Do you often feel like you're wearing a mask in public? Are you afraid to show people who you really are? If so, this is the article for you.
You're not alone. With the pressures of society and social media still as strong as ever, we fear being seen for who we are. But that stops today.
We're going to give you 12 different ways that you can start being your authentic self so you can feel confident in your own skin.
Why do you struggle to be yourself?
As with most things in life, our insecurities can often be linked back to our childhood. Perhaps you were bullied, or your family never accepted who you were growing up.
Somewhere along the line, you've developed the idea or mentality that being yourself is not good enough. That being yourself makes you unworthy of love and acceptance.
Whatever the catalyst is, it's important to confront it, push past it, and begin to live life the way you want.
After all, the only person you have to live with is yourself.
Why is it important to be yourself?
Put simply; you have no choice but to be yourself. It sounds obvious, and yet we still find ourselves masking because we fear rejection and failure.
When we're not being authentic to our true selves, we develop an inner conflict between who we are and who we pretend to be. And this conflict presents itself as stress, burnout, anxiety, and depression.
The more different we act compared to who we are inside, the worse the symptoms become.
And so, to preserve our mental health and learn to live a life we love and that we deserve, we have to overcome our fears of rejection and embrace who we truly are.
Twelve steps to being yourself
1. Spend more time alone
It might sound like a weird first step. After all, the whole point of being ourselves is to be unapologetically true to who we are when interacting with other people.
However, if you have spent a long time masking and pushing down your true self, you might not even fully understand what being yourself means to you. Which leads nicely into the second step…
2. Get to know yourself better
Take the time to reacquaint yourself with who you are. This is a great time to bring out your journal if you have one (or a brilliant opportunity to start one!).
Make a list of all the goals, experiences, and dreams that you want to accomplish in life. Don't hold back - there is no limit to how big you can dream. Elaborate on what these dreams look like to you, how you think you can accomplish them, and the steps you need to take on the way.
Next, think about all the hobbies you've wanted to try. For example, have you ever wanted to dance but felt that your two left feet would leave you embarrassed? Why not go for it? It's not about being good; it's about feeding your passions and your desires.
Finally, take stock of your life. Are you happy with where you are right now? Does it align with your core beliefs, likes, and passions? Think about the way you dress, the food you eat, the activities you do, and the people you surround yourself with.
Keep what's working for you and change what isn't.
3. Take risks
As we've previously mentioned, a big reason we are scared to be ourselves is that we fear rejection.
Taking risks doesn't necessarily mean jumping out of a plane or playing Russian Roulette (in fact, we actively discourage you from doing the latter!).
When you're so used to playing someone else or masking who you are inside, anything that shows people who you really are can feel like taking a risk.
So, for example, if you've been dressing in a way that doesn't align with how you see yourself, take the risk and wear the clothes that make you feel like you.
If you're not sure where to start, experimentation is a crucial step for you. When we talk about the fear of rejection, it often comes with a fear of failure. By this, we mean “if I'm perceived to do this in a way that other people don't like, then I am not acceptable, and I am not worthy.”
And so we often feel like we have to have the perfect solution already planned in order to be allowed to be ourselves, and that's simply not true. We can try as many different things that we feel might represent ourselves as we like.
And experimenting is the best way to find out what works for you and what doesn't work for you. Consider it scientific research into “the mystery of you.”
If it works, great! If it doesn't work, that's also great because you have learned something new about yourself and that moves you forward into becoming a more authentic version of yourself.
5. Use affirmations
It's one thing to say you're going to become yourself, and it's another thing to believe that you are deserving of being yourself.
No matter how strong your intentions are to live life more authentically, beliefs don't just happen overnight. However, what we do know about the psychology of the brain is that your thoughts become your beliefs, and your beliefs become actions.
And the best way to create this chain of events is to repeat affirmations to yourself every morning.
Some great examples of affirmations include:
“I am worthy of being myself.”
“I deserve love.”
“I accept myself exactly as I am.”
6. Stop apologising for being yourself
Guess what happens when you apologise for being yourself. You're telling not only your mind but also the people you're surrounded by that you are not enough. That you don't deserve to take up the space you are in.
And nothing could be further from the truth.
So next time you get the urge to apologise for doing something as yourself, swallow the words back down before they can leave your mouth.
7. Stop negative self-talk
If the narrative in your mind is one that constantly puts you down, then it's no wonder you feel afraid to show people who you really are.
What's important to remember here is that not all your thoughts are true, and you don't have to listen to them.
Often, our minds feed on our insecurities, telling us that what we’re scared people will judge us for is who we really are. An unhelpful false narrative that we fall for hook, line, and sinker.
So next time you start talking negatively about yourself or have negative self-thoughts, simply remind yourself it's not true and allow the thoughts to move away from your focus.
8. Practice mindfulness
We have more power over our thoughts and focus than we think. We can't stop thoughts from entering our brains, but we can control how we deal with our thoughts. And that's exactly what mindfulness teaches us.
By staying focused on the present moment and allowing thoughts to simply pass through our brain without paying attention to them (especially negative ones), we take back some of the control over the anxiety-inducing narrative our brains often concoct.
9. Express yourself
It might be a little bit uncomfortable, maybe even shocking, for people who have known you a long time to understand that you're now embracing who you are as a person.
Which is why you need to build the confidence to express yourself both in the way you dress and the way you present. But also by talking to people about it.
10. Find your tribe
Think about why you've been masking and hiding your true self from the people you know and interact with.
If the reason is that those people are extremely judgemental and impose certain restrictions on you and your behaviour, maybe it's time to think about surrounding yourself with people who are more accepting of your true self.
11. Find your inner confidence
There's this odd misconception when it comes to confidence. Many people are under the impression that confidence is something you're just born with.
And sure, some people find confidence easier than others, but the truth is, confidence is a muscle that, when exercised regularly, can grow and strengthen.
And by “exercised”, we mean acting with confidence, whether you feel it or not, until eventually, it feels normal to feel confident. Because you deserve to feel confident in who you are.
12. Stop worrying about what other people think
The final and arguably most important step of all you need to let go of other people’s perceptions of you.
Once again, it comes back to this fear of rejection that people somehow see right through you and know you're an impostor because that's how you feel about yourself.
Try and take comfort in the fact that, as human beings, we're extremely egotistical. By which we mean we're way too concerned about ourselves to pay attention to anyone else for longer than a few seconds at a time.
There are over 7 billion people on this planet, every single one of them unique. Which is why the world needs you to embrace who you are. Which is why you need you to embrace who you are.
The habits of a lifetime are not broken easily, but the more you practise these 12 steps, the closer you get to living life as your true self.
Are you ready to drop the mask? Let us know in the comments below.
For more life advice, follow us on Instagram at @malpaper