If you've been dealing with pressure to fit in and wondering how to be your most authentic self at the same time, know that you're not alone. Researchers and mindfulness experts have spent years trying to nail down the best ways people can be "real" about who they are.
But learning how to be true to yourself can be easier than it seems!
Authenticity is simply about living up to your own expectations — and not letting critics influence you. According to writer and researcher Brené Brown, "Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we're supposed to be and embracing who we are."
Through a few small, daily actions, you can uncover who you really are and learn to not just put up with your quirks but love them. Here are four creative ways to start honoring the unique human you are.
1. Embrace the fact that you're not perfect (because no one is)
Perfection isn't any more attainable than it used to be, but you wouldn't know that from looking online. Anyone familiar with how social media works knows that what shows up in your feed — and maybe even what people show you when you interact with them in person — isn't necessarily the real deal. One of the best things you can do to be true to yourself is to admit you're not perfect and then love your imperfections anyway.
That might sound a bit outlandish, but consider this: When was the last time you did something simply because you thought it would look good to do it? If you want to be true to yourself, consider ditching the things you're not actually all that into. You don't have to sweat through that intense fitness class just because your friends are, and you don't have to become an amateur pastry chef just because you feel like you should know how to bake.
Invest your time in activities that you truly love instead of ones you think will make people like you. When it feels like your actions are under the microscope, doing something just for yourself is a way of temporarily dipping out of the spotlight and getting comfortable in your own skin.
2. Think about what you wanted to be when you were a kid
Most kids have an idea of who they want to be when they grow up, even though they won't enter the workforce for years. Maybe you wanted to be a firefighter, nurse or actor.
While your fantasy career might not make much sense for you these days, you can learn a lot about who you are — and what you really value — from reflecting on your childhood dreams. If you wanted to be an astronaut, that shows you care about discovery and gathering knowledge. If you wanted to be an athlete, it's a sign of your deep appreciation of organization and penchant for competition (and maybe an aptitude for teamwork).
Once you've made these connections, ask yourself: Is your life meeting those needs? If you can identify areas where you're unfulfilled, you should be able to find ways to work on them in your day-to-day life.
3. Stop saying "yes" when you'd rather say "no"
Setting boundaries is a key step in being true to yourself — but the urge to please others, even at the expense of our own well-being, is hard to escape. This is totally natural and really common. Thankfully, there's an easy way to change this habit.
When you feel pressured to agree to something you're not interested in, simply say "no." You should be kind about it, but also authoritative. This may be easier (and less risky) to do in your personal life than in your professional life, but you should never feel pressured to go against your core principles.
4. Open up to someone you love
Being vulnerable can be tough, but it's another way to be authentic and honor the person you are. Think of someone you know that you can be yourself around. Maybe it's a parent, partner or friend. What would you say to them if you could say anything?
The act of being vulnerable pushes you to face your fear of what might happen if you act as your true self in front of someone you care about. And the payoff is huge; you either become closer to someone you love, or you learn that they're not supportive of you and you see their true self. It takes some courage, but it's truly a win-win situation.
The next time you're with a close friend or family member, try not censoring yourself as you talk. You're sure to feel closer to your authentic self in no time! Remember, you only have to live up to your own expectations — when it comes to being your truest self, no one else's opinion should factor in.
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