Today’s post is dedicated to you.
The real you.
Do you change who you are to please others? Do you change who you are out of fear of being judged or rejected?
At some point in our lives, we’ve all done this.
The question is: do you change who you are regularly?
…are you staying true to yourself?
Some of us have been changing ourselves for others for so long that we don’t even realize we’ve become life-long chameleons!
In fact, you might not even know who you really are if you’ve morphed into what others (society or family) want you to be.
As you gain more life experience and feel more confident though, you’ll start to see there is more awesomeness to who you are than you thought, and you’ll learn it’s OK to just be you.
Do I stay true to myself 100% of the time? No, but I’m much more myself now than I was even 10 years ago.
Stay True to Yourself Quotes
There are so many good quotes that can serve as inspiration to stay true to the person you really are.
Here are a couple I really like:
- Never follow anyone else’s path unless you’re in the woods and you’re lost. ~ Ellen DeGeneres
- Be yourself; everyone else is already taken. ~Oscar Wilde
A few years ago, I saw a poem posted on a bulletin board somewhere, so I took a photo.
It’s actually a poem, not a quotation, but I think of it as a quote because it’s so inspirational.
The poem, On Being Yourself, is powerful, and I just had to share it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the name of the person who put these brilliant words together. Seems to be unknown or anonymous.
I love this message because the poet’s analogy, comparing apples to bananas, is so on point.
Apples and bananas are both fruit, but they’re different. There’s nothing wrong with either of them. Each has their unique qualities.
- Apples have a skin and a juicy, crunchy flesh we eat, and a core we throw away.
- Bananas have a skin we throw away, no core, and a mushy, sweet flesh we eat.
You might have a preference for one over the other, but you can agree that each fruit is unique with its own special qualities.
It’s the same with you and me.
We’re both human.
We may share some other similarities (same hair color, live in the same city, same beliefs, enjoy hiking, etc.), but we’re also different from each other too.
I love mushroom soup, but you might hate it. I like meaningful one-on-one conversations over small talk with a group, but it might be the reverse for you. I like running, but you might prefer cycling.
Our uniqueness is what is special about us (there is NO ONE in the world exactly like you). Cool, right?
Ok…but what about fitting in? With your family, colleagues, friends, church members, etc.?
If you aren’t like the people you hang with, won’t you be left out, avoided, ignored, rejected, guilted, shamed, and so on?
Now, we’re getting to the problem.
The Tug-of-War Between You and the Outside World
It’s human nature to belong. Our survival has always been dependent on living within a family and society with norms and rules.
In our modern society, though, we’ve transitioned into individuals who feel more comfortable following their own path (we might be losing some of our sense of community in some ways, but that’s another topic).
However, we still live in families and within a society and need to belong. Even with our individuality, we’re tied to the survival skill of belonging.
From the time you were a kid in school, to the time you got your first job, you’ve wanted to fit in.
You might have watched a classmate get bullied, out of fear of not fitting in with the cool kids, or fear that you’d be the one bullied next. You might have went along with the majority in a vote at work because you didn’t want to be the only one who disagreed.
No one wants to be left out or feel ostracized. No one wants to feel rejected or unwelcome.
When you follow the crowd or go along to get along too often, you’re not staying true to yourself.
Some of us are absolutely terrified to be ourselves.
The problem is if we mold ourselves to fit in perfectly with those around us, then we likely lose part of who we are; and therefore, we aren’t staying true to ourselves.
Living like we’re someone else places us on the false side of the tug-of-war game.
Of course, we need to make some sacrifices and compromises occasionally in order to positively interact with others, but if we do that to the point where we ignore our heart and soul, then we’re living our life to please others.
On the other side of tug-of-war rope are the people who ARE themselves and feel comfortable in their own skin. They don’t feel pressured to speak or act differently from who they are.
Ummm… do people like this actually exist?
There might be a few, but for most of us, our goal can be to live on the true to yourself side of the rope as much as possible.
I’d guess that most of us live somewhere in the middle of this continuum.
Where do you fall?
Is it possible to always, at every minute of every day, stay true to yourself? Unlikely.
However, if you’re constantly denying or holding back your thoughts and feelings when you’re around others, or when you’re around certain people, then you’re not staying true to yourself. If this is you, then you’re living YOUR life only for others.
You know you get only one life, right? This is your chance.
If you don’t live a life that stays true to yourself (as much as possible; there is no perfection), you’re likely to be unhappy in the long term, and you’re likely to find yourself filled with regrets toward the end of your life.
If you haven’t yet read The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware, check it out.
The top regret is:
I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself.
I deeply believe that when we don’t express our true selves (and suppress our genuine nature), our bodies feel it, leading to physical and mental health issues. You might not be aware of any effect in your younger years, but as you get older, the surface starts to crack open.
To really take care of yourself (not just your partner or your kids and grandkids), you need to nurture who you truly are.
What if you don’t know how?
I got you.
How can You Stay True to Yourself?
You’re going to have to do a little inner work, if you want to uncover the gems of you.
Depending on where you fall on the continuum (change who you are for others vs stay true to yourself), it might be a lot of work.
That’s ok because you’re worth it.
And, you can handle it.
Are you willing to put in a little time to see where and how you can be the real you and feel good about yourself at the same time?
Step into your true-self power, one step at a time.
5 Steps to Learn How to Stay True to Yourself
Start to pay attention to areas in your life where you’re not speaking up, or you’re not having your wants and needs met. Do this for at least a week, maybe even two or three.
What do you notice? Consider keeping a journal to jot down your thoughts and feelings.
For example, when you’re with your best friend, your cousin, a colleague you work closely with, or your partner, do you share your thoughts, or do you hold back out of fear of saying the wrong thing? A fear of rocking the boat?
Observing you in your life may seem like a step to skip, but I’d encourage you to view it as an important one. You’ll be surprised if you take the time to really gather some intel.
Brainstorm & Plan
Now that you’ve spent a couple of weeks observing yourself, make a list of ways you’re not staying true to yourself, and how you might turn that around. Think of one or two tiny steps to move you forward.
Whatever that looks like for you is fine. It can be a list with just a few jot notes, or it can be longer passages that help you work through your feelings.
Here are a few examples to get you thinking.
- I go to bars with my friends, but it’s just not my scene anymore. I don’t want to lose my friends, but I’ve outgrown my drinking/partying days and want to do different things. I’ve suggested getting together to do other activities, like cycling or hiking, but they just aren’t interested. I’m not staying true to myself hanging out in bars and spending money doing something I don’t love anymore.
- Tiny Steps: I’ll have an honest chat with my friends to see if we can change it up a bit, but if they’re not willing to try some things I like to do, then I’m just going to stop going to the bar with them. THAT is right for me. I can’t predict or worry about what happens to the friendships, but I can start to stay true to myself.
- I’m working in a job I absolutely hate. I want to switch careers, but I’m afraid to try now that I’m 40.
- Tiny Steps: Research a possible career that requires two years or less of education/ training. I don’t have to make a decision right away. I can sit on the information for a while.
- I attend hockey games for my husband. I don’t mind going to a few each season, but I go to every game with him because he wants to spend that time with me. We spend too much time together, frankly, and I believe we should have our own interests in order to have a truly healthy relationship. Right now, I don’t tell him how I really feel. I don’t want to hurt his feelings, but I need to be true to myself and speak up.
- Tiny Steps: I’m going to talk to my husband about going to one game a month, and then have him go with a friend or family member for the other games. Then I could do some things I’d like to explore, like painting, or yoga classes etc. Even if he’s unhappy with my decision, I have to do what’s right for me. My wants count too.
- I disagree a lot with the opinions of some of my family members. When I’m at family events, I feel intimidated by others and their opinions, especially when they express them so assertively. I often have an opinion that differs, but I don’t share it because I think everyone will think I’m an idiot for thinking differently. I’m afraid to speak up and be ridiculed. I’d like to feel more confident expressing my ideas.
- Tiny Steps: At the next family event, I will voice my opinion and see what happens. I’ll be prepared for a strong reaction form others but remind myself that I’m doing this for me. My opinion might be different, but it’s mine, and there’s nothing wrong with it. I will not get defensive if I’m criticized; I will just try to be me. Even if it feels rough at first, I’ll keep experimenting with my voice.
It’s time to look at your list. Rank the areas of your life where you aren’t being the real you. Put them in order of significance to you.
For example, in the example list in Step 2, the hockey games seem to take up a lot of time. In addition, not communicating honestly with a partner seems to be an area for growth. So, that one could be first.
Alternatively, hating a job everyday could end up being number one because that negatively affects someone’s whole being, day in and day out.
Ranking your list will show you where to start.
Review the tiny steps you have for each item on your list and revise them if needed.
Start with number one, and take action! Follow your tiny steps.
Practice and Reflect
Adjust your tiny steps as you work on the first item on your list.
Depending on the situation, you might need to expand your observation or practice.
- For example, if you’ve been holding in your feelings about going to hockey games with your husband, are there other areas where you’re holding back your honest thoughts with him?
- Another example is speaking up at family events when your opinion differs. The first time you do this, it will be scary and might not go the way you want. But, if you keep practicing, eventually, you’ll gain more confidence in staying true to yourself, and you’ll worry less about expressing your ideas.
After you’ve taken action, it’s important to reflect on how it went. What were the positives for you? What did you learn? What didn’t go well? What could you tweak next time?
Your efforts to be the real you will not result in instant success, overnight. It takes time to change our thinking patterns and our ingrained behavior.
Note how you feel, and keep working at it.
Then go to the next item on your list and repeat Steps 4 & 5.
You can work on the other steps simultaneously, but you run the risk of feeling overwhelmed and then not giving any one area the attention it deserves. I’d encourage you to tackle one facet of your life at a time.
What if No One Likes the Real You?
You are unique, and you do not need to become someone different to please others.
Over time, and with observation, practice and reflection, you CAN gain a stronger sense of self and gain more confidence, so you stay true to yourself more often.
If other people don’t like the real you, it’s their problem, not yours. There’s nothing wrong with you. As long as you’re acting honestly and respectfully, you can be you.
Sometimes, when we become the real us, we ruffle feathers or lose friends, and that’s ok. Trust that you are serving you, and you’ll find new friends who like you for who you are.
Trust me on this.
Picture a room of 20 people. You walk in. Do you think it’s reasonable that you’ll relate to and connect with all 20 of them?
What’s more likely to happen is that you won’t connect with ten of them. You’d like to get to know 5 of them, and there are 2 who could end up being friends.
This scenario means you might connect with only 10-25% of the people in that room. Does that mean there’s something wrong with the other 75-90% of the people?
Should those people change who they are, so you’ll like them or want to hang out with them?
It just means you don’t relate or connect with them.
And the reverse is true. Not everyone will relate or connect with you. Is there something wrong with you? Hell no.
Should you try to change yourself, so they will like you?
Even in close relationships, it’s important to learn how to stay true to yourself as often as you can.
Be consistent with who you are, and over time, you will connect with other like-minded people. You will attract the friends you need, not the friends you want.
As the On Being Yourself poem says,
“…you can’t be loved by all people”.
The poem also says:
“…you can spend your whole life trying to become the best banana, which is impossible if you are an apple.”
See yourself as a shiny apple, with all the imperfections any natural apple has, and refuse to put on a banana skin to play the part of a banana.
Still afraid to be you?
Take the risk, and start small. Really small if needed.
In the end, you’ve got one life to live, so live it as you.
Live your true life,
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