Be Yourself? It Hurts?
Isn’t being myself supposed to feel good? When I’m authentic, aren’t I supposed to feel confident, happy, healthy and connected?
I’m afraid not. Not at first at any rate.
Think about it, why are we not ourselves more often?
Why do we criticize ourselves, continually try to change ourselves, restrict what we really want to say and do around others?
We fear being judged, ridiculed, or disapproved of in some way. We have so many ideas of how we’re supposed to be, that we’re terrified if we show what we’re really thinking or feeling, others will be upset, annoyed, or disgusted.
Above all we fear losing love and connection with others.
To avoid this painful experience, we continually monitor ourselves, making sure we look, speak, feel, and act how we’re supposed to so we fit in.
However, despite all this effort you may have the nagging suspicion this strategy isn’t working. Even though you’re doing everything you can to fit in and avoid rejection, you still don’t feel very confident, satisfied with yourself, or connected to others.
When you make the decision to start being who you are around others, you start challenging these fears. Some part of you can become really scared and say: “Hey, wait a minute, don’t say that, don’t do that! You’ll sound stupid! You look like an idiot! Just stop whatever you’re doing and go back to fitting in!”
Pushing that edge, being yourself and taking the risk someone might not like everything about you can be really painful. It can bring up fear, discomfort and shame. Don’t stop!
Even though your mind might be telling you you need to stop this nonsense right now before something bad happens, keep going. Journal or talk with a close friend or counselor about the fear and shame that comes up to get support.
This may sound difficult or uncomfortable. Isn’t there an easier way? Isn’t there some pill for this or something?
I’m afraid not. Gimmicks and quick-fix promises cannot bypass the growth we all must do for ourselves.
The way I see it, we have two options.
Option 1: We decide to live our lives playing small, avoid standing out, and play it safe. We never test the edges and we spend our lives assuming that if we were to really show our true selves, we’d be disliked.
Option 2: We decide life is not about avoiding discomfort, and any worthy goal requires a lot of discomfort to get there. We take the risk again and again to reveal what we’re feeling and thinking to those around us. We share our thoughts, ideas, and reactions. We share our likes and dislikes. We take the risk to sing, dance or make mistakes in front of others. We let ourselves be seen by others, as we truly are, and we step directly into that fear something bad will happen.
Option 2 is painful. It can be scary and, unfortunately, there’s no quick fix or way to short circuit this process. The only way to get to what me most want – a feeling of love and acceptance for ourselves, a feeling of comfort in our own skin, and true feelings of love and connection shared with others – is by walking through these fears again and again.
The only way to get what we most want is to walk through our fears again and again.
The goods news is it gets easier.
Each time we challenge the fear it has less and less power over us. In addition, you may notice that while the process is scary or painful, there’s also a sense of excitement, adventure, and accomplishment. Life starts to regain its color and we experience a growing feeling of passion and enthusiasm again.
As we free ourselves from this prison of fear in our own minds, we start to remember just how expansive our potential really is, and how numerous and exciting our options in life are.