Living unapologetically and authentically true to yourself is the key to a great life. However, it’s easier said than done.
With all our daily obligations, responsibilities, and social conditioning, we sometimes don’t have time to consider our innermost dreams and desires.
It’s time to flip the script.
Here’s how to be true to yourself regardless of what the world thinks.
What Does “Be True to Yourself” Mean?
Being true to yourself means living your life by your own values.
Most of us inherit values, beliefs, opinions, and ideas from our parents and elders. We develop ideas of how the world works and what we should do based on what others teach us.
Although most of them have our best interests at heart, they approach our lives through the lens of their own experience. Sometimes these folks don’t consider that others don’t want what they want or that there might be different ways of approaching life.
Being true to yourself means evaluating what others taught you and determining whether they truly fit your life. It also means abandoning the ideas and opinions of others if they don’t meet your needs.
Why Is It Important to Be True to Yourself?
Being true to yourself is the key to a fulfilling life.
Too many of us live the life others expect of us. We follow the life script, go to college, get married, have kids, and work a stable job, all because it’s what’s expected. Some families impose strict requirements, forcing their kids to study medicine or law in college and expecting grandkids by a specific time.
Many kids acquiesce. The script is the only thing they’ve ever known. They do everything they’re supposed to do and don’t stop to consider whether those things would truly make them happy.
Then they wonder why they’re miserable.
It’s important to be true to yourself to avoid the pitfalls of living a life designed by someone else.
Why is Staying True to Ourselves So Hard?
Unfortunately, living authentically is easy to talk about but challenging to achieve. There are numerous obstacles to staying true to yourself that must be overcome.
Here are some of the top reasons why living the life you want is so hard.
The biggest obstacle to staying true to yourself is culture and society.
We’re bombarded with messages about how things should be, how we should act, and what life should look like. It’s everywhere we turn.
Movies portray specific lifestyles as “correct,” the people around us all live a certain way, teachers guide us towards particular paths, and our peers seem to buy in, so we think we should too.
Social conditioning is hard to overcome. Going against the grain to strike out your own way can be far too terrifying to imagine.
Sometimes it is easier to go with the flow, even if it’s not what you would have chosen for yourself.
Our parents want the best for us but often think they know what that is better than we do. They approach our lives from their own experience, but their efforts to protect us often lead us towards paths we wouldn’t choose for ourselves.
Parents try to shoehorn their kids toward profitable professions. They’ll try to force their artistic kid to major in engineering despite their hatred of math or convince their music-loving child to play sports instead of joining the band.
Parents also tend to force their beliefs on their children. Far too many parents disown their children for being gay or trans, switching religions, or supporting a different political party.
Kids crave their parent’s love and support and often abandon their hopes, dreams, and values to get it.
There are certain things we have to do in this world. We need to survive, which means paying for necessities like food and housing.
Many of us adopt even more responsibilities over time. We have kids, get pets, buy houses that need maintenance, piling more and more obligations over are already full lives.
All these responsibilities lead us to jobs we may not love but pay a decent wage. Then, after working and handling our duties at home, there’s very little time, energy, or money for pursuing things that would genuinely make us happy.
Lack of Safety Net
Many people stay in jobs because they need the health insurance their employer offers. They wouldn’t be able to afford life-saving medication or emergency medical bills if they quit.
Others may have grand ideas of pursuing art, research, caretaking, or other noble causes but simply can’t afford it. They can’t risk leaving a stable job to pursue a dream or can’t take on the heavy burden of student loans to earn a degree in the things they’d love.
Our social system actively works to prevent people from pursuing meaningful work.
We Don’t Even Know What We Want
A final hindrance to being true to yourself is that you might not even know what that looks like. With all our obligations, enforced values, and social conditioning, many of us never had the opportunity to dive deep and determine what we really want out of life.
We survive on autopilot, going through the motions of a happy life because that’s what we’re supposed to do without considering what we’d do differently if afforded the opportunity.
Read Next: What Should I Do With My Life?
15 Great Ways to Be True to Yourself
It’s possible to be true to yourself despite the inherent challenges. Here’s how you can start living a life that’s more true to yourself.
Shift Your Mindset
Changing your mindset is the first step in making any significant life change. If you were conditioned to believe certain things, follow a certain path, and act a certain way, adjusting to new ways of thinking may take work.
Take the time to work through those conflicting thoughts and feelings. Make a conscious effort to shift your mindset towards living for yourself rather than living for others.
Engage in Shadow Work
Shadow work is the tricky task of examining your inner mind and subconscious desires. It helps us uncover the truths about ourselves, including the ugly sides of our humanity we try to keep buried.
Learning everything about ourselves will help us understand our true selves, which is a vital step towards living a life true to it.
Get Comfortable with Yourself
Many people surround themselves with distractions to avoid sitting alone with themselves. They’re constantly on the go, consuming media and interacting with others, but they never take the time just to be.
If you want to be true to yourself, you must get comfortable with yourself.
Go on a solo adventure, eat at a restaurant alone, or reflect in quiet solitude for a few minutes.
Getting more comfortable with you will help you learn what you truly want out of life.
Set and Enforce Boundaries
One of the most significant limitations to staying true to yourself is other people’s expectations. They swoop into our lives with their ideas of how things must be done and drive us crazy with their condescending advice.
It’s okay to set boundaries with people who try to stifle you. Let your parents know that this is how you will live your life. End relationships with people who have a negative impact on your life. Say “no” to events that don’t inspire you.
Being true to yourself means recognizing what you need to be happy and healthy, and unfortunately, sometimes, we need to distance ourselves from those who don’t support us.
Surround Yourself with Like-Minded People
Humans need community and connection. Although you may have to limit your interactions with those who don’t understand your chosen path, you can find a community of like-minded folks who will be more supportive than you could ever imagine.
Join groups and organizations that speak to you. Find online communities filled with members who share your values. Create your own network of like-minded individuals that will support each other in your attempts to live authentically.
Having a close-knit group to share your struggles and triumphs, bounce ideas off of, and vent to when no one else seems to understand is a great resource that will help you stay on your chosen path.
Make Small Changes
Being yourself isn’t easy, especially when others constantly tell you you must be something else. It takes courage to make drastic changes, but the secret is you don’t have to.
You don’t have to change everything at once.
Instead, start small. Change the décor in one of your rooms. Get a haircut. Try a new style of clothing.
Make tiny changes in your routine that get you closer to your authentic self.
Manage Your Time Wisely
Time is a massive hindrance to being true to yourself. We’re often so tired after doing everything we must do that there’s no time to explore our true selves.
We must make time.
Be mindful of where your time goes. Are you zoning out to television or social media, wasting time with people who wouldn’t reciprocate, or doing chores others should be doing?
Do you make an effort to enjoy the present moment?
Our time in this world is limited. We need to manage it correctly to ensure we’re not spending it on the wrong things.
A harsh reality is that sometimes it is your fault. Sometimes you made decisions that go against what you really want for whatever reason.
If you want to be true to yourself, you need to accept responsibility for your past decisions and realize that you are the only person who can choose your future.
Stop blaming others for your situation in life. When you control your destiny, you can choose your own path and live life on your own terms.
Let Things Go
It’s hard to betray social norms and years of conditioning. We feel guilty if we don’t conform, so we pretend to be something we’re not to avoid hurt feelings, arguments, and making others unhappy.
We need to let that go.
How others choose to react to our life choices isn’t on us, it’s on them.
Let go of the hurt feelings, move past the guilt, and work towards self-acceptance despite what others might think. Their views and opinions are their own problem. We don’t need to take that upon ourselves.
Letting go also means forgiving ourselves. It’s okay if you made mistakes in the past. Don’t dwell on them. Forgive yourself for those mistakes, and forgive others when they can’t understand why we won’t conform.
Trust Your Gut
Our instincts lead us in the right direction more often than not. Trust them.
Trust your inner voice about what you want out of life. Deep down, that little nagging feeling is trying to tell you something about how to be yourself. Listen to it.
Our intuition often starts giving us hints when we’re heading in the wrong direction. If you get a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach or your hair raises on the back of your neck, stop and examine what you’re doing and why you’re subconscious may be sending you messages about it.
Some of us get so caught up in what we’re supposed to do that we don’t even know who we really are. To be yourself, you have to know yourself.
Get to know yourself by exploring the world and the opportunities around you. Take a class on the side for personal development. Dabble in a new hobby. Embark on a solo adventure to foreign lands.
Explore your inner self, the world around you, and your interests. Allow yourself to try new things to see if you like them. Discovering who you are is the best part about being true to yourself.
Lack of self-esteem is an understated barrier to being true to yourself. We sometimes shy away from our authentic self because we fear it isn’t good enough.
Society tells us we have to be one thing, and when we’re not, we blame ourselves rather than consider that society might be wrong.
It’s hard to break through the mold and accept ourselves. However, it’s vital to living the full life you deserve.
Believe in yourself. You’re worthwhile just the way you are. Achieving self-acceptance is an essential step toward being true to yourself.
Being yourself means expressing yourself. Proudly showcase what you like with your hairstyle, wardrobe, or body art. Use your purchasing power to support companies that align with your values.
Embrace your artistic side and express yourself through art, whether through painting, film, or writing. Join organizations you care about and help get the word out about your cause.
Being true to yourself means having the courage to express yourself verbally, visually, creatively, artistically, and in any other way.
Speak your truth, even if it’s not what others want to hear.
Make Time for Self-Care
Self-care is vital.
If you want to feel comfortable in your own skin, you must take care of it. Part of being true to yourself is knowing when you’re at your limits and need a break and how to recharge your energy.
Focusing on your physical and mental well-being will help you discover who you really are and will give you the energy and confidence to live authentically.
Pursue Your Passions
To be true to yourself, you must pursue what you want. Find out what makes your heart sing and go after it!
If you’re passionate about art, pick up a paintbrush and put something on canvas. If you’re passionate about helping people, find a volunteer organization and help them make an impact.
You can do thousands of little things to start following your passions, even if you aren’t getting paid (yet!) to do it.
Go out there and pave your way!
Being True to Yourself – Pitfalls to Avoid
We can wax poetic about the virtues of being true to ourselves all day, but avoiding the mistakes people make is also essential.
Some people think being true to yourself gives you a pass for bad behavior, and that’s not true. Here are some common misconceptions about being true to yourself.
It’s Okay to Be Mean
Have you ever interacted with someone who excuses their mean comments by saying they’re just brutally honest?
They may think they’re being true to themselves by being “brutally honest,” but they’re just mean. You can be honest and remain tactful.
Being true to yourself is not a free pass to put others down or engage in inappropriate behavior.
Some Obligations Can’t Be Ditched
Unfortunately, some people discover their true selves after saddling themselves with obligations. Although some of those responsibilities can easily be ditched, others can’t.
You can’t quit your job to wander the world if you have children to support. You can’t force your partner to take on your share of the domestic labor so you can follow your dreams in your free time.
If you find yourself in a situation where you regret your life decisions and current circumstances but have these vital responsibilities, there’s still hope. Although you can’t make drastic changes, you can develop an action plan to change your life and compromise based on what’s best for everyone involved.
Read More: How To Find Your True Purpose in Life
Other People Must Accept It
A harsh truth about life is that not everyone will accept your true self, and you can’t force them to.
Some people will scoff when you dedicate your life to being true to yourself when it goes against society’s general rules. Some will hate you for daring to be different, some will be jealous of your lifestyle, and others will think you’re just trying to get attention.
Not everyone will accept your true self, especially if it differs from the life script. Parents and friends may be particularly judgmental. They may have had an idea in their head of who you were and might be unable to reconcile that idea with reality.
It’s okay if some people don’t accept you. You will find your network that does.
Be True To Your Self for a Fulfilling Life
You must have to stay true to yourself for a happy life. You won’t find fulfillment living a life someone else designed for you. Pretending to be something you are not will lead to resentment and disappointment.
The good news is that staying true to yourself is within reach. You can be authentically you and live your life however you see fit. It may be challenging to step outside the comfort zone of conformity, but you’ll be glad you did.
A happy life is within reach. You must have the courage to trust yourself and pursue it.
Melanie launched Partners in Fire in 2017 to document her quest for financial independence with a mix of finance, fun, and solving the world’s problems. She’s self educated in personal finance and passionate about fighting systematic problems that prevent others from achieving their own financial goals. She also loves travel, anthropology, gaming and her cats.