Growth | Written by: Neda Shamsdiba

How to be Yourself

“Who cares what other people think? Just be yourself.”

How many times have you heard that, or maybe even said it? I’ve said it countless times. And while I spend most of my days living it, sometimes the answer to who cares is me.

I strive always to make the choices that align with my inner self but now and then I slip into wondering what others will think about what I’m wearing, saying, or doing.

Sometimes I wonder what my friends, parents, and even strangers will think.

Usually, I can quickly shrug those thoughts off with an affirmation of  “eh, who cares.” But what if you can’t?

If you find yourself constantly changing who you are based on certain situations or on who surrounds you, you’re not being authentic, and it’s a bigger deal than you might think.

Living authentically by being yourself is closely connected to mental health, and positively correlates to mental well-being.

Being yourself is one of the most freeing, fulfilling, and happiest feelings in the world.

So next time you find yourself living through the perceptions of others instead of living your best life, remember these tips on how to be yourself:

Get to Know Yourself

Before you can be yourself, you need to really know yourself.

I know you probably think you know who you are but sometimes that understanding is skewed by society, and the molds you’ve been told to fit.

From a young age you’ve been conditioned to be a certain way, so your true self might be a little more of a stranger than you’d like to think.

And that’s a huge bummer because really knowing yourself has so many benefits. When you know yourself, you make better decisions, form stronger relationships, and communicate better, among other things.

So do yourself a solid and get to know yourself. It’s fun, easy, and you can start right now by:

  • Writing in a journal. Use this as a space where you can get to know yourself with complete freedom. Journaling can be a way to express your goals, accomplishments, desires, failures, and insecurities that no one else ever has to see.
  • Trying new things. Whether that’s as big as picking up a new hobby or traveling to a new destination, or as simple as switching from almond to coconut milk, mix things up. Trying new things will help you learn more about your likes and dislikes.
  • Getting Astrological. I know it’s a little out there, but if you’re into it, take a look at your natal chart and learn about your astrology. It might shed new light on some of your less than ideal traits.
  • Spending some time alone. This one is big – spending time alone is a great way to get to know yourself because you’re completely free from any judgment.

Now I’m not saying you should become a hermit and totally isolate yourself (please don’t do that).

But spend a little time every day or week by yourself. Go on, date yourself. It’ll feel amazing, and if you’re already dating someone else, don’t worry, it’s not cheating.

Only Speak the Truth

We live in a world where the automatic response to “how are you doing?” is “good, you?” or “fine, thanks.” I think it’s safe to say that everyone has said they’re feeling good or even great when the reality has been the complete opposite at least once.

I’ll be the first to admit I’m guilty of this. And while it seems like no big deal, it’s completely not being yourself, and it has more negative impacts than you realize.

Last night, during a yoga class the instructor asked how everyone was feeling and after a few moments of non-responsiveness she said “is anyone feeling not so great, feeling a little eh?”

I just so happened to be having a pretty shitty day, one of those days where everything goes wrong for absolutely no reason. And yet, my initial thought was “feeling good!”

But I shoved that thought aside and said: “I’m feeling pretty eh today.”

It’s wild how good that simple act of saying exactly what I meant to a room full of strangers felt. I let myself be unapologetically me, and I instantly felt a little better and a lot lighter.

Saying what you mean is a big part of how to be yourself, not only when someone is asking you how you’re doing, but at all times.

It might sound extreme, but not saying what you feel or think is essentially lying. And while it might just be a tiny white lie, not speaking your truth has adverse psychological effects. It can:

  • Be exhausting and lead to burnout
  • Keep you from addressing and solving real issues
  • Hurt your relationships
  • Cause feelings of anxiety and isolation
  • Lead to sleep problems
  • Create trust issues
  • Make you feel insecure and lower your self-esteem

And research even shows that keeping it real can help you in the business world too by leading to higher employee performance, lower turnover rates, and a stronger bottom line.

Practice Mindfulness

Thoughts are the biggest roadblock on the path of how to be yourself.

Why did I say that? Have I been talking for too long? Am I boring them? What’s something clever I can say when they’re done talking?

 Are they staring because there’s something on my face? Or maybe I’m not dressed the right way?

These thoughts happen when you’re entirely alone too. The thoughts that you don’t look good enough, aren’t working hard enough, just aren’t enough.

These thoughts that happen every second keep you from being yourself. And honestly, the majority of the time it’s just your brain playing a trick on you.

Instead of focusing on the conversations in your head, shift your focus to the conversations and events that are actually happening.

Now I’m not saying you should ignore your thoughts; it’s all about hearing your thoughts, accepting them, and letting them pass without becoming too attached.

Mindfulness takes practice, and it’s hard at first, but it does more than help you be yourself, it comes with many other amazing benefits. It reduces stress, produces less avoidance, improves emotional regulation, enhances the ability to deal with illness, and so much more.

Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

You can’t be yourself when you’re constantly consuming other people’s thoughts and ideas. While the occasional comparison to your idols can be motivating, constantly joining in on the comparison game makes you forget about your unique purpose.

When you catch yourself comparing to someone who you feel is doing better than you in life, remember that you have different circumstances and privileges. And if you’re comparing on social media, remember that it’s only a highlight reel.

Instead of comparing yourself to others compare to yourself.

Compare who you are now to who you were a year ago or a few months ago. Look at how far you’ve come and how much you’ve already accomplished since then.

And if you catch yourself regularly using social media to compare yourself to the lives of others, take a break.

Delete your social apps for a day, or designate one or two days a week where you entirely avoid social media.

If you’re like most people and fill up all your empty time with scrolling, fill that space with journaling, podcasts, movement, reading, and other more beneficial activities.

Forgive Yourself

As you navigate the path of how to be yourself, practice compassion for your past self and your future self.

Always speaking the truth, being mindful, and sitting out on the comparison game are challenging feats to take on.

Forgive yourself if it’s a slow start, if you speak the truth more instead of always – if you compare less instead of never, it’s all progress.

If you find yourself struggling to forgive, remember more forgiveness leads to less stress and better mental health.

And it’s okay if who you are changes, as long as it’s you.

Be You

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

– Ralph Waldo Emmerson

Do something that will help you in how to be yourself today.

Tell the next person who asks how you really feel. Try something new. Embrace spending time with yourself.

And remember, the only person you should ever compete with is you. It’s cliché, but it’s true.

Being yourself will make everything else in life fall into place, just watch.

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