What It Means To Be True To Yourself And How To Do It
Being true to yourself takes introspection and the ability to deeply understand your thoughts, emotions and behaviors and how you interact with the environment. You are a separate entity and can determine your own state. Seems simple enough, right?
And yet there are many external influences that cloud the lens when trying to get a view of your true self. Family, peers, marketing images, societal expectations and the inertia of “that’s the way it has always been”. It can be a bit scary to truly understand, and then comes to terms with, who we are. What if we don't like what we see? What if others don't?
As the self awareness guy has said, “Many competent, well-meaning, intelligent people genuinely believe that something bad will happen if they think differently, change their behavior patterns, examine their feelings, listen to their inner voices or live consciously. They settle for being someone they’re not and live lives that doesn’t make them authentically happy. Thankfully, self-awareness can help anyone discover who they are and what their true path in life is.”
What is the relationship between self-awareness and being true to yourself?
There are many choices put in front of us as we make our way through life. What do I study? What do I want to be when I grow up? How am I going to fit in if I’m different? How am I going to get a job that I don’t hate? What type of person is right for me?
If you don’t know who you are, and therefore can’t genuinely “be yourself”, then you run the risk of making decisions and choices based on a false you - the version of yourself that you want to be, or think you are supposed to be.
A number of years ago, I was working in training and assessment for sales and management roles. One of the tasks was administering personality testing to determine people’s preferences for the way they work and how they interact with other people. This process helped with finding the best new hires, building cooperative teams and finding the right jobs for the right people.
Like any testing it has limitations, but one of the revealing measurements was for internal reliability - basically, were the answers consistent. If the reliability was poor, it usually pointed to the respondent having low self-awareness and not being able to consistently determine which phrases, words or scenarios best represented them. Or, they had self-awareness but were trying to choose the answers that they thought were the right ones - what they thought others wanted them to be like - and, therefore, not being true to themselves.
Consistently trying to be someone you are not is like carrying a weight on your shoulders day after day. Faking it gets harder and harder. Eventually you can’t lift it anymore. Not being true to yourself manifests as stress, anxiety, fatigue, dissatisfaction, substance abuse, poor relationships and a general sense that something is just not right.
You lack passion for the job you are in, so you underperform. You are in a relationship that doesn’t fit who you are, so you (and the other person) are not happy and it fails. There are things that you could be doing that enrich your life, but you don’t. Your friendships are not deep and genuine and they don’t give you the support and energy you hoped for.
When asked the big question “What is the meaning of life?”, the Dalai Lama said “The meaning of life is happiness.”
Is it possible to be genuinely happy if you are not true to yourself? Knowing yourself and being true to yourself is kind of important. Being authentic and true may take some work. But life is short and precious so if you feel stressed and disconnected, then it’s worth taking a step back and making an assessment.
Here are a few ways that you can ensure that you’re staying true to yourself:
1. Understand yourself and be self-aware.
This is the starting point. This gives us the foundation for our choices and actions. It becomes a reference that we can use when considering the expectations of others or trying to fit in. If you know your beliefs, how you respond to situations, what your preferred behaviors are, how you interact with and impact other people, then that becomes your guide.
You need to be honest. This is a conversation with yourself. Or, if needed, there are professionals that can guide you through this question.
2. Be courageous
You will have opinions and ideas that are your own.
Being true to yourself means having the courage to act on them, or to communicate them to others and not be intimidated by authority.
3. Trust yourself
You will have your own values and beliefs.
They may be the same as others, or completely unique. Do not assume that your unique perspective is not valid, just because it is not the majority opinion. Be confident even in the face of criticism or doubts.
We are surrounded by people, marketing, social media and other influences that may distract us from staying true to ourselves. Old habits die hard, so maintaining clarity on our true self may take diligence and regular reminders. Keeping a journal can be a great way to stay on track.
5. Be prepared to make changes.
Has not being your authentic self has led you into circumstances that don’t reflect who you truly are? Do you feel empowered and validated by how you act, what you do, who you are with, where you live? Or, do you feel the weight of faking it? If so, perhaps you need to evaluate what changes can be made to bring you closer to your true self.
We all have only one life (thanks, Capt. Obvious). We owe it to ourselves to live according to our truth so we are less stressed, happier and more fulfilled. That doesn’t mean sitting on a mountain and thinking about life, although I suppose it could.
Being true to yourself does not mean you can’t have a focus on success. Just define success so that it aligns with who you are and what you believe.
Have you struggled with living so you are true to yourself? We would love to hear your story in the comments below! Is your story too personal to share? You should sign up for thoseilove and create a capsule to ensure that your story lives on when you’re gone.