“The most confused we ever get is when we try to convince our heads of something that we know in our hearts is a lie.” ~Karen Moning
It’s painful and stressful to feel like you’re living a lie. Like you’re hiding how you really feel, saying what you think other people want to hear, and doing things you don’t actually want to do—just because you think you’re supposed to.
But sometimes we don’t recognize we’re doing this. We just know we feel off, or something feels wrong, and we’re not sure how to change it.
You can see that many people struggle to be true to themselves.
From a young age, we’re taught to be good, fall in line, and avoid making any waves—to lower our voices, do as we’re told, and quit our crying (or they’ll give us something to cry about).
And most of us don’t get the opportunity to foster or follow our curiosity. We instead learn from our peers and the same information. In the exact same momentWe are enslaved by these things and live a life that is dominated and ruled over our bodies. Our minds and bodies become exhausted from long hours of sitting study, and our brains overwhelmed with knowledge and facts that have very few options for creative thinking.
To make things even worse, we learn to compare our accomplishments and progress—often, at things we don’t even really care about—to those of everyone around us. So we learn it’s more important to appear successful in relation to others than to feel excited or fulfilled within ourselves.
This was how I felt growing up, and also in my 20s. People-pleaser and always trying to prove I had value, I was like an omnipresent chameleon. I often felt overwhelmed by all the choices because I only knew that they should be remarkable.
Because I was so busy suppressing my thoughts and emotions with fear, I didn’t have the time to really know what I thought or feel.
It meant that I didn’t know what I wanted. I only knew I didn’t feel seen or heard. It felt as if no one knew me. But how could they when I didn’t even know myself?
I know I’ve made a lot of progress with this over the years, and I have a mile-long list of unconventional choices to back that up, as well as a number of authentic, fulfilling relationships. But I’ve recently recognized some areas where I’ve shape-shifted in an attempt to please others, and in some cases, without even realizing it.
I don’t want to be the kind of person who panders to popular opinion or lets other people dictate my choices. I don’t want to waste even one minute trying to be good enough for others instead of doing what feels good to me.
I am free to live by my rules and feel bold and wild.
It means removing the layers of fear, conditioning, and remaining true to my beliefs. But it’s hard to do this, because sometimes those layers are pretty heavy, or so transparent we don’t even realize they’re there.
With this in mind, I decided to create this reminder of what it looks and feels like to be true to myself so I can refer back to it if ever I think I’ve lost my way.
This might be a good fit for you if you value authenticity over conformity or approval.
You know you’re being true to yourself if….
1. You’re honest with yourself about what you think, feel, want, and need.
Understanding that truth with oneself is the first step to honesty with another, you must also be open with your friends and family. You must make time for yourself. This could be through journaling or meditation.
It also allows you to confront the hard realities that you might be tempted not to. You’re self-aware when faced with hard choices—like whether or not to leave a relationship that doesn’t feel right—so you can get to the root of your fear.
You might not always do this right away, or easily, but you’re willing to ask yourself the tough questions most of us spend our lives avoiding: Why am I doing this? Which benefits will I receive from all this? What would be better for me?
2. Freely share your thoughts, feelings.
Even if you’re afraid of judgment or tempted to lie just to keep the peace, you push yourself to speak up when you have something that needs to be said.
It is not okay to hide your feelings in order to make people comfortable. You’re willing to risk feeling vulnerable and embarrassed because you know that your feelings are valid, and that sharing them is the key to healing what’s hurting or fixing what isn’t working.
3. Honor your requests and decline any that might conflict.
Your body knows what it needs to be physically, mentally and emotionally healthy. You prioritize these things even if you have to say no to people.
Sure, you might sometimes make sacrifices, but you understand it’s not selfish to honor your needs and make them a priority.
You also know your needs don’t have to look like anyone else’s. It’s irrelevant to you if someone else can function on four hours of sleep, work around the clock, or pack their schedule with social engagements. You do what’s right for you and take care good care of yourself because you recognize you’re the only one who can.
4. Some people like you, some people don’t, and you’re okay with that.
Though you may wish, at times, you could please everyone—because it feels a lot safer to receive validation than disapproval—you understand that being disliked by some is a natural byproduct of being genuine.
This doesn’t mean you justify being rude and disrespectful because hey, you’re just being yourself! It just means you know you’re not for everyone; you’d rather be disliked for who you are than liked for who you’re not; and you understand the only way to find “your tribe” is to weed out the ones who belong in someone else’s.
5. Surround yourself with people that respect you and will support you as you are.
It is clear that your surroundings can have an impact on you. Therefore, you seek out people to support and encourage you.
You may have people in your life who don’t do these things, but if you do, you understand Their issues with you are just that—their issues. And you set boundaries with them so that they don’t get in your head and convince you there’s something wrong with you or your choices.
6. Focus more on yourself than society’s accepted values.
You’ve read the script for a socially acceptable life—climb the corporate ladder, have a lavish wedding, buy a big house, and make some babies—but you’ve seriously questioned whether this is right for you. Perhaps it is. Is, but if you go this route, it’s because this plan aligns with your own values, not because it’s what you’re supposed to do.
Your values will guide you through life. They may change as your circumstances change. So you check in with yourself regularly to be sure you’re living a life that doesn’t just look good on paper but also feels good in your heart.
7. You listen to your intuition and trust that you know what’s best for yourself.
You not only hear the voice inside that says, “Nope, not right for you,” you trust it. Because you’ve spent a lot of time learning to distinguish between the voice of truth and fear, you recognize the difference between holding yourself back and waiting for what feels right.
This distinction might not be obvious at first. Sometimes, you may even find yourself being influenced by people with good intentions who are trying to keep you safe from any dangers of thinking outside your box. But eventually, you tune out the noise and hone in on the only voice that truly knows what’s best for you.
8. Do what you feel is right, regardless of whether it means sacrificing approval from those around you.
It’s not just about you. Vertrauen that you know what’s best for you, you Do it. Even if it’s not a popular choice. You can still be trusted with your judgement, vision and sanity, even if others question it. It is clear that you are responsible for the choices you make and you will be held accountable for them.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you have everything you want in life. It just means you hear the beat of your own drum, even if it’s silent like a dog whistle to everyone else, and you march to it—maybe slowly or awkwardly, but with your freak flag raised nice and high.
9. You allow yourself to change your mind if you recognize you made a choice that wasn’t right for you.
You may feel embarrassed to admit you’re changing directions, but you do it anyway because you’d rather risk being judged than accept a reality that just plain feels wrong for you.
Whether it’s a move that you realize you made for the wrong reasons, a job that isn’t what you expected, or a commitment you know you can’t honor in good conscience, you find the courage to say, “This isn’t right, so I’m going to make another change.”
10. You allow yourself to evolve and let go of what you’ve outgrown.
This is probably the hardest one of all because it’s not just about being true to yourself; it’s also about letting go. It’s about recognizing when something has run its course and being brave enough to end the chapter, even if you don’t know yet what’s coming next. Even though the void may feel scary and dark.
However, the void may also be exciting or lightening. That empty space isn’t always a bad thing because it’s the breeding ground for new possibilities—for fulfillment, excitement, passion, and joy. And you’re more interested in seeing who else you can be and what else you can do than languishing forever in a comfortable life that now feels like someone else’s.
Like all things, each person exists on a different spectrum. We all live in the grey zone. This means that you will do some things sometimes, not always perfect. And you may go through periods when you do few or none of these things, without even realizing you’ve slipped.
That’s how it’s been for me. I’ve gone through phases when I’ve felt completely in alignment and other times when I’ve gotten lost. I’ve had times when I’ve felt so overwhelmed by conflicting wants, needs, and beliefs—my own and other people’s—that I’ve shut down and lost touch with myself.
This happens to everyone. And that’s okay. It’s important to keep returning home to yourself and asking the tough questions that will determine the type of life we live. Was I lying? Is there any truth that would make me whole?
**This post was originally published in 2019.
About Lori Deschene
Tiny Buddha was founded by Lori Deschene. She’s also the author of Tiny Buddha’s Gratitude Journal, Tiny Buddha’s Worry Journal, and the upcoming Tiny Buddha’s Inner Strength Journal and co-founder of Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. For daily wisdom, join the Tiny Buddha list here. You can also follow Tiny Buddha on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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