This must be one of the most given pieces of advice and it sounds more than overrated. But is it really?
How often do we meet people who seem very opiniated, who however are expressing other people’s opinions and not their own, for they feel only strong when they follow the crowd? How often do we observe women starving themselves so they can be part of the “skinny cult”? And what’s up with paying thousands of $$$ for handbags, just because they are “in” and a total “must-have”?
What is true today was already true more than a century ago when Oscar Wild observed: “Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation“.
And this makes me wonder why it is so hard for people out there to just be themselves? And I think the answer is more complex than we might think. Be yourself: sounds simple and easy, but what does it mean exactly? If it was so easy to be ourselves I’m sure we would love nothing more than just be ourselves and be proud of it.
So how do we do that?
Find out who you are:
Who am I if I stop expressing other people’s opinions? Who am I if I don’t dress like everybody else? Who am I if don’t just follow the crowd and the noise? Well, find it out! There are enough books out there and personaly tests to find out your strengths and weaknesses. Read books, read the news, form your own views and opinions. Ask your friends and families what they appreciate most about you. Go and talk to elders for they have so much wisdom to share on life.
Furthermore, discovering who we are is an ever-evolving process for we are consitently changing, expanding, and growing. With 29 you are not the person you used to be when you were 21 and still studying at University. Your views have changed, you have grown up, your career might not longer fulfill you and you might be wondering whether there is more out there waiting for you. Don’t be scared to take the next step. It’s ok to realise that your job no longer makes you happy and you are seeking a completely new direction. It’s ok to realise that your current circle of friends and acquaintances no longer make you happy for you have evolved into someone different with different opinions, views and dreams.
We spend so much time obsessing about what other people think, say and do that we have little time left to actually think about us and who we really are. We can never fully be ourselves if we dont know, understand and accept who we are.
Accept who you are:
According to Richard Boyatzis, an emotional intelligence expert, the fear of social rejection is one of the three most common causes of stress. We often need other people’s approval (“are you sure I don’t look too fat in this dress”). We are scared of being perceived as too boring, too chubby or too shy and not living up to other people’s expectations of how we should be, how we should dress or how we should behave.
But the truth is we are who we are and no one should put us in a box and tell us how we should be. There are enough people who appreciate us for the way we are. We don’t need to be liked by everyone and waste our time to think about how to please everyone. Instead, let’s get rid of this thinking pattern and let’s free ourselves from having to conform to other people’s views on how we should be. I’m sure you will notice after a while that you feel much less stressed and free.
Let’s stop obsessing about our flaws and imperfections. Do you feel like you are much more inclined to forgive others for their flaws and mistakes than your own? We are constantly being too hard on ourselves. It only makes us human to have flaws. If we spent the same amount of time thinking about our good qualities, we would be leading much more fulfilled and happier lives! Try and think of yourself as unique as Friedrich Nietzsche already explained:
“At bottom every man knows well enough that he is a unique being, only once on this earth; and by no extraordinary chance will such a marvelously picturesque piece of diversity in unity as he is, ever be put together a second time.”
We need to remove these negative thinking patterns about ourselves. You can achieve this easily by yourself by using positive affirmations and self talk. Don’t get enough compliments from your spouse? Compliment yourself for your warm-hearted nature, for your looks or for any other positive qualities you have. I’m sure the list is bigger than your flaws! Just imagine how many people in this world are far worse off than you are. The following saying demonstrates how you can quickly put your own imperfections and insecurities into perspective: “I had the blues because I had no shoes until upon the street, I met a man who had no feet. ~Ancient Persian Saying”
Should you prefer professional assistance, a great way to boost your self-confidence is to make an appointment with an Emotional Freedom Technique Practitioner who uses a combination of acupressure and NLP (positive affirmations). But also Hypnotherapists can help you build more self esteem, and so can Reiki and other Holistic Therapies. Just find something that suits your needs the best.
The next big problem is that we love to judge. In fact we judge all day long. We judge the colleague who always comes late and leaves early, we blame our parents for our mistakes, we judge our mother for not working or working too much, we judge our best friend for not calling you when you expected her to call, we judge day in and day out. And when we are done with judging others we judge ourselves for past mistakes, for eating that cake, for not exercising enough, for accumulating that huge credit card bill. We waste precious time when judging. Time where we could think in a loving way about ourselves and others. And indeed, as Balzac already wisely said: “The more one judges, the less one loves”.
If we earned money each time we judged someone or ourselves we could stop working and just enjoy being fabulously rich!
So, let’s stop the judgement! Try out a fun game: each time you catch yourself judging someone or yourself - pay 1$ into your “stop judging savings box”. You will be astonished to see how much money you will have accumulated after a while. Give it away to charity or invest in a self-development course...
“Truth is the most valuable thing we have, so I try to conserve it”. Mark Twain
Being yourself also means being vulnerable, as we take off all our masks and let others see us as who we really are. People need to see that you are not always the super achieving husband and father with a perfect wife, the best educated kids, a high flying career etc, as that’s just one side of the story. What about all the sacrifices, all the stress, all the hurdles and all the responsibilities that come as part of the deal? It’s ok to let people know that sometimes we are just overwhelmed and need someone to talk to, a friendly advice or just a big hug.