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When’s the last time you should on yourself?
When you did something, not because it was true for you, but because you felt it was expected?
For me, it was just this morning. I had an egg on rye at home when what I really wanted was a croissant from that little French bakery down the street. I knew as soon as I bit into my toast I was only eating it because it’s “supposed to be healthy.”
Bowing to societal expectations for your breakfast order might not sound like a big deal, but over a lifetime? You can end up living on autopilot, not sure where external expectations end and your true self begins.
Right now, what do you think you should be doing that doesn’t feel true to you?Living for other people’s expectations guarantees you’ll fall short of your own. Click To Tweet
You get messages everyday –– directly or implied –– about how you should live your life. We all do. Any of these sound familiar?
- You should become good at ONE thing — there’s no way you can follow all your passions.
- You should tone down your message so you don’t scare anyone away.
- You should think about having kids soon.
- You should be on social media if you want to run a successful business.
- You should lay off the mankinis, they might make people uncomfortable.
These are actual “shoulds” people have told me over the years. (Okay, I overheard that last one.)
Not all expectations are bad. “You should wash your hands after you use the bathroom” is a “should” I’ll stand by any day. But, if I had listened to all the “shoulds” I’ve been getting my whole life? I’d never be where I am today.
Being true to yourself means having the awareness to choose your next move, whether it follows convention or not. And that’s the only way to avoid life’s #1 regret (more on that below).
Why Is It Important to Be True to Yourself?
I was the first person in my family to go to college. Naturally, when I graduated and decided to start my own business instead of walking into a cushy job with a steady paycheck, it caused quite the should-storm.
Decades later, people are quick to tell me I made the right decision. But during the years of living on couches in cruddy apartments bartending by night and being a “life coach” –– cue blank stares from friends and family –– by day? Most people thought I was making a huge mistake. “Throwing away my potential,” in fact.
Sometimes being true to yourself won’t make sense to anyone else but you. You may not even understand it completely, you just know. That’s when it’s extra important to remember why being true to yourself matters.
Be true to yourself because:
- It’s the source of all creativity, healing, change, innovation, and artistry.
- You and your dreams are unique for a reason.
- The world needs that special gift that only you have.
When you reach the end of your life, will you regret letting your mind drown out your heart? Will you recall lost opportunities and dreams unfulfilled? Will you think of all the compromises you made — with yourself and others — to stay safe, comfortable, and likable?
According to palliative nurse Bronnie Ware, following society’s expectations instead of the proddings of their own heart is the #1 regret of the dying.
That’s not a risk worth taking.
Remember, being true to yourself is not selfish. Don’t miss out on a lifetime of fulfilling your purpose. Don’t rob the world of what you have to offer. The world needs you at your best, following your dreams.
Does Being True to Yourself Mean Ignoring Criticism?
As long as there’s creativity, there will be criticism.
Your fear of being criticized might even be what’s holding you back from connecting with your true self.
But being true to yourself doesn’t mean never accepting constructive criticism. Just remember: Constructive is the operative word here.
Most criticism is not constructive. It’s just someone’s opinion. Like whether you like chocolate or not. If you don’t like chocolate, chocolate’s not crying about it. Chocolate believes in its own deliciousness.
Before reacting to any criticism, consider the source.
The harshest critics — the ones who shame you for even trying? They’re shouting from the sidelines of life. They create nothing, so they risk nothing.
Does being true to yourself mean ignoring their criticism? Abso-friggin-lutely.
The best feedback comes from other brave souls putting their work, creativity, and heart into the world. Loving guidance and insightful advice from these people are gifts to help you along.
Don’t lock yourself in a soundproof cave and ignore everyone. You can be true to yourself and stay open to constructive criticism. Whatever advice comes your way, you get to decide what to do with it.
“Nothing has transformed my life more than realizing that it’s a waste of time to evaluate my worthiness by weighing the reaction of the people in the stands.”~Brené Brown, Daring Greatly
How Do You Know If You’re Being True to Yourself?
Some “shoulds” are so sneaky and so pervasive, it can be hard to know when you’re being authentic and when you’re following society’s unwritten rules.
It’s natural to want to please the people around us. We’re social creatures who thrive in community. And our communities have a million things we “must” do to please the people around us.
We must marry and raise children.
We must climb the corporate ladder.
We must wear the right clothes.
We must worship a certain way, or vote for certain people.
It’s easy to get distracted chasing someone else’s idea of success and forget what you actually want to do with your life. Being true to yourself means you don’t suppress your true nature or ignore your heart’s deepest desires in order to be loved and accepted.
“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”~ No. 1 regret of the dying, according to Bronnie Ware
Your time here on earth is limited. Don’t waste it chasing approval and achievements you really don’t want for yourself. You may disappoint some people, but the ones that really matter will stick with you when you’re true to your heart.
If you’ve been feeling lost (and you’ve read this far…), you might be ignoring your higher purpose.
Here are some signs you’re not being true to yourself:
- You worry constantly about what people think.
- You feel resentful of all you have to do.
- You’re not sure if you’re bored, sad, or just exhausted.
- Your job isn’t fulfilling, it’s just a paycheck.
- You’ve had big dreams that seem silly, unreachable, or irrelevant now.
- You feel like someone else is in the driver’s seat of your life.
- You feel selfish asking for what you want.
- You feel pulled in a million directions.
- Your actions don’t line up with what you say you want.
Now, here’s what it looks like to honor your true self:
- You have confidence in your value, strength, and ability.
- You feel grateful that you get to do what you do every day.
- You’re motivated and energized by what you do.
- You’re doing what you love.
- You believe you can achieve your dreams.
- You’re carving your own path and following your heart.
- You know what you want, and you’re willing to work for it.
- You’re laser focused on achieving your purpose, even if you’re multipassionate.
- You continue to make steady progress toward your goals.
Being true to yourself starts with self-awareness. Deciding what you really want is the first step to getting it.
3 Questions to Help You Be More True To Yourself
Can you tell the difference between when you’re following your inner voice and when you’re following a path drawn by someone else? To be true to yourself, first you need to know when you’re ignoring your inner wisdom. Then you have to take action to get back on track.
In this MarieTV (and in the blog after the video, if you want to keep reading), you’ll get a three-part question that will help you create a life that’s rooted in your personal truth.
Think of this as a gut check — a quick exercise you can go back to whenever you feel like your inner voice is being drowned out by society’s expectations.
Feeling lost? Answer these three questions to get back to yourself:
- What’s one thing you’re doing right now, not because it’s true for you, but because you feel it’s expected of you?
- What’s one courageous change you’d like to make to be more true to yourself?
- What’s the first action step you can take now?
Having trouble figuring out your true direction? Here’s what you need to know about finding your passion.
Don’t just think your answers in your mind — write them down. Seeing and reading your words gives you extra motivation to make a change. Do you know your next right step, but still feel scared to take the leap? That’s where courage comes in.
5 Ways to Build the Courage to Be True to Yourself
“I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The lightbulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”~ Thomas Edison
You’ve figured out you’re not honoring your inner truth and that you’re following someone else’s path. You know the change you want to make and maybe you even have a first step to make it happen.
But where do you find the courage to take that step, especially when there’s no guarantee it’ll work out?
This part can be challenging, but I believe in you. Taking action is the only path to change. Nothing works unless you do. Action is the only way to get into alignment with your true self and make your dreams come true.
Remember: Clarity comes from engagement, not thought.
Staying true to yourself is a process you’ll be working on for the rest of your life. It takes ongoing courage and heart to continue taking one step at a time to build a life you love.
Here are five ways to build the courage you need to be true to yourself, no matter what:
- Win or learn, but never lose. Failure is inevitable, but it isn’t permanent or personal. In the words of my friend Judge Victoria Pratt, “Failure is just an event. It is not a characteristic. People can’t be failures.” Anything you might consider a failure is a necessary step on your journey to success.
- Deal with the worst upfront. Ask yourself: What’s the worst that could happen if you took a step and failed miserably? How exactly would you handle it? Write it all down. Do not allow your fears to stay amorphous. Face them on the page. Chances are, your biggest fears are figureoutable.
- Prepare for regret. Now ask yourself: If you don’t take this step, what’s the worst that could happen then? What might you miss out on? What might you regret? Write it down. Often facing the regret of not trying is scarier than the fear of trying something new and failing.
- Meditate daily. Meditation is the ultimate tool for building peace from the inside out. It’s what helps me stay connected to the strongest and most loving parts of myself. Meditation can help you observe your fears and circumstances without being overwhelmed by them.
- Move. Exercise is scientifically proven to be effective in easing depression or anxiety, which can fuel your fears of failure. When you move your body it motivates you to move forward in other areas of your life.
So much of what happens in life is completely beyond our control. Always direct the lion’s share of your attention, energy, and effort on what you can control, not what you can’t. Your words, actions, behavior, attitude, perspective, focus, effort, and energy are in your control. Other people and their words, actions, and behavior? Not so much.
From this moment forward, no matter how you choose to express your true self, focus on what you can control, not what you can’t.
Staying True to Yourself with Love
Trust me, staying true to yourself is simple, but not always easy. I have been following my heart in life and business for decades and still get a little wobbly in the knees when I’m making a big decision that goes against the grain. Societal and cultural expectations can cloud our inner voice and make it hard to follow our hearts.
Don’t be hard on yourself. Take a moment to check in with your heart anytime you feel yourself worrying what other people think. It takes practice and consistent action over time to build the courage you need to stay true to yourself. Every step counts.
Now it’s time to turn this insight into action.
Grab a notebook and spend five to 10 minutes writing down your answers to these questions:
- What dreams have you set aside because they seem unrealistic to someone else?
- What do you want that you’re afraid to ask for?
- What’s one action you can take now to make progress toward those goals?
Guess what? You made it to the end of this article. That’s already one step, one action taken, to be true to yourself.
You’re amazing. Believe in yourself, I do 🙂