Why Being Yourself Is Hard and How to Actually Achieve It

‘Be yourself’ has got to be one of the most popular and attractive pieces of advice for people skills development these days. I think I read it or hear it almost every day. It’s one of those things people say instantly when they want to help you embrace your flaws, be more comfortable and more expressive socially.

I believe that actually learning to be authentic is a pretty complex process. In my experience, giving a person advice like ‘be yourself’ will usually do nothing (and I mean nothing) to actually help that person achieve this. It’s a piece of advice in the same category with ‘be confident’ or ‘be positive’, which are just as ineffective.

Why? Because none of these things are something you just do. Most people would really love to just be themselves. But they simply can’t do it like that.

In order to master being yourself, you need to dig dipper, and understand the attitudes and beliefs which allow you to be yourself. Then, you need to work on developing them. As you develop these attitudes and beliefs, you will naturally end up being more authentic. But your focus is not on authenticity most of the time; it’s on building this foundation for it.

In the last years, helping people learn to be more authentic has been one of the most meaningful parts of my work. I firmly believe that being yourself is one of the most powerful people skills to have.

But I don’t teach this by telling my clients: ‘Just be yourself man! What the hell is wrong with you?!’ I help them work on this foundation I’m talking about. What is this foundation? When it comes to being authentic, I think there are some key attitudes one must learn:

  • That it’s OK to be imperfect, to have flaws and make mistakes;
  • That people generally won’t think you’re an idiot and reject you for them;
  • That even if some people do, it really doesn’t matter.

These attitudes are solid gold from my perspective. Once you manage to drill them deep into your habitual ways of thinking, being yourself becomes easy. You can no longer imagine yourself not being yourself, and it seems so silly to be otherwise.

Of course, if you’re not used to thinking and feeling in a way which is aligned with the key attitudes above, it will take some time and practice to master them. Adopting these beliefs and making them a natural part of you can take anywhere from 3 months to 3 years, depending where you are right now.

And this provided you actually use the right personal development tools. Considering that a lot of people use the ineffective ones, and even more don’t go beyond just trying to be themselves directly, what we’ve got in today’s world is a large population striving for authenticity and not getting there.

The good news is that the more people will learn to address people skills like being authentic by going beyond the surface, and the more they will use scientific, well grounded in reality tools for transformation, we will see great things happening.

Comments

  1. Oh yes, being ourselves can be quite difficult at the start. We have been taught to be everyone else but ourselves for the longest time; so much so that self-acceptance can appear odd indeed when there is no awareness of who we are.

    I enjoyed what you said in the three attitudes to adopt to “being yourself”. Thumbs up for your explanation!
    .-= Evelyn Lim´s last blog ..10 Sure-Fire Tips To Making Creative Visualization Fun! =-.

    • Thanks Evelyn,

      That’s kind of what I’m about: going deeper and explaining things in a way so that real improvements can be made. I enjoy this very much.

  2. Hi Eduard,

    Great point – Telling someone to, “just be yourself” is easier said than done, with all the social conditioning many of us have experienced. Overcoming judgments – internally and externally – is no small task. Fortunately, there are coaches for that 😉

    This quote rings true to your post, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

    Again, thanks for stopping by and commenting on my blog.

    • Hey Kim,

      I like that quote so much I’m gonna tweet it. I think it can be a good mantra to use in learning to be more authentic.

  3. Playing to our strengths always works better than faking our strengths.
    .-= J.D. Meier´s last blog ..3 Take Aways from The Karate Kid =-.

  4. Hi Eduard, really thought provoking post.
    I think what can be difficult is we natuarally act differently in different situations. If I am in the pub with old friends I will act differently from with a client and differently again if I am talking to a stranger. Does that mean I ma not being myself? Or are these just different variations of me?
    I think you are right, in all these situations I will remain true to my own opinions thoughts and values so feel I am ‘myself’ at all times. If you know yourself well, it will become difficult to move away from being yourself.
    Best wishes,
    Kate

    • Hey Kate,

      This is a really though provoking question, I’ve asked myself many times. I think the key is to balance saying and doing what you feel, to adapting to the situation and the people you’re interacting with. The way I see it, authenticity is not about never adapting, it’s about being able to take risks in social situations by following your own needs first. And if you never do it, that’s when you have a problem.

  5. Eddy –

    Good stuff! Authenticity is such an important thing to find, yet so elusive. You are right that digging deeper into our values and attitudes is the key to this. It really takes some time to find our principles and then learn to live by them. You’re clearly a great guide to this – thanks for the inspiration.

    Phil
    .-= Phil – Less Ordinary Living´s last blog ..Be a Black-Belt Motivational Master =-.

    • Good to see we’re on the same page Phil. I was expecting you would appreciate my digging dipper, into values and attitudes. 😉

  6. Yes Eduard. I have found that being authentic is more of a ‘shedding’ process. We all have a natural authentic self that has been buried deep by lifetime of listening to the World Voice. Understanding and then removing those false coverings has get back in touch with our original authentic nature.
    .-= rob white´s last blog ..What’s Right with You? =-.

    • Hey Rob,

      It’s like we have a deep inner voice which is clogged by what you elegantly call the World Voice. And in a way, becoming more authentic is about unclogging it.

  7. Hi Eduard, I think a lot of people fall into traps of wanting to fit in and wanting to stand out within the parameters of social conventions and what they believe would be worth striving for. What to reject? What to embrace? And perhaps there’s a bit more emphasis being put on other people’s perception instead of what feels undeniable from within.

    • Hey Belinda,

      I find this whole thing to be philosophically amusing: to be accepted by others, as I am NOT. So who is it exactly that these are accepting anyway?

  8. Eduard,
    It really is about going deeper within. And someone has to really want to do that, to make it meaningful and real. Otherwise, it’s just superficial – going through the motions.

    Perhaps we are always ourselves. It’s just…is that an outer self only that we’re displaying (and do we even really know what on the inside?). Connecting with that inner part of us, and then truly beginning to live that…it’s so good….
    .-= Lance´s last blog ..Enlightenment of the Soul =-.

    • Hey Lance,

      I think we usually repress our inner self so we only display a small part of it, which we believe is acceptable. This is the lack of authenticity. And unlearning this is really learning to put all the different sides of us out there.

  9. Eduard, I am one of those people who dispenses that advice and you are right, it is so difficult for some people to just BE themselves. I have become more and more comfortable with it so I sometimes overlook the reality.
    I will exercise a lot more sensitivity and articulate more kindly what it means to be oneself when I write about it next!
    Thank you for a very insightful post!

    • Hey Farnoosh,

      That’s very cool of you to realize and admit this. Exercising being more specific with your words is what I find to be the best way to move from surface advice to more in-depth and practical one.

  10. Hi Eduard.

    That part about it being okay to be imperfect makes sense to me. I have a lot of imperfect material I could release but I hold out on releasing it because I think it may not be up to par, when it is likely more than enough for folks to see and enjoy and learn from. On the one hand, there are standards, and on the other hand, it doesn’t make sense to hide your great material because it “might” not be great enough.

    There is a lot of yellow currently on this site and that is a memorable color.
    .-= Armen Shirvanian´s last blog ..You And Your Response To Competition =-.

    • Armen, thanks for your thoughts and LOL about your color comment. This blog theme has about 19 color schemes to choose from (I love this feature) and I alternate them every once in a while. This period, I feel very… yellow 🙂

  11. Eduard: You are so right that “Be Yourself” is such a common piece of advice, but in order to really do it right, it can’t just be lip service. Sometime we really do have to explore and look within ourselves in ways we haven’t before. We have to ask ourselves those tough questions and patiently wait until the answers come … and know that they always will in time. I think it is great you have been helping people find out what being themselves really means. I know you share some great wisdom and insights in all of your posts. I think you make an important point that it takes time to master some of the things that are needed to really ‘be yourself’. Great post.
    .-= Sibyl – alternaview´s last blog ..How to Really Experience the Current Moment =-.

    • That’s what I’m talking about Sibyl: exploring and looking within ourselves, to make the changes we want in our attitudes and our people skills.

  12. I truly believe in “Being Yourself.” But I sometimes wonder when I will stop second guessing my decisions to do just that.

    Nearly every time I post something on my blog that shows the world a little more of a glimpse into the true me–by openly admitting my flaws and what I am doing to overcome them–I think “Maybe I shouldn’t have done that.” But it is usually those posts that seems to help people the most and I then wonder, “Why do I doubt myself.”
    .-= Leisa Watkins´s last blog ..Are Your Dreams Guiding You To The Wrong Shore Line? =-.

    • Hey Leisa,

      Good lesson here. In my perspective, being yourself has very practical advantages which justify it. I constantly make the case for it. As we understand and get these advantages into our heads, it becomes easier to be authentic.

  13. Hi Eduard,
    In my practice, I have found there are some people who have so much healing to do they truly do not *want* to be themselves…
    In my life, I was told to be myself in such a way that I wouldn’t stand out..I call it ‘dimming my light’..it took a lifetime to learn to ‘be myself’…
    I teach my young children to “shine” but I watch as they go to school and learn how to fit in..necessary in today’s society, yet sad to add layers to what was once whole and untarnished.
    I think we are always ourselves, at any moment we may peel back the protective layers we’ve added…

    • Joy, I agree with you that a lot of people need to go through a sort of healing process before they can be themselves. This is something I constantly encourage, and it’s one of the reason I say that advice about being you can often be superficial.

  14. you are right it is a very arduous journey to understand what it means to be yourself..mainly because it is an understanding that is beyond the logical thinking mind…to understand yourself you need to understand the structure of thought, of memory, of ego, and your thought processes…you need to learn to observe your mind passively without trying to distort or control..to develop an utterly quite mind(meditation)that is able to perceive that the thinker is not separate from the thought…that the observer is the observed…if you learn to dis identify yourself from your thoughts and mind you will see that your true identity is beyond them…authenticity can only grow through your own understanding…if you really take a good look at beliefs you will see that they where never yours…they where all given to you by society… beliefs are just band aids for things you actually don’t really know…they help you feel secure…you need to learn to develop trust..trust to go into the unknown…trust can never be given to you by society…the reality is that the majority of people don’t live in reality because they are in the past or imagining the future… because they are in psychological bondage to memory to their thoughts…this is living an unconscious life….the question then becomes is it possible to stop the movement of thought..to be free from memory and be able to live your life with awareness…a life free of conditioning…everyone should take this inner journey and find out for them selves…this is a state of being that no one can show you…
    .-= ivan´s last blog ..Getting A Hair Cut While Living Abroad: Quick Tips For a Pleasant Experience =-.

    • Hey Ivan,

      This is an interesting case you’re making here. Makes me give think that I might wanna give a bit more credit to meditation that I currently do.

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