Nearly every “self-help guru” has preached, “just be yourself” at one time or another. Somehow, this single statement is supposed to change us into an all-knowing and ever-confident being that others want to be around. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.
What does that advice even mean? If I’m scared to express myself to new people, how is that going to help? If I don’t know how I’m supposed to act, how do I know what to fix? What you really need is a thorough understanding of who you are, what you want, and what’s important to you. Only then can you be your real self.
I spent a long time as a “shape-shifter.” Because I didn’t know myself, I would always adjust to what I thought other people wanted me to be. It was emotionally draining and I felt lost to the point of depression. I was finally freed by the conscious decision to dig deeper and find the real me.
Here are five things that helped set me on the path:
Discover and go after what you want
We all have desires…why fight them? I used to be ashamed of wanting things for myself in life. It felt selfish, so I always put my priorities and needs after everyone else’s. The problem was, I never got around to making me happy and because of it I harbored resentment and a lot of negative feelings.
If you want a girlfriend, start talking to more women. If you want your dream job, hustle, start networking, and pursue it. If you want to lose that extra 40lbs, eat better and start an exercise regiment. Life is too short to wait for tomorrow. When you start fulfilling your own wants in life, a world of possibility opens up.
Stand up for your beliefs
What are your core values? Do you treasure honesty, integrity, open-mindedness, or just being a good person? Live through those values and hold yourself accountable when you betray them. Lead by example and others will take notice.
If someone challenges your beliefs, don’t be afraid to speak up. You don’t have to start a fight, but let it be known that you won’t buckle under pressure. Associate with those who hold the same standards and don’t waste time with people who disregard what’s important to you.
Don’t hide yourself
Never be ashamed of who you are. If you’re a tech-loving foodie who plays video games – embrace it. You shouldn’t talk a new girl’s ear off for hours about it, but be excited to share your interests appropriately. The moment you begin to bury parts about you is the moment you admit something’s “wrong” with you.
This goes double for relationships. If you feel the need to hide things from your partner, ask yourself this: will she really not understand or am I just embarrassed to tell her? If it’s the former, maybe they’re not the right person for you. You should want to be with someone that appreciates all of you, not some false image. Why settle for anything less?
Stop apologizing for your actions
If you said or did something from the heart, don’t back down from it. I often see guys saying sorry for flirting with a girl, making a joke, or expressing how they feel. It only makes you look insecure and draws negative attention. Real men own up to their words.
The caveat to this is that if you’ve crossed a line and truly offended someone – apologize quickly and emphatically. Take responsibility and don’t make excuses for what you did. Most of the time, having the courage to admit you were wrong is enough to rectify the situation.
Don’t take things personally
The way people act is a reflection of themselves, not of you. You ever notice how bitter people complain about others while positive people build them up? If a guy on the street calls you a name or a girl at the bar turns you down, it’s their perception and you shouldn’t take it to heart.
You’ve got to stop living by what other people think and live for you. Who cares what they believe as long as you’re happy? You can’t win everyone over and it’s an endless battle not worth fighting. Focus on being authentic and the people who like you will stick by your side. I think Dr. Seuss said it best:
“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”
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