yourself to your colleagues and take the actions they take because you think it will get you a promotion or a pay raise, you will be living their lives, not yours.
Take what' you’ve learned about yourself up until this point in your life—and go with your heart.
Your heart cannot lead you astray. It doesn’t know how to.
If you still are not sure about who you are, think back to when you were a kid.
What did you enjoy doing?
What could you pursue for hours on end without stopping to consider how much time had passed?
How can you incorporate some of that past, unbridled joy back into your life?
You already have the answers.
You just need to find them again.
And now it’s time for step three.
Go Easy On Yourself
Ok, you’ve gotten to the point in your life story where you realize that you are finally A-OK with being yourself.
You know you can do it, but you’re you’re still struggling.
You just want to be yourself! What’s so hard about that? Shouldn’t it just happen already?
No. It doesn’t work like that.
When you take action to be yourself, you’re probably going to get pushback from the people in your life who are used to you being a certain way.
Maybe they thought they could take advantage of you more than you actually want them to.
Maybe they are bristling in response to you putting yourself first more often, to you putting up boundaries in the first place.
This is going to sting a little, and that’s OK.
You’re living your life now, remember?
The people who truly care about you will respect you for putting yourself first. They’ll understand your rationale when you explain it to them. The best people will actively support you as you find yourself.
Now is not the time to get angry with yourself for your new decisions.
Now is the time to ease up into your new identity.
No one likes a person who blasts them with their new beliefs, a perfect value system that must be accepted without question. No one wants to be forcefed an ideology.
Being yourself is not about that kind of living, anyway. Being yourself is about trusting yourself.
It’s a cool confidence, not a boastful braggadocio.
Take Action to Be Yourself Every Day
The final piece in the puzzle of being yourself is taking action.
And you can’t just take action once and expect it to work out alright. You need to take action each and every day.
This can be daunting.
This might make you want to turn back at this very moment.
But don’t. I won’t let you do that.
Remember, we’re talking about identity change. This is not a passing fad, something that you buy for a holiday party and then never wear again because that mean coworker said you look stupid with it on.
This is who you are.
You’ll just know when you’re acting in a way that is in accordance with your higher values. You’ll feel it in your bones when you take the action that is right for you.
I can’t tell you exactly what that will feel like. Only you know that.
But once you start taking action to live an authentic life, you’ll get better at recognizing the actions that feel right for you.
Because in the end, taking action is the best way to learn about yourself.
Sure, you can construct tons of thought experiments in your mind from the comfort of your own bed, but you won’t actually know what it takes to be yourself until you try it out in the real world.
So try it out in the real world.
Pursue activities that make you happy.
Pick up hobbies that you discarded years ago.
Even better, start talking about who you really are with friends and family.
I’ve found that once I start saying things out loud, my words start to shape my behavior. This, in turn, causes me to act in a way that boosts my thoughts.
It’s a cycle that reinforces itself with every passing loop.
So let’s recap.
To take the leap to be yourself, this is what you need to do:
1. Figure out what you actually want in life. Figure out what behavior screams YOU.
2. Stop caring about what people think. This is easier said than done, but if you do it, you’ll be so happy about your achievement that you’ll share it with anyone who cares to listen.
3. Treat yourself with compassion. This process isn’t an easy one, but it’s worth it. Whether the transformation takes you four weeks or four months, you’ll never regret taking the action to be yourself.
4. Because action is what it’s all about. If you don’t act on what you’re feeling, you’ll never get to know what it feels like to be yourself.
Our time on this planet is limited.
The world needs to see yo as you truly are.
What are you waiting for?