Being your true self sounds easy enough, right? Just be who you are. I’m not talking about folks who go around acting like a**holes in the name of being their “true selves.” That’s just being an a**hole, and comes from a place of insecurity and fear. True authenticity is hard work. Being true to yourself is key to lasting happiness, but staying true to yourself takes courage, determination, focus, and no small amount of dedicated introspection. It also requires first giving yourself permission for you to “do you,” regardless of what other people are doing, saying, or expecting. This can be nearly impossible, though, when these three behaviors get in the way.
1. Seeking validation. The only validation that’s authentic, meaningful, and lasting comes from within. No job, title, salary, or recognition is going to validate your importance and worth. Neither will your clothes, car, home, or other possessions. Only you can do that. If you need an external accomplishment to feel important and worthy, you’re going to spend your life in a constant cycle of trying to get somebody else to validate who you are.
In my 30s, during my first career, I knew a woman who constantly bounced from job to job and city to city searching for a marquee title and salary to feed her internal need for validation. Her changing “passions” were molded by whatever high-profile issue could provide her the opportunity to be catapulted into a storied position of power and recognition. Outwardly ambitious, judgmental, and hyper-critical of others, her external default setting was arrogance masquerading as confidence. But internally she was never really happy, at least not for long. When she was desperate for a validation fix she’d even resort to looking up old childhood acquaintances for sad reassurance that she was in fact more accomplished, more successful, more important. Something was always missing for her. When you can’t recognize and feel secure in your own worth and personal power, it’s impossible to embrace authenticity because you will always be looking outward to others for validation instead of inward to yourself.
2. Pursuing approval. You can’t be yourself if you need other people to like and agree with you. Period. I’ll admit this is a tough one for me. I’m much better about it now, as a midlife “goddess” (ha!), than I was in my 20s, 30s, and 40s. Now, my levels of NGAF are increasing with age and I just don’t GAF about other people’s approval as much as I used to. Social media make it damn near impossible to get rid of this behavior, though, because they are all about racking up “likes” and “followers” that show approval of you and what you’re doing and saying. That’s one thing when you’re marketing a business and trying to win over consumers. It’s a whole different thing when it’s your life. Trying to do, say, and be what you think other people want puts your focus on other people’s desires instead of your own. That’s being true to them, not to yourself.
3. Trying to fit in. This has never worked for me. Oh I’ve definitely wanted it, especially in my younger years, but I just never could manage to fit in. I always had a different viewpoint, different interests, different tastes and style. I would try to hide what I genuinely believed and truly liked in attempts to join everyone else who was following whatever trend was popular at the time. By trying to fit in I was actively and purposefully rejecting who I knew myself to be. A dear friend gave me the nickname “Calamity” when we were in college and it was a fitting moniker. My trying to fit in was indeed a disaster for my self-worth and any hopes of piecing together an authentic life. But now? As a midlife woman and ageless f*cking goddess who has set authenticity as her intention, fitting in is the last thing I want to do. Because fitting in is following, and following puts other people in charge, and putting other people in charge takes away my power.
Only you have the power to be yourself.
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