Whenever you feel overwhelmed by life and the things it throws at you, what do you always hear your friends and loved ones say? Stay true to yourself.
When attending a new school or going to your first day on the job, what do they say again? Stay true to yourself.
When meeting someone new, who could possibly be the love of your life, what do you say to yourself? Stay true. Or, perhaps, something along the lines of, “Don’t you dare show him/her how crazy you really are.”
But how do you stay true to yourself when the world says otherwise? How can you theoretically embrace your inner truth, if the media wants you to be both thin and curvy, nice and mean, rich and penniless, etc?
The whole concept of being true to yourself has been convoluted, so it’s hard to understand how to really do it and whether or not you’ve really accomplished the sought-after state of just not giving a damn.
While it’s not impossible, it is going to take a lot of work. And where do you start? You start with you—and here’s how to do it.
Why some introspection will help
In order for you to stay true to yourself, you have to ask yourself what exactly true is. What’s real about you? What’s not? Why did you pretend in the first place, and where did it all start?
The only way to know the answers to these questions is to look back at your life and at what’s happening in the present. Few people choose to dig deep within themselves for fear of what they might find.
Admitting mistakes, shortcomings, and insecurities is one of the most difficult things anyone can do. It hurts to know that you really are less than perfect, but failing to acknowledge your failings hurts more in the long run.
The harsh truth is that you are doomed to fail. Not because you didn’t try hard enough, but because you kept trying to be someone you’re not. That’s why the best course of action for you is to stop trying to be someone you’re not—and start being who you are. [Read: 11 steps to fall in love with yourself and be a much better YOU]
You have to get to know the real you before you are able to finally accept and embrace the concept of being true to yourself.
Questions to ask
One of the easiest ways to help you stay true to the person you really are is to have a conversation with yourself. Not the crazy whispering to oneself in front of a stained mirror, but a genuine, honest conversation.
Think of this exercise as a meditation, of sorts, where you ask yourself some hard questions and really think about the answers and how they can help you.
#1 Am I happy? This is what you really want to gauge when considering how true to yourself you are. Being true to yourself equates to being happy; therefore, you need to determine whether or not you are happy. [Read: 12 small changes to change your life and find your happiness]
#2 What am I grateful for? What are the things that you’re thankful for? What couldn’t you live without? Air? Water? Family? Friends? It helps to know what it is you’re fighting for.
#3 What gets me out of bed every morning? Is it work? Is it because you need to make a living? Is it because you want to do something special that day? No matter what the reason is, you got up. For a lot of people, that’s more than enough.
#4 What am I good at? Don’t list things that you aren’t good at; instead, look and see at what you actually do well. Whether it’s making pancakes, playing board games, or dialing a number, knowing what you’re good at tells you where to start looking to find what makes you happy. [Read: The need for purpose in life and 5 big things it can do for you]
#5 What do I not like about myself? This is going to be difficult, but being honest with yourself will shed light on what it is that is making you untrue to yourself. Imagine solving a work problem; the first thing you look for are the things that aren’t working.
#6 What can I do to change that? Everything that you don’t like about yourself can be changed or adapted to. Change isn’t about overhauling the whole package—it’s about adjusting yourself in order to find what makes you feel comfortable and happy.
#7 Do I really have to change it? Again, this all boils down to what makes you feel good and happy. If changing your looks doesn’t make you happy, don’t. The fact that you’re unhappy is probably stemming from something else, like how you think people perceive you. If you’re okay with who you are, you’re off to a great start.
#8 Do I care too much about what other people think? If your answer is yes, you now know why you’re not being true to yourself. In order for you to change that, you have to accept that what other people think has no bearing on who you choose to be. Your opinion about yourself is the only thing that should matter. If it’s good, then it’s good. If not, what are you going to do about it? [Read: 20 clear signs you’re trying too hard to please people around you]
#9 Am I doing what’s best for myself? Your job, your dating life, your social life—all of your decisions in these areas create the life you are living. Making the best decisions means choosing what makes you happy, what makes you healthy, and what makes you thrive. If you are neither happy, nor healthy, nor thriving, it might be time to reconsider the choices you’re making.
#10 Will my happiness come at the cost of someone else’s? Happiness is subjective, but some things that make us happy can make other people sad. Unfortunately, some types of happiness can only be achieved at the cost of someone else’s—like falling in love with a friend’s crush. But in order to be true to yourself, you have to think hard about what you’re willing to sacrifice for your happiness. Guide yourself by considering what’s worth it and what’s not.
Staying true to yourself comes with a lot of responsibility. The great thing about it, however, is that no one else can make that decision for you.
By being your own person and sticking to what’s true about yourself, you’ll soon find yourself in happier situations. You will also find people who truly care about you.
Finding a way to be true to yourself is not an easy task, but it is very possible. You just have to want it—and actually do something about it.
[Read: 16 things you need to give up TODAY to have a happier life]
Using the self reflecting questions above, you can determine whether you are staying true to yourself. If you are—great! Keep at it. If not, readjust and learn to love and accept you, just as you are.
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