How to be your authentic self when you were taught not to

Oct 10, 2021 | Being your authentic self

Being free to be your authentic self can be extremely difficult, especially if you were taught not to have any self-expression growing up. You may feel hesitant to voice your opinion, speak your mind, share your likes and dislikes with certain people. People pleasing and self-sacrificing behaviour may be an automatic habit, preventing you from meeting your own needs.  You might feel like you don’t even know who you are anymore. Getting to know yourself, identifying your own wants and needs and showing up authentically can take time. It’s a process and can feel uncomfortable at first, as you shed the old survival responses that once kept you safe but are no longer of service. Who you truly are, lies beneath this.

There are two parts of the process in living freely and being you. First you need to look inward and connect with yourself. This is taking other people out of the equation and really thinking about your own needs and wants. It might feel unusual to think about what you need and want without factoring in the people closest to you. But this is important, it is easy to get swept away by other people’s needs, especially if you are deeply empathetic.   What is it that you really need? What’s important to you? What fills your cup up?

Connecting with yourself

  • Build awareness: Connecting with yourself is stopping and pausing to notice your thoughts, feelings and responses. When we step out of automatic pilot and operating from a subconscious level we start to build awareness of ourselves. Being mindful of our experiences is the first step in being able to make changes in the areas of our life that we want to.
  • Choose your self-opinion: The opinion you have of yourself is so important. Do you own your self-opinion or was it given to you through a critical parent or caregiver as a child? It might be extremely difficult to re-write a negative self-opinion but when we can make room for self-compassion alongside any self-critical thinking and begin to talk to ourselves with love and kindness, we can begin to consciously choose the self-opinion we want to have and the one that will serve us well.
  • Identify your needs and wants. What do you need to feel happy, healthy, and loved? What matters to you the most? You are important and what you value in life is important too. Are you honouring your own wellbeing and making sure this is a priority in your life too?
  • Take responsibility for your decisions and choices: Are you able to take responsibility for the decisions and choices in your life? We can often feel trapped in our situations and shift blame onto others or hold onto a victim mentality. Is this needed or did a survival response lead you to feeling trapped and resentful, is there another way? Are there decisions and choices you can own and take charge of to create positive action and change in your life?

Connecting with the world

  • Teach the world about you: Share your thoughts, ideas, preferences, and views. Other people may not resonate with them but that’s ok they deserve to be heard. If we all thought the same way the world would be a boring place, that’s why it is worth sharing what makes you uniquely you. Everyone is allowed to have a voice.
  • Access your self-protection: When we have difficulty feeling confident to be ourselves, we often have protected ourselves so much that we remain hidden through acts of service, not revealing our views or voicing our needs. Instead of our self-protection completely hiding us from the world, we need it to walk alongside us. We need to access our self-protection to stand up for ourselves or others, when we are being confronted and when we are setting healthy limits. When we access our self-protection in a healthy way, we can ensure our emotional and physical safety and protect who we are as people.
  • Set boundaries: When you know yourself well, you know where your boundaries lie. When you can put boundaries in place, you gain a stronger sense of self. They help define us and our interactions with the world. They are a means of keeping ourselves and those around us safe. Staying in our own lane and not allowing others to drive all over it keeps us healthy and thriving.

When we honour ourselves and our wants, needs, and heart’s desires we can retain our natural way of being. Feeling comfortable in our own skin requires building awareness of our emotional experiences, being more visible and creating space for growth and change. When we find acceptance within ourselves, we can find the courage to freely express ourselves and show up unapologetically and authentically.