How to be yourself, starting simply, with the truth…
To be yourself should be simple right? It’s just you being, well, you. Simple. Though, if that’s the case why do so many of us continue to not be ourselves? Perhaps just being us has become more complicated than it ever should be but with, ‘just be yourself’, becoming common advice these days, I’d like to offer some simple advice on how from my own experience.
I used to lie a lot. I used to lie about myself, I used to lie about others. I lied about my likes and dislikes, about what I wanted and what I had done, about what I’d seen or what I’d said, about who I liked and who I didn’t, I used to lie about who I was. I lied to my friends, to my parents, to my family, to my loved ones and to strangers. I’d say I probably lied around 3 or 4 times a day on average and believe it or not, I’d wager that you have done the same and may still do so, no matter how many times you’ve been told to be yourself.
You see, I was by no means some pathological liar, far from it. What I’m calling lies were not malicious or extravagant, they were not clever nor overthought, they were not useful or important. They were small and seemingly insignificant lies, some subtle, others not, some with voice and some with body. They were created out of fear, fear of rejection, fear of unpopularity and nonconformity, fear of being teased, of being uncool and unwelcome. They were lies that it seems we all tell each other, to make ourselves seem better in some way. A lie on the tongue, a lie in tone, a lie in posture.
So when I say I used to lie 4 times a day, I don’t mean that I would always make stuff up for the hell of it, not at all. For me, it was more that I would often hold back the truth out of fear, and when the truth is held back something else must take its place. That something, whatever it is and whichever form it may take, is false, in-genuine and ultimately, a lie. These held back truths begin to build a false exterior identity, that we end up having to live by because we’ve told everyone that’s who we are. Though, that isn’t who we truly are, so we find it uncomfortable and stressful to live the life of this false person, trapped in a cage of our own lies, having to do, say or experience things we don’t want to do. We become locked into this false self, a false life that we cannot stray from, a path that we cannot turn from, because to go back would reveal us to be liars and expose our fears. And when you’re still on this path, that simply cannot be allowed to happen.
Though, ironically, this is all false as well. This web of lies, this cage that we have trapped ourselves in, does not exist. It is simply a mental construct in our own heads. The pressure we feel to keep the web intact and the fear that keeps us in the cage is all fake. It’s not real. We create all of it in our own minds and in reality, physically, it does not exist. It cannot harm us in reality, though continued untold truths do and will harm us mentally. The worry and pressure of keeping up falsehoods, the inability to be comfortable and relax in our own skin, takes a mental toll, and that’s exactly what was happening to me.
From the age of about 12 – 18 I subconsciously built up this false persona, constructed a cage of untruths around myself and eventually cut myself off from life. My mental health suffered greatly during this time, during these lies. I believe my inability to be myself, to love who I was, was a huge contributing factor to the depression I put upon myself. Being a false person, being false with people, is hard. It’s incredibly draining and puts a great deal of fatigue on our minds, which can cause all the sorts of symptoms we see with depression. It should come as no surprise that constantly being on guard is mentally wearing and it makes just as much sense that doing untrue things is also incredibly difficult and potentially damaging.
Around about the age of 17, I thought that I wanted to be an actor/model, probably because it was a job that made me feel cool and admired. Though for the short amount of time I tried modelling I was forcing myself into situations that I found incredibly stressful and made me very anxious. In all honesty, I hated it, absolutely hated it, and I barely did any of it. Acting lasted longer but it was ultimately the same, it’s not who I am and so I found doing it and everything that came with it, worrying and stressful. Being untrue, not being me, was causing me great harm and I remember the exact moment I chose to start being myself, to start to live my life how I wanted to live it, being not who I thought I should be, but who I wanted to be, who I am.
I had been thinking about my untold truths for a while, thinking about the suffering it caused me. Through my own personal development over about a year, I was slowly coming to realise that it made no sense to lie, to not be me. Not only did it make no sense but it was actually preventing me from gaining more peace and joy and directly harming my mental health in the process. I was thinking this over as I was walking into town to grab a coffee, the sky was clear and the sun was bright as I made my decision to just stop. To stop being some fake, false me, to stop lying and just be who I am. It was one of the best personal choices I have ever made and each day of my life since has been better for it.
Let me paint a picture of the process in an attempt to illustrate the difference between living my fake self and being my true self so that perhaps I can convince you of the power of truth.
Imagine me, or perhaps you, floating above a beautiful ocean in mid-air, just above the surface. (Yes, apparently we can fly in this imagined world) The sun is rising, the air is fresh, we feel light and bright, life is good. Though one day we choose to chain a weight to our ankle, we decide in our minds and it materialises on our body. The weight drags us down but we remain above the surface. A few weeks later we chain another weight to our body before adding two more the week after. Our toes are now touching the surface of the water. The chains that already hold us, force us to attach more weights, which in turn need more weights of their own. Before we know it, we are sinking, being dragged down under the surface as we continue to add weight after weight. We struggle, we fight, we choke and we hit rock bottom. Stuck down on the sea bed, surrounded by black and cold, trapped in this suffocating existence, alive but not living. I lingered down there for a long time, the huge pressure of the ocean crushing me, the lack of air, suffocating me, until that day, with the sun on my face, I chose. I realised that each weight attached to me was put there by my own doing, that I didn’t need these weights, nor did I want them. I wanted to be free. I chose to let go and I let loose all of my weights, some were more resistant than others but it was ultimately my choice and eventually each chain was broken. I floated up towards the surface and burst through into the open air. I breathed deep the air of freedom, savoured the sun upon my face and rejoiced in my freedom and comfort, celebrating who I am. Light, bright and free.
Without my untold truths trapping me anymore, I felt an overwhelming sense of freedom. The lies I constructed around myself limited me so much that letting them go was like getting a new lease on life. I cannot explain how nice it was to not have to think about the stupidest little things, like how I was walking, did it look weird? Because thinking thoughts like that made me force myself to walk unnaturally and be uncomfortable. Not being myself meant I was never able to relax outside of my own solitary company. Dropping that pressure lifted an immense weight from my shoulders.
But how did I do it? How was I able to ‘just be yourself’? How did I get to the point where I was able to simply choose to stop caring about the opinions of others? Opinions that I had made up in my own head. Well that realisation was a part of it, the realisation that actually, when I’m walking down the street, the only one who cared how I was walking was me, and that it was actually, ironically big headed to think that anyone else, let alone everyone else, was looking at me as I walked. Though, that was one small part of the larger whole that allowed me to drop my fake self. That whole was an increase in self-awareness.
By getting out of my own head, I realized the judging outside eye of those around me wasn’t real. I became more present to and aware of who I was and started to like myself, to love and appreciate myself for who I was. I realised that actually, I’m pretty incredible. I love me for me and so will others, and if they don’t, why does it matter? Those people won’t be in my life. I achieved realisations like this and more through a year or so of on and off meditation, mindfulness and personal development. I was not doing it too often or regularly and probably not very well, but even then, meditation still worked wonders for me. I 100% recommend giving it a try and please check out our meditation page if you are interested.
If you’re not the meditating type then my only piece of advice can be a very simple one. In order to be yourself start telling the truth in its purest form, not just with words, but with body and soul. Talk how you want to talk, walk how you want to walk, be who you are and not who you think you should be. Be natural, be easy, be flowing. It will be scary at first, but once you break that mould you have set yourself in, the sense of freedom you will gain far outweighs any temporary fear you may have and you will never go back. Cheesy as the phrase may be, ‘the truth will set you free’.
If being who you are is something you struggle with, I’d really recommend reading a book by Tiddy Rowan called The Little Book of Confidence. It is available to purchase on Amazon here. It’s full of inspiration on self-confidence and how to be yourself.
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(PS, maybe give this song a listen)