“Being your authentic self is one of the hardest things in life to do.” I heard this the other day, and it stuck with me. From the time we are born someone is telling us who to be and how to act.
Recently, while packing for my move, I broke down and started crying because I felt so overwhelmed by the task. I was immediately scolded by a family member who told me to “stop being stressed” and “toughen up.” That stopped my tears in their tracks. I was my authentic self, letting my feelings flow naturally and I was shamed for it.
I calmly and politely reminded the person that they were not in my shoes, my situation and my feelings were “mine.” It felt really good to handle it that way, taking responsibility for my life, my decisions, and my actions. I would never have done that in the past. I would have been far too afraid of their reaction and response. As it turned out, my comment shut them up for the rest of the day.
How many times have you held in the tears because you feared someone else’s reaction?
How We Lose Our Authenticity
Authenticity is hard to come by these days. We hide behind tweets, Snapchat, YouTube and social media snippets to present a perfect version of ourselves to the world, and none of it is real. We are afraid to be who we really are because we are insecure about how the world will view us; we keep our authenticity hidden and lose ourselves in the process.
It starts innocently enough, you meet a new friend or love interest, and they express something important to them that you are not. Slowly you begin to incorporate this thing into who you are to please them and then another and another. Pretty soon you change so much you don’t even recognize yourself anymore.
I did it plenty of times. A boyfriend of mine said he loved long, painted fingernails. I have always kept mine short with clear polish; long nails are just not me. But to please him, I started trying to grow them and paint them. I hated it. It was uncomfortable, but I was afraid of not pleasing him. Eventually, they began to peel and break, and it was too much hassle, so I stoppped trying but I felt guilty.
Authenticity Continues to Slip Further Away
Sometimes it comes from our parents; sometimes it’s a romantic partner or even our kids who subtly imply how we should dress, talk, think or be. It’s tough to escape the pressure of other people wanting us to act a certain way. But in doing so, they rob us of our authenticity and starve the world of the unique gifts that we have to offer. Eventually, we wake up to find we don’t like who we have become.
When we forget to be our authentic selves, we start feeling unfulfilled, restless and angry. We become what “they” want rather than who we naturally are; this creates inner conflict that stirs up feelings of discontent that get worse over time and can affect our health.
The People Pleaser
I spent a good deal of my life trying to please other people. I tried really hard to mold myself into the person they wanted me to be rather than who I am. It was a complete failure because it made me miserable and it didn’t make them love me more or appreciate me for who I am. I made major life decisions to try and earn the respect and love of others. These decisions made me miserable. I felt like an imposter, and I resented them for it. That resentment destroyed relationships.
I found myself doing it most often in romantic relationships. I ended up changing so much that I forgot how to just be me. It’s easy to get lost in what other people want and forget who you really are.
The mimic is someone who doesn’t know who he or she is. They have no sense of their own identity, so they mimic what others like and do so they can fit in, conform and be accepted but they never find the happiness they crave.
I have a friend like that. If one of us has an opinion, soon he will begin mimicking it and act as though it was his idea. It’s sad because it is evident to others what he is doing. He doesn’t even know who he is or how to be his authentic self and I don’t even think he knows what he likes or dislikes in life. He adopts whatever everyone else prefers, and he is one of the most unhappy people I know. He is continually looking outside himself for validation and searching for something he will never find.
Stop Being the Puppet
Do you find yourself hiding the real you, so others won’t see you cry, hurt, angry or acting unusual? Are you afraid of how they will react if they see the real you? When you do that, you stifle your creative and beautiful self.
To start being authentic and embracing who you really are, ask yourself a few questions:
- Do I even like this food?
- Are these my kind of clothes?
- When did I start doing this and why?
- Is this the job I want for myself or am I doing it for someone else?
- Do I believe this anymore? Did I ever?
- Are you doing things for the right reasons?
- Am I hiding my feelings or letting them flow naturally?
- Who am I really?
- What changes can I make to be my authentic self?
Then question everything else!
This is the Real Me, Take it or Leave it!
I like myself much better now that I am embracing the real me, all of me, the good and the bad. The true, authentic me is so much better than the fake me that tried to please everyone.
You were NOT put on this earth to please other people. You have every right to be exactly who you are. We were all born original for a reason. Don’t let anyone squeeze the uniqueness out of you. Stand up and declare to the world, “this is the real me, take it or leave it!”
Be true to yourself. Look deep inside and see if you are being authentic and if not, you can make changes to become the real you again.