What does it mean to be you? Other people may have the same eye colour, height and weight, and even the same name. If you search for someone's name on Facebook, you are likely to find several people with the exact same name. I was recently called into the police department for fingerprinting after a vulnerable sector check because my birthdate matched that of someone who was on their radar. My unique fingerprint proved my identity. There is only one me!
This is what "being you" looks like:
you are comfortable in your own skin
you are someone who knows what you want in life
you are congruent in your values, beliefs, words, and actions
you are not afraid to be who you are
Does this describe who you are? If not, read on.....
REASONS WHY PEOPLE ARE NOT AUTHENTIC
Lack of Motivation - You may not want to "rock the boat" or step out of your comfort zone. It feels very safe where you are and you see no reason to change or do anything differently. It's how you have always been and that's how it's going to be.
Fear - What are you afraid of? Fear can be very legitimate because you are worried about people judging you or misunderstanding you. It's happened to you in the past and therefore you fear that it may happen again. Let me share a brief story from my own life of how fear held me hostage for many years. I grew up in a Mennonite community near Steinbach, Manitoba. Growing up, I felt very comfortable and secure because everyone around me was just like me. We understood each other. We were all the same. When I moved to Winnipeg to attend nursing school, I was suddenly surrounded by people from a vast array of cultures. I had no issues with that. I was fascinated and energized by the people around me. But one day someone pointed out an article in the Winnipeg Free Press that made fun of the "Mennonites from Steinbach who congregated in front of Eaton's". I can't recall the exact words that were used, but they became seared in my young mind on a subconscious level. For many years, I avoided telling anyone where I was from or that I was Mennonite. Fear kept me from being who I was.
Shame - Shame is even deeper than fear, and I think perhaps, that's the level I was at for a while. I had become ashamed of who I was. Perhaps you came from a family tainted with alcoholism, abuse, and dysfunction. Maybe you were sexually abused as a child. Maybe, in your mind, you did something in the past that you are unable to forgive yourself for. These issues can create a deep sense of shame. You can't live in the present because you believe that you are trapped in the past. You cannot envision yourself as separate from your family of origin or past mistakes or tragedies.
HOW TO LET GO OF FEAR AND BECOME WHO YOU REALLY ARE
Carl Jung, a famous Swiss psychiatrist said "The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you really are." It's crucial to be firm in your identity because it makes your life more meaningful and purposeful. Being who you are brings joy and happiness into your life. It improves your self-esteem. People are more comfortable with you as you become comfortable being who you are. But how can I truly discover who I am and be who I am? I will share 5 steps that will help answer that question.
1. Identify your Core Values - We all have values and beliefs, even if we're not aware of them. "Values “are the principles that give our lives meaning and allow us to persevere through adversity,” - psychologist Barb Markway. Another quote by Alexander Hamilton is "If you don't stand for something, you will fall for everything." The first step I take with life coaching clients is to help them discover their core values. I have several tools that I use. A very helpful tool that I would recommend is complete_worksheets_for_The_Confidence_Gap.pdf (thehappinesstrap.com). Some key questions to ask yourself in determining your values are:
Name 3 things that make you smile
What accomplishment has made you most proud?
Whom do you admire, and why?
What do you like most about yourself?
What kind of person do you want to be?
2. Discover your passions - A helpful question to ask yourself is, what do I do when I have nothing else to do? What are my hobbies? Who do I like to spend time with? What brings me joy?
3. Find Your Strengths - Going back to the story about my Mennonite roots: I now realize that many of my strengths are directly connected to my Mennonite heritage. My ancestors were frequently persecuted and even martyred for their religious beliefs. They fled from country to country to retain their freedom of belief. They came to Canada and settled and tamed the brushland and swamps of what are now the rich productive farmlands of the Canadian prairies. They were brave, resilient, hard-working, generous and peace-loving. That's what I aspire to. I am determined never to let shame and fear interfere with my roots and heritage again. I will be proud of where I came from and who I am today. Knowing your strengths is a good way to develop a sense of confidence and self-esteem. You can take a free test to discover your own personal core strengths at Personality Test, Personality Assessment: VIA Survey | VIA Institute (viacharacter.org). You can't be who you are unless you know who you are.
4. Define Your Purpose - Purpose is something that you have to find within yourself. Nobody else can determine it for you. Ask yourself what drives you, what are you willing to sacrifice for? Your life purpose can be turning your hurts into healing for others. Your purpose should make a difference in the world, but remember that the size of your impact doesn't matter.
5. Put it into practice - As long as your values, passions, strengths, and purpose are only ideas in your head or on paper, they won't make a difference in your life or in the world. You have to start somewhere. Start small. Creating a vision board puts your life purpose in a visual format that is a constant reminder of who you are and how you want your life to matter. Be accountable to someone. Last New Year's Eve, at a family get-together, we went around the table and stated a goal for the coming year. My goal was to publish my grief support manual. I said it out loud with 5 people witnessing my intention. It was challenging and many times I thought I would not be able to accomplish this goal. Yesterday I picked up 3 boxes of completed manuals from the printer! What made the difference? Stating my goal out loud, being held accountable by supportive individuals.
Never be ashamed of who you are. The colour of your skin, your sexual or gender identity, whether you are rich or poor, old or young, does not matter. What matters is that you are authentically YOU. Being authentic will make you happier, and more confident, you will love yourself, have higher self-esteem, be more productive and successful, and your life will be richer and more meaningful!