While it's cliche to tell you to “be yourself”, there's a surprising amount of pressure to be authentic.
Whether you've been encouraged to suppress some of your key traits at work or remember being mocked when growing up, most of us can remember a time when we clearly got the message that it was bad to be ourselves.
So, how can you overcome this pressure to conform? And why should you make this a priority in your life?
We'll explore how you can stay true to your authentic self even when the world is trying to change you. We'll start by considering just why it's so important to be yourself and look at the consequences of living a lie.
From there, we'll move on to four specific approaches you can take to the goal of being yourself, before closing by connecting authentic living to effectively manifesting your most important goals.
So, what's so great about being yourself? Most important, being yourself gives you total freedom.
You have mental freedom – you can relax, and let your thoughts come naturally.
You also have social freedom – you can give your real opinions, and be honest about what you like.
This authenticity then allows you to make real connections with other people you can relate to.
Plus, being yourself also involves knowing yourself. After all, if you don't know who you are then you don't know how to be that person.
A commitment to authenticity triggers self-reflection and self-exploration, leading your life to better reflect your values and preferences.
To gain an even deep understanding of the power of being yourself, it's worth thinking about what happens when you do the opposite – when you live a lie.
Living a lie can affect your happiness, your mental health, and even your physical health.
Firstly, you may constantly feel uncomfortable and unsettled, like something is “off” – it's hard to relax when you're faking who you are, and you constantly need to keep track of any lies you've told.
Leaving the house will require putting on a psychological mask, which saps energy and has an adverse impact on mood over time.
Secondly, as indicated above, relationships are bound to suffer when you're living a life. For one thing, you'll never know if your relationships would survive if you were being yourself, as your friends and partners only know the person you pretend to be.
Relatedly, you'll find it hard to believe that you are unconditionally deserving of love, as you're constantly acting as though you really need to be rejected and hidden. Meanwhile, any positive feedback you get doesn't really boost your self-esteem, as it's only a validation of a false self you're projecting.
And in the most extreme cases of all (e.g., where living a lie involves concealing your sexual orientation or gender identity), you deny yourself the chance to experience the deepest connections the world has to offer.
Similar considerations apply to being inauthentic in your professional life. You're unlikely to pursue your true passions or find your true purpose, as you're fixated on pleasing others and on the idea of what looks good to those around you.
Plus, you're highly unlikely to be as good at what you do when your heart isn't in it, so you're less likely to successfully progress up a career ladder if you don't act like yourself.
In contrast to all of the above, life is both simpler and much more fulfilling if you commit to being yourself.
We've looked at why it's so valuable to just be yourself, and why it's one of the most powerful ways to be good to yourself.
But what can you do if you struggle to be authentic in this way? Here are four steps you can take, along with some examples of when they might be most applicable.
One of the best things you can do if you want to live an authentic life is to stop pleasing everyone.
It's not easy to stop being a people pleaser – start by making it a rule to do several things just to please yourself each day, and commit to these even if you need to turn down other invitations.
For example, one day your self-pleasing activity might be reading a book for an hour before bed, and on another day it might be treating yourself to your favorite food.
At the same time, set a goal of finding one thing per week that you are only tempted to because it pleases others, and resolve not to do it.
In particular, look for something in unequal relationships where others tend to use you or take you for granted. Next week, find two things, then three the week after. In time, people-pleasing will stop being second nature.
Once you've started working on pleasing yourself more and pleasing others less, turn your attention to self-improvement.
There are always ways to improve yourself, and devoting energy to these pursuits can make you more confident about being yourself. For example, suppose one of the reasons that you struggle to be yourself is that you think you don't express yourself well verbally.
Consider signing up for a public speaking class, or even just practice speaking at home. Alternatively, if feel embarrassed to be who you are because you don't feel you're successful, look at what you need to do to be proud of who you are.
You should never feel you have to meet any particular milestone just to be valuable, but success and achievement certainly help boost confidence.
While you work on self-improvement, it's crucial to be kind to yourself. Think of what you're doing as making yourself even better, not as “turning a bad person into a good one.”
Being confident is complex, but a lack of confidence is the number one reason people give for not being themselves.
There are lots of facets to building confidence (including what we've described in the above two steps), but one thing you can do is stop comparing yourself to others.
It's easy to doubt yourself and think you're unimpressive if you constantly find people to view as superior. A mindset shift is required to put an end up to such comparisons.
Specifically, remind yourself that you only know what other people project.
Chances are that someone feels bad when they compare themselves to you – and yet inside yourself, you feel anxious and under-confident.
This tells you that people you put on a pedestal are rarely as perfect as they seem. In addition, never forget that social media paints an exaggerated, cleaned-up picture of people's lives – not a yardstick against which you should measure your own value.
Finally, it's a lot easier when you learn how to be happy with yourself. No matter what you're like, what you're good at, and where you struggle, you are unique.
You have something to offer the world and the other people in it. In many cases, the things we think are weird or off-putting about ourselves are actually the parts that friends and partners would find the most interesting and appealing.
Try to be proud of your weirdness – of what makes you yourself rather than someone else.
If you're struggling with this, try keeping a kind of hyper-focused gratitude journal. Each morning or evening, write down three things you are grateful for in yourself that day.
For example, if you mediated a dispute at work or in your family, you might note your patience, your empathy, and your neutrality. As the days go on, you end up with an extensive log of all the reasons why it's amazing to be you!
Finally, note that if you learn how to be true to yourself, you'll also massively boost your ability to manifest using the Law of Attraction. There are a couple of reasons for this.
Firstly, to manifest effectively you need to align yourself with your true purpose. This is only possible if you really get to know yourself in an honest, thorough way, and if you live in accordance with what you know about yourself.
In contrast, people who are living a lie often accidentally attract things that don't reflect their authentic desires. In addition, being true to yourself breeds happiness and fulfillment, which help you vibrate on a frequency of positive and abundance.
This, in turn, automatically attracts more positivity and abundance into all areas of your life.